The Miami Heat are set to start the 2016-17 NBA season in uncharted waters. For the first time since 2003, the Heat will open their season without their greatest player in franchise history. After failing to agree to terms on a new contract, Dwyane Wade made the decision to leave the only franchise he’s ever played for in his 13 year career to go his favorite team growing up, his hometown Chicago Bulls. The divorce between Wade and the Heat will likely be a major adjustment for both parties.
Heat President Pat Riley will now have the $20 million-plus that it would have taken to get Wade to return to the Heat to spend on a number of other free agents. While not retaining Wade will allow the Heat to increase their roster depth and flexibility, it’ll be nearly impossible to replace the impact Dwyane Wade had on the franchise both on and off the court. Furthermore, the Heat also lost veterans and last season’s starters Luol Deng and Joe Johnson to the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz, respectively. Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire are two other Heat free agents who are unlikely to return on the team.
With veterans Goran Dragic and Josh McRoberts, the recently re-signed Hassan Whiteside, and sophomores Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson as the only rotation players from last season signed to long-term contracts, the Heat will likely look very different next season. They also recently brought back Udonis Haslem and matched the 4 year, $50 million contract theBrooklyn Nets offered restricted free agent Tyler Johnson.
Since Wade’s announcement that he will join the Bulls, the Heat have signed and welcomed free agent newcomers: forward Derrick Williams, former D-Leaguer guard Rodney McGruder, shooting guard Wayne Ellington, forward James Johnson, and power forward Willie Reed. In addition to those signings, they also traded to acquire forward Luke Babbitt from the New Orleans Pelicans. While they are all very good, solid players, none of them seem like the type of signings that figure to make the team better than the 3 seeded, second round exit team they were last season. It looks like a far cry from the team that many labeled this past season as the biggest threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With Wade now gone, the key to the Heat remaining title contenders next season in what looks to be a more improved Eastern Conference, may more than ever lie in the hands of Chris Bosh. Having seen two straight seasons cut short due to blood clot issues however, it’s anyone’s guess what Bosh’s availability will be for next season (and beyond). If he is healthy enough and cleared to play, who knows how effective he’ll be. It’s also worth noting that the Heat may take an even more cautious approach and not allow Bosh to play even if he is cleared.
Without Bosh or Wade, as currently structured, this looks like a team that may be a lower playoff seed in the East at best. However, with the flexibility the team has now afforded by not committing an excess of $20 million a year to Dwyane Wade and signing a number of other free agents to short-term deals instead, they’re placed themselves to be major players for the 2017 free agent class. Even if they do take a step back next season, I’m sure they’ll accept it and use next summer to build another championship contending team.
Spark Sports NBA Analyst