In just two short years, the Miami Heat have gone from dominating the Eastern Conference with four straight NBA Finals appearances to becoming fringe playoff contenders. The team has undergone a lot of changes this summer, forming a roster that could have trouble finding success in the 2016-2017 season.
The Heat were victims of perhaps the most shocking moment of the offseason when Dwyane Wade left Miami to sign with the Chicago Bulls. While many of the NBA’s stars have changed teams over the past decade, Wade had been one of the few constants, sticking with the team that made him the No.5 overall draft pick in 2003. But Miami’s unwillingness to give Wade the contract he was seeking has left them with a gaping hole in their roster.
After LeBron James left Miami in the summer of 2014 to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Heat missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years. But Miami put together one of the most formidable starting lineups in the NBA—Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside—to win 48 games and earn the No.3 seed in the conference. Now, the team is without their star player, and they could begin the upcoming season with three new starters.
Deng is gone from the team after spending two years in Miami. After averaging 12.3 points and 6.0 rebounds for the Heat in 2015-16, Deng signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bosh is still under contract with the Heat and is owed nearly $76 million over the next three years, but his future with the team and the NBA is uncertain. He’s played just 97 games over the last two seasons because of issues with blood clots, and Miami’s team doctors still haven’t cleared him to return to the court. There has even been speculation that Bosh’s NBA career could be in jeopardy.
One-third of the Heat’s frontcourt is guaranteed to return after the team signed Whiteside to a four-year contract worth more than $98 million. The center was one of just 13 players to average a double-double (14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds) last season, and he was far and away the league-leader with 3.68 blocks per game.
Point guard Goran Dragic enters the second year of a five-year $90 million contract with the club, though the Heat hope his second full season in Miami is better than the first. His numbers (14.1 points, 5.8 assists) paled in comparison to what he did when he was at his best with the Phoenix Suns, though Dragic could thrive in 2016-17 without Wade, now that he’ll have the ball in his hands a lot more.
"I'm sure it's going to be a new tempo,” Udonis Haslem, who will return to Miami for a 14th season, told reporters. “With Dwyane being out, I'm sure we're going to have to get going more. Everyone knows that Goran [Dragic] is at his best when he's in the open court, so I expect the pace is going to go up even more."
Gerald Green and Tyler Johnson will return to Miami, while Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts remain under contract. Joe Johnson went to the Utah Jazz, and Amar’e Stoudemire and Dorell Wright are unsigned.
The Heat did keep one of this year’s top free agents by re-signing Whiteside, but their offseason has to be considered one of the most disappointing of any NBA team. With two of their most important players going elsewhere, the Heat failed to acquire a player that started more than 41 games last year. Miami gave a two-year, $12 million contract to Wayne Ellington, who started half the season for the 21-win Brooklyn Nets and shot less than 39 percent from the field.
Miami might be looking to rebuild with most of the free agents off the market, but that’s certainly not the mindset with which they started the summer. Not only was the team expected to re-sign Wade, but Miami was also considered to be a major player to sign Kevin Durant. The Heat met with the newest Golden State Warriors’ star, hoping to replace James and form another “Big 3.”
If Bosh is healthy, the Heat certainly have a chance to make the postseason. Winslow might become one of the best players from last year’s draft class, and shooting guard Josh Richardson could be much improved as he earns more playing time in his second season.
Like most of the league, Miami will have the opportunity to improve greatly next summer. With the salary cap likely jumping up to around $108 million from $94 million, the Heat will have plenty of money to spend when most of the NBA’s top stars have the ability to become free agents.
Team president Pat Riley has shown that he can convince superstars to play in Miami, and he’ll get another chance in 2017. But in the meantime, the Heat could be in for their worst season in nearly a decade.
Here’s a look at Miami’s 15-man roster for the 2016-17 season.
Justise Winslow, SF
Chris Bosh, PF
Hassan Whiteside, C
Goran Dragic, PG
Josh Richardson, SG
Briante Weber, PG
Rodney McGruber, SG
Tyler Johnson, SG
Wayne Ellington, SG
Gerald Green, SF
Luke Babbitt, SF
Willie Reed, PF
Derrick Williams, PF
Udonis Haslem, PF
Josh McRoberts, PF