As July 1st approaches, it’s becoming more clear that the Miami Heat has some work to do to retain the top talent on their roster. Three-fifths of their starting lineup — Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, and Luol Deng — can leave through free agency; I don’t have to explain how devastating that could be a year after losing LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Considering Miami’s likelihood to go with a wing with their 10th pick (enter in Stanley Johnson), their top priority should be to keep the backcourt intact.
The first domino to fall will likely be at the point guard spot. As first reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Heat plan to offer Dragic a five-year deal “in excess of” $80 million, which could be over $30 million less than a full five-year max over the life of the deal. ESPN’s Michael Wallace suggests that the Heat may have to start at $90 million considering outside teams, only equipped with four-year offers, can offer over $80 million themselves.
Dragic, 29, is a dynamic guard who finishes at the rim better than virtually any non-big man in the NBA; his 67.9% FG clip inside of six feet last year was 3rd among non-big men (behind James Johnson and LeBron James) and 10th overall. His ability to shoot, slash and distribute makes him one of the best point guards in the league, and easily the best point guard Miami has had since Tim Hardaway in the late 90s. Assuming Dragic comes back, the Heat will likely try to play faster moving forward to further suit the talents of Dragic, which also falls in line with head coach Erik Spoelstra’s ideal Pace & Space offense.
Let me take the time to make this clear; contrary to somewhat popular belief, Goran Dragic getting his money won’t really affect the Dwyane Wade negotiations that much. Once Marc Stein’s report about Dragic’s potential deal came out, I saw plenty of people across social media proclaiming that Wade was out of there because of Miami’s perceived willingness to give Dragic big money compared to the public negotiations we’ve seen so far with the Heat and Wade — even if nothing was really set in stone.
Just yesterday, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst reported that the Heat and Dwyane Wade plan to formally meet within the next week to try to knock out a reasonable deal. Despite the public posturing from both sides, it is believed, by ESPN’s Michael Wallace and others, that Wade’s top and most realistic option is staying in Miami, and ultimately, the Heat will be more than willing to get something done.
Dragic getting between $16M-18M a year isn’t going to stop Wade from getting something like a three-year, $50M-54M deal if that’s what it’ll take to retain Wade. The trickle-down effect from Dragic and Wade getting their money will likely affect lesser pieces on the roster. Case in point, Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst also reported that the Heat may look to trade both Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen in an effort to free up money to comfortably re-sign Dragic and Wade and lower their luxury tax burden.
If you’re expecting the Heat to lose a “big name” guy, the most likely player they may lose would be Luol Deng, who could opt out of the last year of his deal ($10.1M). Deng had a solid campaign for the Heat, averaging 14 ppg (46.9% FG) and 5.2 rpg. This doesn’t really move the needle much for Miami because of their plan to add a wing in the draft — Stanley Johnson could probably start right away — or if Deng does decide to stay, he’ll be hitting free agency in 2016, so it wouldn’t hurt Miami’s flexibility.
There’s been a lot of noise surrounding the Heat, and rightfully so between Dwyane Wade’s dad wearing a Cavs shirt and the reported mutual interest between Wade and the Lakers. However, barring something drastic, Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade will be starting for the Heat next year. Luol Deng may be more of a question mark, but I expect him to be back as well. Where there’s smoke, there may be fire — just expect that fire to be extinguished soon (as long as Amar’e Stoudemire isn’t in the vicinity).