Will the Heat trade for Chris Paul or Bradley Beal this season? Pat Riley says he'll have to show 'restraint'
Read between the lines, and Riley knows the itch to make a move will be there eventually -- if it isn't already
MIAMI -- After Jimmy Butler went through his first official press conference with the Miami Heat last Friday, Pat Riley took the stage and gave Butler a hug. The iPhones snapped. He sat down, and before anyone could ask a question, he made a statement.
"I'm not going to give any kind of dissertation on what hypothetically this season is going to be like, except that we want to win, and we want to win big," Riley said.
Right away, it set an urgent tone for the upcoming season that Riley would later call "LeBron James left in 2014-15, they're barely a .500 team. They've won one playoff series. That is not going to appease Riley, or Erik Spoelstra, or anyone in the very proud Heat organization, and so they did what they had to do to pull off a sign-and-trade for Butler, whom Riley called a "top-10 player" in the league." time. Riley made it clear the Heat are tired of losing. Since
On his own, Butler immediately makes the Heat a better team than they were last season, when they won just 39 games and missed the playoffs. But he doesn't make the Heat a title contender, even with a pretty solid supporting cast around him. For the most part, the NBA has become a two-star league if you want to realistically compete for championships.
So we've heard Chris Paul's name attached to the Heat. is on everyone's radar. Before Russell Westbrook was dealt to Houston, the Heat reportedly explored a trade for the former OKC star. But so far, the Heat have stood pat with Butler as the lone star. Riley was asked if, in looking back at Miami's offseason, he was happy to have gotten a max player in Butler without any cap space, or if he was just a little bit disappointed with the fact that the Heat weren't able to put one of those second-star deals together.
"Im happy right now," Riley said. "The fact that Jimmy Butler wanted to come play in Miami, that's a start. ... As far as getting somebody else, we're going to go to training camp with the team [we have], and I think we showed restraint as much as we can, and as much discipline as we can with our roster. But if something presents itself, then we'll always take a look at it."
The one word that stands out there is restraint. It's the perfect word for how Riley has handled, so far, the opportunities he's had to aggressively pursue a second star. There's no doubt the Heat are itching to get back in the title hunt, and under those conditions is where impulse can supersede caution. So far, Riley has, indeed, restrained himself.
But for how long? If Beal were to wake up in the middle of the season and demand a trade, and the Wizards in turn demanded, say, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo as part of a Miami package, would Riley still be able to restrain himself? Perhaps that's too big a hypothetical at this point, but adding Paul is a very real possibility that could only become more enticing if the Heat get off to a good start and truly feel like they can catapult into conference-title contention.
Were it not for Paul's gigantic contract, the Heat might well have already made a move for Paul, who is clearly available for a team with halfway-decent assets, or even just a team that's simply willing to take on the $124 million he's owed over the next three years. The question Riley is asking himself, and will continue to ask himself, is very simple: Does Chris Paul immediately lift the Heat into a tier of contention that would justify, perhaps, having to eat a of money on the back end of a depreciating deal?
Say this: Way too much has been made of Paul's supposed demise. Is he the two-way superstar he was in his prime? No. But consider that in just under 730 minutes played WITHOUT James Harden on the floor last season, Paul averaged better than 22 points, 12 assists and five rebounds. Among Eastern Conference point guards, who would you rather have going into a playoff series: Kemba Walker, who just got a max contract from the Celtics with the expectation that he'll be the best player, on an elite team, or Chris Paul? You could make an argument Paul would still be the right choice.
In the end, will the Heat end up making that choice? We know they're likely one of the few teams on Paul's radar that makes sense. And again, Riley is clearly motivated to "win big." The ingredients are there. The fact that Riley admitted he'll have to show restraint means a part of him, at least, knows he's going to feel the itch to make a move eventually ... if it isn't feeling it already.
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