If you’re expecting the Miami Heat to pivot into a rebuild this season, keep dreaming.
Any real reset starts with the team realizing it won’t have meaningful cap flexibility until 2020 at the earliest. From there, the Heat cannot be totally serious about rebuilding unless they move Goran Dragic. And according to ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe, they have no intention of doing that (right now):
Together, Winslow and Whiteside form Miami’s best realistic trade package — their only means of a huge talent upgrade. (The Heat have shown zero interest in moving Dragic, per league sources.) The Heat could dangle them for a star center on an expiring contract — DeAndre Jordan or DeMarcus Cousins. Miami has an appetite for that kind of gamble; they feel they can sell any willing rental on Heat culture — plus tax benefits and weather. The word “willing” is key there. Miami’s ultra-physical, workaholic culture isn’t for everyone; there at a least a few players in the league who would hesitate to sign there if they had an equal offer elsewhere, per league sources.
This doesn’t really register as a surprise. Dragic is on a reasonable contract, even as he inches toward his twilight, and the Heat have moved into contention for one of the Eastern Conference’s top-four playoff seeds. This chase is exactly what team president Pat Riley envisioned when he doubled down on the current core over the summer, re-signing Dion Waiters and James Johnson, while adding Kelly Olynyk.
Some things clearly aren’t working out. Waiters was more detrimental than helpful before his ankle issues cropped up again, and despite their confidence to the contrary, per Lowe, the Heat will find it difficult to move him, Johnson, Olynyk, Hassan Whiteside or Tyler Johnson over the next couple seasons.
That creates something of a dilemma in Miami. Not now, perhaps, since the Heat aren’t a tax-paying squad. But they probably will be by next season, and most definitely, it seems, by 2019-20. That’s a lot of coin to pay for a sub-50-win contingent, which is why this won’t be the last we hear of Goran Dragic’s trade availability—or lack thereof.