A look at what the future holds for Miami Heat after Dwyane Wade's departure
Losing the face of the franchise hurts, but there are positives to be found
It has been one difficult offseason for the Heat. Or in the words of team president Pat Riley, it's been a " bad, bad summer" for Miami.
Franchise icon Dwyane Wade playing for another team always seemed unfathomable, yet now it is a reality. Wade has taken his talents to Lakeshore Drive to play for his hometown Chicago Bulls, officially closing an era with the Heat, where he helped the franchise win three NBA championships and led them to 11 playoff appearances in his 13 seasons in Miami.
Wade, who holds countless team records, stands as their best player in franchise history, and it's not even close. He was also adored by Miami fans and made a major impact in the community. Even when they had LeBron James, the Heat were always synonymous with Wade and he himself coined the term "Heat Lifer." And now that is all over.
Wade has moved on and the Heat are forced to do the same.
A PAINFUL BREAKUP FOR BOTH SIDES
The immediate aftermath of Wade leaving is not great for Miami. Riley is left looking rather petty and unfaithful. Plus the mystique he once had has definitely lessened, especially since Riley failed to convince both LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant to come to Miami these past two summers. And after seeing how Riley handled things with Wade, his reputation with major free agents might have taken a hit as others may not be so trusting from here on out.
As Wade himself tweeted, "relationships are important, people." A fact which Riley may have lost sight of, causing him to now have the task of guiding the franchise back from the loss of yet another superstar.
The truth is Wade probably didn't want to leave Miami, and Miami most likely didn't want to lose Wade. It came down to both sides drawing a line in the sand, and the egos of both Wade and Riley made it difficult to find compromise. Wade wanted to get paid, while Riley didn't want to give in and sacrifice the future of this franchise by paying what he felt was too much for an aging superstar. So now Wade is playing for Chicago, but did he really want to go there? Perhaps he'd still be with Miami had he felt more love coming his way.
He didn't, and now he's gone.
NO BETTER TIME TO REBUILD
The loss of Wade is quite significant. His play has slightly declined as he's gotten older yet he's still a perennial All-Star and had several big-time performances for the Heat last season. Miami has no one who can replace what he does on the court or his proven leadership. However, Wade or no Wade, it's pretty clear Miami wasn't winning an NBA title anytime in the near future. Even if they did somehow reconstruct a team good enough to beat LeBron's Cavs, they wouldn't beat the Warriors. Plus other teams in the East like the Knicks, Celtics and even the Wizards have all improved, while Miami clearly has not.
There are also many question marks on Miami's current roster. Chris Bosh's return is still up in the air due to his blood clot condition, and Miami's major offseason signing, Hassan Whiteside, needs to prove he's a franchise-leading star. Justise Winslow showed elite skills on defense but his offense is still a work in progress. Josh Richardson looked good when given the chance, but is still too raw to lean on. Miami's D-League star Briante Weber will join the Heat next season but he has essentially zero NBA experience. Josh McRoberts is also there, however the Heat might shop him and he could be gone soon.
Riley will have to flesh out the rest of the roster, but with all of the notable free agents off the board, the Heat will likely be adding low-level talent. Miami does have the option though of matching Tyler Johnson's four-year, $50 million contract offer from the Brooklyn Nets, which is a lot more doable since Wade has left. Johnson has yet to play an entire NBA season but he has upside, which is what the Nets are betting on, and it may smart for the Heat to do the same. This is a perfect time to see what you have and plan for the future.
THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT
Aside from immaturity issues, Whiteside is a defensive monster and an excellent rim protector, so the Heat have that aspect covered for the next several years. They also have one of the league's best young defenders in Winslow, whose offensive game is still a work in progress but he is just 20 years old and will continue to develop. Having a heady, reliable point guard in Goran Dragic is also a major plus for the Heat. Richardson will help provide shooting and is also a strong individual defender. And if Bosh returns, the Heat have a bona fide star they can turn to and rely on. Let's also not forget Miami has a solid head coach in Erik Spoelstra along with a strong cast of assistants. They have the right coaches in place. Now they just need to fill out the roster.
The Heat's game plan has to be for free agency in 2017. At least the departure of Wade has cleared up some much-needed cap space. Plus with some maneuvering -- like possibly trading Dragic and/or taking Bosh's contract off the books (if he ends up not playing a single game this season) -- the Heat could have max cap space available next offseason. This will help them possibly target top free agent Russell Westbrook. An addition like that would certainly help Miami quickly bounce back from Wade's departure. Plus the Heat have their own first-round pick next season so if they fail to make the playoffs, they will be able to add some top-tier talent through the draft.
Again, the loss of a franchise stalwart like Wade is definitely shocking and leaves a sting for Miami fans and anyone involved with the Heat. Similar to any type of long-term relationship -- business or personal -- the Heat will need time to get over this and move forward. The past is the past and while they may have been the best of times, nothing lasts forever. Wade leaving has set the franchise back in the short-term, but like the weather in Miami, the future looks nice and sunny for the Heat.
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