All the ruckus about how the Miami Heat needs ‘one more player’ or ‘another superstar’ has to stop. In a matter of 97 days since arriving at the NBA bubble, we’ve learned something from this franchise that many seemed to doubt before.
Culture is what builds success, and Jimmy Butler is the man for that.
Through two exhibitions, eight seeding games and 21 postseason contests, this Heat team proved what an all-around effort can do for a club, taking them just two wins away from being crowned NBA champions.
Given a one percent chance to reach the Finals by many media outlets, while Miami fell short of the ultimate goal, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. This team proved everybody wrong, and they’re just getting started.
That’s what makes this offseason so thrilling for Heat President Pat Riley, who will be forced to negotiate deals with notable free agents Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder, along with Bam Adebayo, who remains under his rookie contract.
One thing, however, should be set in stone: there’s no urgency to find another All-Star to lead this team, he’s already on the roster.
Butler, 31, was Miami’s primary scorer, facilitator and glass cleaner during their 20-game postseason stretch, averaging 22.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists. The five-time All-Star did it all with a smile on his face, extremely proud of his guys and the franchise that blends in with him so well.
“I think that’s what we’re all looking for, right, is to be part of a family,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “To be a part of something where you felt all along that you were searching for something. Where you can just be yourself, you don’t have to make any apologies for who you are. We have been searching for [Jimmy] for a long time, and I think he’s been searching for something like us for a while.
“I’m just thrilled to be able to have an opportunity to coach Jimmy and have a relationship with him and move forward chasing this dream. It’s not going to stop. We’re all wired the same. So we’ll get over this at some point. I don’t expect anybody to get over it tonight. But we have some brothers in arms now moving forward that we share the same values and the same goals and that’s part of the battle of just finding that kind of alignment.”
Now entering the start of the offseason, here’s what Riley and his staff have learned from this Heat team, and how they can make things work this upcoming season.
An early push for Giannis Antetokounmpo – or another star – can wait, this Butler-led team has what it takes.
The narrative – deservingly so – for the past months has been that Miami has created a bridge to success, anticipating the arrival of the back-to-back MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Set to be free agency’s masterpiece in the 2021 class, Miami’s salary cap and the way they’ve dumped its highly-payed players indicates that the push for Antetokounmpo is real, and it’s only a matter of time.
However, that perspective has seemingly changed in the past few months, as Butler and the Heat earned their way to the NBA Finals, taking down Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks along the way.
So, what does this mean?
For starters, breaking up the roster would be a rough mistake, considering how effective they’ve been on a consistent basis. Forcing a trade for Antetokounmpo, or any other star with an uncertain future – Victor Oladipo, Joel Embiid – would be careless. Instead, giving it another year with Butler and Bam Adebayo at the core of their club would continue being a step in the right direction.
There should be no rush for Riley and the Heat. While I wouldn’t count out an attempt to garner an All-Star, I can’t imagine it involving crucial players to the team’s success.
Let the cards play themselves out.
“We’re trending in the right direction,” Butler said. “We’re going to learn from this. We’re going to get better. We’re going to come back. We’ll be back.”
Miami’s young pieces remain untouchable.
From Bam Adebayo to Tyler Herro to Duncan Robinson to Kendrick Nunn, the young and excelling group should remain firm with the Heat for obvious reasons.
Do I need to even discuss this? Adebayo is the bread and butter of the 2019-20 Heat team, providing all-around brilliance on a game-by-game basis. The former Kentucky Wildcat has been advocated as a player with no ceiling, simply because of the damage he does on all ends of the court.
Adebayo will remain Miami’s future star, and there’s no hiding that.
Herro excelled under pressure on all levels of the postseason, inching the Heat closer and closer to an NBA Finals appearance. He was a dagger shooter, somebody you can rely on to score late in the game. You don’t find many of those in the league, especially at 20-years-old.
He’ll continue to be Miami’s project, as he develops a point guard skillset that’ll be key to replacing Goran Dragic once he retires.
As for Robinson, the 6-foot-8 forward is a once-in-a-generation shooter, adding himself along with the names of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and James Harden. He was a major key to Miami’s playoff run, scoring from beyond-the-arc and improving his defensive performance. As he continues growing his playset, there’s also no limit to Robinson’s future.
There’s a reason why Nunn was an All-Rookie first-team player. Despite his struggles at the bubble, he’s a baller. And as he remains on a $2.1 million non-guaranteed contract until 2021-22, there should be no giving up on Nunn just yet.
Let him earn the clubs trust once again. Let him flourish as the scorer he is, while playing solid defense at the same time. There’s no need to throw his potential to the fire pit as of now.
3.) Resigning Dragic, Crowder is a must for the Heat.
Because of the NBA’s standstill hiatus, the 2020 free-agency will be much different than other years.
That being said, all likelihood points toward Miami offering Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder respectable one-year deals, with a team-option included. Of course, none of that is certain. Only time will tell.
Here’s what President Riley had to say regarding his free agents back in late April, including both starting players.
“As far as free agency, that’s up in the air,” he said. “… Andy [Elisburg] and I are probably doing more machinations on the probabilities. You have to remember we have six or seven free agents ourselves, but we also have nine other players that are under contract and guys that we really like, so we’ll continue to sort of just create possibilities, what can possibly happen.
“We don’t know what the cap number really is going to be, but we feel confident that the cupboard is full, and what I mean by full is that we do have a lot of very good young players that have proven that they can play at a real high level in this game and they’re fearless, and, yes, we’re very concerned about our pending free agents. We like all of our players and so when we get to that time we’ll know what direction we want to go in.”
Since Riley said that, we’ve seen Dragic and Crowder play some of the best basketball of their careers. The veteran guard saw career-highs in his playoff points (19.1), adding 4.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. For Crowder, he averaged 12.0 points and 5.6 rebounds a night, notching an impressive 40.3 percent shooting from deep.
For what it seems, resigning both players is likely to take place. It should be a priority coming into the offseason.
4.) Give Adebayo the money he deserves.
We’ve seen the consequences of holding players out of the money they deserve – Dwyane Wade, signed with the Chicago Bulls in 2016 for two-years $47 million – take a toll on the Heat franchise.
Miami has to make sure Adebayo’s contract doesn’t become an issue.
Currently on a three-year deal that earns him an annual salary of roughly $3.45 million, there’s a reason why his team likely wants to negotiate new terms as soon as possible. Whether it hurts Miami’s 2021 free agency efforts or not, extending his contract shouldn’t be a question for the Heat organization.
There’s no reason why they should hold Adebayo out of the money he deserves.