Alright, Miami faithful and basketball fans alike, I will start by stating the conspicuous: the 2016/17 NBA season was quite eventful. The Patron Saint of shot taking, Lord Dion, the best player in the world not named Kevin Durant or LeBron James, James Johnson, the Great Wall of Whiteside, Goran Dragic, and Tyler Johnson, all performed well, particularly in the second half of the season.
Dion, otherwise known as Dios, averaged 15.8 points per game for forty-six games, James Johnson, a spark-plug off the bench, had a career-high season with averages of 12.8 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.3 turnovers because ball handling is a lot harder than people think it is. The Dragon resembled his 2014 self, by putting up 20.3 points per game and 5.8 assists per game. Whiteside continued from where he left off in 2016 by leading the league in rebounds and continuing to destroy rim-dreams by posting up 14.1 rebounds per game and 2.1 blocks per game respectively.
After a rough, turbulent start to the season, the team mounted a resurgence — a history-making victory run ensued as the franchise attained a .500 record and almost made the playoffs. Eric Spoelstra and Pat Riley showcased their basketball savvy at two different levels of coaching and brand leadership during this comeback.
The playoffs were cringe-worthy and might have been more lively if a Miami-Cleveland series happened. Obviously, pundits like Skip Bayless would have easier nights and fewer hyperboles to share. Waiters probably would have channeled his inner-Kobe, Whiteside his inner Shaq, and very possibly, Goran, his inner Steve Nash. Regardless, the playoffs might have been somewhat Sisyphean for the Heat considering the complete brilliance of the “Death Star” Warriors.
Onto the draft, which, happened recently and quite frankly, changed my mood about the direction in which the organization is heading. Draft night saw Sacramento make intelligible decisions for the first time in what felt like a stone age, Philadelphia complete “The process” pioneered by “tanking” Messiah, Sam Hinkie, and Boston go against conventional wisdom. Miami stunned many by selecting Bam Adebayo with the fourteenth pick. Adebayo fits the mold of a younger, more valuable Dwight Howard with his athleticism and affable rebounding but remains an antipode to the “Three and D” model set up by Riley and Spoelstra. Unless the youngster develops a jump shot to consolidate the team’s output potential, he might be a deterrent offering nothing beyond decent defensive ability.
Couple this jarring decision with the uncertainty of NBA Free Agency, and you have a recipe for quagmire. Waiters and Johnson might ask for more money to sign new contracts creating little room for a marquee free agent. The Heat’s got a ninety-one million dollar salary cap — most of this is money owed to Chris Bosh. Bosh’s contract creates a certain salary cap inflexibility which has the potential to deter any free-agent pursuits.
Getting rid of Chris Bosh, an injury ravaged player, is a measure worth considering but can only work if franchise management somehow manages to convince new Heat culture aficionados, Waiters, and Johnson to accept less money than they might have anticipated. A fulfillment of this condition and the Heat are hopefully in contention to sign coveted free agents Blake Griffin, JJ Reddick, as well as Gordon Hayward.