NBA 2022 Offseason Guide: Miami Heat
After their surprising Finals run in 2020 there were many – this writer included – that questioned if the Miami Heat simply handled the highly unusual circumstance of Bubble Basketball better than their competitors. A first-round exit last season only strengthened those suspicions.
Heat Grand Poobah (that is his official title) Pat Riley, not one to readily accept mediocrity, made major changes to the Heat’s roster, importing veterans in Kyle Lowry, PJ Tucker and Victor Oladipo, Markieff Morris and Caleb Martin to make another push towards the Heat’s 4th title.
They came awfully close, finishing atop the Eastern conference before bowing out in seven to the Boston Celtics in the conference finals.
With an ageing roster, how do the Heat re-tool for another run?
The Heat’s roster is deep and talented, though their prime movers are worryingly old. Of their five most used players, Tucker is 36, Lowry 35 and Jimmy Butler 32, though he has the added wear and tear of many years of playing for Tom Thibodeau.
Butler had another excellent regular season and, as he often does, turns into a genuine world beater in the postseason. He upped his scoring average by over five points, pulled in about 2.5 more rebounds and almost a steal per game more in the playoffs than the regular season. Butler clearly paces himself through the rigours of an 82-game campaign, though even then he’s still injury prone. He’s missed at least 25 games in each of the last three seasons and did battle knee inflammation through the playoffs. Those Thibs miles catch up with you eventually.
Lowry added an element of urgency to the Heat. Whilst his foot speed has somewhat deserted him, his constant want to push the pace with precise hit-ahead passes and his, well, shithousery on defense gave Miami tenacity they sometimes lacked. Like Butler, though, Lowry struggled to stay on the floor, missing 19 games. He hasn’t hit the 70-game plateau since the 2018 season.
The Heat do have a pair of up-and-coming stars in Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro. The duo – 24 and 22 years old, respectively – are the Heat’s bridge to a long period of contention.
Herro, recently crowned NBA 6th Man of the Year, is an old-fashioned gun slinger. A legitimate three level scorer, Herro averaged 20.7 points a night on excellent 45/40/87 shooting splits. He also provided Miami with a career high four assists a game. He could stand to improve at the defensive end of the floor but he’s developing into the type of player that you can centre an offense around.
By contrast, Adebayo is a legitimate defensive linchpin. Bam might be the best centre in basketball at switching out onto jitterbug guards. He is one of the few players in the league – perhaps Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only other – that can genuinely guard the entire positional spectrum. Bam is a capable offensive player who has averaged close to 20 points a game in each of the past two years, though could stand to become more selfish, calling his own number more often.
Duncan Robinson is a wonderful shooter who thrives in the regular season but is repeatedly played off the floor in the white light of the playoffs. Caleb Martin, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent are the latest examples of the Heat’s famed ability to find and polish gems that other teams have missed.
Victor Oladipo is a reclamation project that looked increasingly positive the further the playoffs progressed. Markieff Morris was sorely missed after a Nikola Jokic cheap shot ended his season.
Miami’s most pressing need is improved health for Butler and Lowry, though that’s highly unlikely at this point in their careers.
Positionally, the Heat could do with more well-rounded players at the wing. Robinson is an ace shooter but a sieve on defense. Butler is still an excellent defender and a bulldozer on offense, though he seemingly chooses to holster his jump shot through the regular season. A player like Otto Porter, who plays acceptable defense whilst not shrinking the floor would be most welcome.
The Heat will also be sweating on the decisions of Tucker and Morris. Tucker has a player option and Morris is a free agent. If both choose to move on the Heat are left with precisely zero natural power forwards on the roster.
At guard and centre, the team is deep and talented.
The Cap Sheet
Miami’s cap sheet is awfully top heavy.
Assuming that Tucker picks up his player option – should he not sign an extension, Herro’s team option is a certainty to be activated – the Heat are on the books for $133 million for just 10 players, with four of those on minimum salaries.
They have $113 million committed to Butler, Lowry, Adebayo and Robinson.
With extensions coming due for a raft of players, the Heat are about to become one of the most expensive squads in the NBA.
Herro’s future will be the highest priority for Miami. He’s all offense, no defense, but has the tools to be an average defender, at worst. The Heat will look at contracts for the likes of Joe Harris, Tim Hardaway and, well, Robinson as baselines. All signed contracts in the $15-18 million a year range. Herro is younger and better than all of them. Expect him to want a minimum of $20 million per season.
Tucker has a team option for $7 million, though both team and player could prefer an extension for two seasons at a lesser annual cost.
Vincent, Strus and Omer Yurtseven, who was extremely effective when called into spot duty early in the season, all have partial guarantees for the 2023 season – all will expect extensions.
Vincent and Strus have earned multi-year extensions. They could both demand something in the realm of $8-10 million a year. Yurtseven should be gettable for something in the $5 million a season range. Caleb Martin is an unrestricted free agent who will probably garner a similar offer to Yurtseven’s. It would be a bargain.
The veteran free agents present another range of issues for Miami.
Yurtseven’s emergence means the Heat can move on from Dewayne Dedmon, who will surely have suitors on the open market. Once he returns to full health, Morris is a key role player for the Heat. He provides tough defense and decent outside shooting whilst allowing the team to not overwork Tucker.
Oladipo is an interesting case. Since knee and quad injures curtailed his All-NBA level performances, Dipo has repeatedly bet on himself, only to be let down by his body. His late season play was encouraging. His playoff performances, especially in the earlier rounds, showed that whilst his All-NBA days are clearly behind him, the 30-year-old can still produce the goods.
Dipo will gather plenty of interest at the mid-level exception of $10 million annually. That may prove too much for the Heat to stomach given all of the other extensions that need to be inked this offseason.
The Heat hold the 27th pick in this draft — they forfeited their 2nd rounder due to a tampering violation.
Expect Miami to look for long term replacements for either Lowry or Tucker with their pick, backing their player development by selecting for upside rather than plug-and-play ability.
In this section of the draft there isn’t a lot to speak of as far as point guards go. Could they look at the athletic Ryan Rollins or a shooter like Kennedy Chandler?
A power forward is more likely, with Kendall Brown, Patrick Baldwin and Jaylin Williams all expected to be available.
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