Now that the regular season is over for the Miami Heat, the players can now exit stage left…wait…right…center stage. Or just hang around. The players had their exit interviews and those not making an appearance include Josh McRoberts, Luke Babbitt and surprisingly center Hassan Whiteside. The team told players whether they are free agents or not that they were welcome to hang around the facilities.
The NBA Draft is June 22nd and NBA free agency begins July 1st. The Heat will have their hands in both cookie jars. “It is cleanup day, not clean-out day,” coach Erik Spoelstra stated. “Lockers are still going to be there. We want our guys to still feel at home.” Home will be the same however the name on the lockers may change this summer.
Spoelstra emphasized he would like to keep the core of this Miami Heat team that began 11-30 and finished 41-41 just a wishful game away from making the playoffs. This team was literally a team this season. When assessing the players, everyone individually accomplished something for the team as a whole. Who will stay and who will go? I don’t know however “change gon come.”
Whiteside became the first Heat player with 1,000 rebounds in a season and the first Heat player to win the rebounding title averaging 14.1 boards during the season. He finished fourth among centers and set a career high in scoring with 16.9 points per game. He signed a four-year, $98 million deal going into the season. He earned even the taxed dollars. Whiteside at times would look stagnant during plays but willed the Heat to some crucial games when a rebound, block or even shot was needed.
Dragic not returning would be impossible to believe especially with three years remaining on his $85 million deal. He nearly surpassed his scoring average by one-tenth at 20.2 points per game. The relationship between the player and organization is a match where they both need each other per se. Dragic adds speed to a Heat offense especially when they spread the floor scorers on the wings to threaten when he penetrates.
Can you imagine if Waiters was healthy the final two weeks of the NBA season minus his ankle injury? Overall, he played 46 games however even those games seem valuable when you look back. He set a career high for three-point percentage. More importantly he knocked down big shots this season to go along with 15.8 points per game. The numbers will be exchanged back and forth, but the Heat should have money to offer a fair deal.
Johnson has been the most versatile and impressive player on the roster this past season. Johnson chiseled his body to South Beach standards and when called upon played the point forward role very well especially since the Heat dealt with injuries all season. He should be top priority for the Heat. JJ set career highs in points per game, rebounds, assists, three-pointers made and three-point percentage. He was amazing with Tyler Johnson off the bench. Guess who’s next…
Tyler had some interesting appearances this past season. Two that stand out were the missing tooth and the beard he was growing that had a mind of its own. Minus the appearances, Johnson set career highs in scoring average with 13.9 points and three-point FGs with 93. Only Enes Kanter ranked better in points per game by any NBA player without a start. Next season is his final year at the discounted price of 5.8 million. Then his cost will rise to 19.1 million the next two seasons. No worries of leaving this offseason but maybe next.
Ellington dialed up threes made for the Heat when they needed it. He set a career high with 146 three-pointers made and points per game with 10.5. Miami has until July 7th to make a decision on his $6.3-million salary. If there is a big catch in free agency, he may be gone.
Richardson is eligible for an extension later this year and due 1.4 million next season. He fills in well when called upon; this is evident when Waiters was out late in the season. He also had a career high in points per game with 10.1 and three pointers (72). Needed in heat rotation but is he important?
Now it gets tricky. He is a team player but can he be valued somewhere else fitting in a rotation? The league minimum is all he would cost the Heat however playing time is just as valuable.
Babbitt is not much with words when it comes to the media, but a hip flexor in the second half of the season is what slowed him down. Babbitt showed up and did his job when called upon. He had a career-high 87 three-pointers on 41.4 percent three-point shooting finishing 13th in the league. Miami can afford the 1.47 million against its cap courtesy of the Bird Rights next to his name if they keep him. s
It is all business for Mr. Reed. There is a strong chance of him opting out of contract that would pay him 1.5 million next season. Miami may offer slightly more than four million, but it is a coin flip on him being back. Reed set career highs in every category.
I revere that he signed a 10-day contract before the Heat’s 13-game winning streak, then took advantage of it. White shot 35 percent from three-point land. He would only cost the Heat $905,000 next season.
The Heat believes he can still make an impact. Winslow himself shared he has some making up to do. Even with the season over, he is three months into a six-month recovery from January shoulder surgery. Time heals literally. His defense is perfect for the Heat however his perimeter shooting needs to improve.
Now, we wait on who will be welcomed back home when the name plates in the locker room are set.