Spoelstra: “This season without question would be the growth of our young players”
The Miami Herald Heat mailbag is here to answer your questions.
@d2whip2y: What in your opinion is the biggest need for the Heat to address in the offseason?
Anthony Chiang: A No. 1 go-to option who can create his own offense consistently. In other words, a leading man. Dwyane Wade turned into that late in games this past season, as he led the Heat in fourth-quarter points per game (4.6), fourth-quarter shots per game (4.2) and fourth-quarter usage rate (28.6 percent). But Wade is now retired, and the Heat needs a player who can carry the offensive load for the entire game. Miami has lacked that, as its offense went through too many cold spells and finished among the worst in the NBA this past season. The Heat was below average in almost every offensive category — 26th in points (105.7), 22nd in shooting percentage (45), 21st in three-point shooting percentage (34.9), 30th in free-throw percentage (69.5), 23rd in turnovers (14.7) and 26th in offensive rating (106.7 points per 100 possessions).
Here’s the issue: The Heat doesn’t have the financial flexibility right now to acquire a leading man this offseason.
Of course, Miami could find one in the draft. The Heat more than likely will pick 13th in the June 20 NBA Draft depending on lottery results, and the Jazz selected Donovan Mitchell with the No. 13 pick in 2017. So it’s possible.
As far as cap space, the Heat has none as of now. Miami enters this offseason with 13 players under contract for 2019-20 who are due about $140 million, excluding cap holds. That puts the Heat above the projected $109 million salary cap and above the projected $132 million luxury tax line. So the wait for a leading man could stretch into the 2020 offseason, when the Heat is expected to have about $35 million in cap space (accounting for the Heat’s first-round draft pick in 2019 and 2020), which is enough for one max player in free agency.
William: While I find the revelations about why Pat Riley signed Dion Waiters and James Johnson to long-term deals interesting and perhaps a mistake, I don’t understand why he keeps getting a “pass” on the $98 million he gave to Hassan Whiteside. What does it mean or say when you don’t even start your highest-paid player and when he plays his performance is inconsistent at best?
Anthony: It’s easy to forget that if the Heat didn’t give a max contract to Hassan Whiteside in the summer of 2016, another team would have. The Mavericks were prepared to offer him a similar annual salary. That doesn’t make Miami’s decision right or wrong, but that was Whiteside’s market value at that time. Since then, the value put on traditional big men has dropped as three-pointers and small ball have become the way to play. But Whiteside can still make an impact just because of his rim protection and rebounding, and he does need to play more than the 17.3 minutes of court time he averaged during the final 20 games of the season in a reserve role.