The Miami Heat’s NBA season has officially come to an end. Now it’s on to next year.
The team lost four in a row in the first round of the playoffs to the Milwaukee Bucks, concluding with a disappointing 120-103 loss.
The Bucks’ defense limited key Heat players Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro to 12 and 14 points respectively. Bucks stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, however, each scored 20.
So where does the Heat go from here? Well, for starters, let’s look at where each player stands at the moment.
Butler is eligible for a big contract extension, with the team looking to sign him to a 4 year/$180 million contract. Many fans are opposed to this, as they believe the front office should look to relocate some of that money to get more players who can complement Butler. However, it is crucial for the Heat to secure their star for as long as possible, especially due to his performance in last year’s Finals run.
Bam Adebayo will be starting the first year of a max contract extension he signed last summer. The deal is worth $163 million over four years. The other three players under contract next season are Tyler Herro, Precious Achiuwa and KZ Okpala.
The Heat’s big offseason decisions start before free agency. The team has to decide whether to accept or decline options on Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala’s contracts. The Heat will likely decline both after giving the players hefty deals last offseason in hopes they would take team-friendly deals in the future. The Heat is more likely to try to bring Dragic back. He has been in Miami for seven seasons and has flourished both as a starter and a sixth man.
Then there are the restricted free agents, including Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson. The Heat has the right to match any offer.
Other rotation pieces to become free agents include Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon, and the biggest question mark, Victor Oladipo.
The biggest test for the Heat will be holding on to Robinson. Heat President Pat Riley will have to assess whether he is worth the $15 to $20 million a season he is likely to command.
At 27, Robinson is in line for the biggest contract of his career.
“First and foremost, [my priority is] the fit, a place where I can really feel comfortable,” Robinson said in an end-of-season press conference. “Winning is obviously a priority for me, as well. And then, of course, it’s also a business and there’s an opportunity to make money to take care of people that I love the most.”
Nunn could be departing the Heat, with John Hollinger of The Athletic reporting he could command $15 million a year. He has lost his starting role during two consecutive playoff runs, so it hard to see the Heat valuing him at $15 million.
Ariza stepped into the starting power forward role but failed to replicate the effect Jae Crowder had in that role last season. His length as a defender was big for the Heat, and he is likely someone they could look to bring back if the price is right.
Dedmon joined late in the season but brought size at center to a small team. In the series against Milwaukee, he was one of the lone bright spots. The Heat should want Dedmon, who would like to return.
“I would hope to be back, but that’s up to the people upstairs,” Dedmon told the media in his end-of-season press conference.
Oladipo played just seven games for the Heat, after rumors he had wanted to play in Miami for years, even buying a house in Miami Beach, according to The Real Deal. Coming off an injury to his quadriceps and not likely to be ready until November, Oladipo’s price is a question mark. His injury history is a negative and he is a risk for a Heat team coming off a disappointing season.
Miami lacked a true scorer and a facilitator. Players available that the Heat could chase include Kawhi Leonard if he chooses to opt out of his contract or, more likely Kyle Lowry.
Lowry is a true point guard, who, at 35 years old, has a short window to win. He is expected to command a two-year contract worth $50 million. His defensive tenacity fits in with Heat culture, and he fills a need at point guard, both as a facilitator and a pest when defending point guards like Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard.
Another potential free agent for the Heat is DeMar DeRozan. The four-time NBA All-Star is an elite scorer, but there are concerns about his fit. DeRozan operates in the mid-range area and attacks the basket, which makes him similar to Butler and Adebayo. A lineup with all three would lack three-point shooting.
The Heat can opt to chase a star via trade should a player like Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal or Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine become disgruntled and request a trade, The issue is the team’s lack of assets. It holds the least draft capital in the league. The team also has just five players under contract, meaning there is very little to offer.
To counter this, the Heat could facilitate a sign-and trade with players like Robinson, Ariza or Oladipo if they choose to move on from them.
A star like Beal, who has averaged 30 points per game for two consecutive seasons, would transform the Heat. He is a three-level scorer who can score with the fluidity the Heat lacks. His ability to get to his spots and score would surely improve the Heat’s offense and take pressure off Butler and Adebayo.
Beal has one year left on his contract, meaning if he is unhappy, the Heat could strike a deal without paying as hefty a price as the eight draft picks and four players the Nets traded for James Harden.
LaVine has become one of the league’s best scorers during his time with the Chicago Bulls, averaging a career-high 27 points per game this season. He also posted career-bests in efficiency from the field and the three-point line.
In his time with the Bulls, LaVine has not reached the playoffs. If he becomes frustrated with this situation and wants to go to a playoff team, the Heat should try to make a move for him. At 25 years old, he can pair with Adebayo for years to come and maximize Butler’s prime years.
A package for LaVine would hinge on him requesting a trade or expressing his displeasure with the team. He has one year left on his contract, so the Bulls could look to get value back if he decides his future lies elsewhere.
A deal for any star would require the Heat parting with Herro and other players, something they were hesitant about this season. But that could change. Herro didn’t make the jump the team expected.
The Heat cannot make sideways moves if leadership expects to repeat last year’s finals run. Other teams in the conference, like the Bucks and the Brooklyn Nets, got better while the Heat stayed the same. In order to challenge for a title, the Heat needs to swing for another star who fills the team’s needs, whether it be an elite scorer or a playmaker.