Enter The Whiteside.

What a season. Despite this bitter end in Toronto, Miami finishing one win shy of the Eastern Conference Finals with everything that happened is incredible. Miami lost their anchor Chris Bosh to illness for the second straight year and then their potential cornerstone in Hassan Whiteside midway into the semifinals. There was a point in this season where the HEAT looked like they were destined for the lottery for the second season in a row. Big strides were made in 2016.

We saw the emergence of Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, and even Tyler Johnson for a little while. HEAT basketball became fun again. The Miami HEAT is run by a man in Pat Riley that works every day to build on the successes of the past. If you’ve been a HEAT fan for at least seven years, you’ll find that to be the truth without question, and the future is bright, no matter how this season would have ended.

The HEAT went from being the 10th worst team in the NBA in 2014-2015 to a solid 48-34 record and one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals. With Pat Riley refusing to settle for being a treadmill team, one can only imagine what the goal will be next season. This is very similar to 2009-2010 when Miami finished 47-35 and lost in the first round, only to have arguably the best free agency period of all time and win two titles as a result. Miami will retool this summer and come back better than ever, which brings us to free agency.

Though the Conference Finals are right around the corner on TNT, ESPN, and ABC, for the remaining 26 NBA franchises, the most exciting non-All-Star Weekend time of the year is finally nearing. In the last few years, NBA Free Agency has truly gained a flair for the dramatic; whether it had to do with LeBron James’ Decision 2010 resulting in his migration to Miami [, 2 NBA MVPs, 4 NBA Finals trips, and 2 NBA titles], or DeAndre Jordan’s 2015  change of heart. There’s no shortage of drama in this league anymore.

Marquee players are often why people care so much, and it’s understandable. While this summer likely won’t have the same kind of build-up we witnessed back in 2010 (with multiple franchise players’ contracts expiring at the same time), one big name will certainly make things interesting due to the uncertainty of his destination. His name is Kevin Durant. For more, check out “The Recruiting Job.” For now, let us focus on the rest of the 2016 Free Agent Class by first establishing what Miami has to work with.

PG: Goran Dragic – Tyler Johnson – Briante Weber
SG: Dwyane Wade – Joe Johnson* – Josh Richardson
SF: Justise Winslow – Gerald Green* – Dorell Wright*
PF: Chris Bosh – Luol Deng* – Josh McRoberts
C: Hassan Whiteside* – Amare Stoudemire – Udonis Haslem*

Miami’s Wild Cards

Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Briante Weber, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Josh McRoberts, and Chris Bosh are all signed through next season. Dwyane Wade is technically a free agent this summer, but he’s not going anywhere. Udonis Haslem is in a similar boat to Wade, in that he is the sort of Miami made man that will play as long as he’d like to. It’s likely that Dorell Wright will come back next season if the two sides are interested, but potential wild cards on the wings are Joe Johnson and Gerald Green.

Gerald Green has been very positive about his time in Miami thus far, so in the event that the team is interested in bringing him back, it’s likely we’ll see him again. Briante Weber’s arrival appears to be for development purposes; in fact, he was on Miami’s radar before the speedy guard tore his ACL in college. Miami may want to replace Johnson and Green with younger, more consistent pieces, but time will tell on that.

Chris Bosh‘s health remains uncertain right now; the team will continue to monitor his health moving forward. If healthy, Bosh will continue to be an All-Star caliber forward in this league and a major piece for the HEAT. I have a strange feeling the team will try to move Josh McRoberts for more productive (and healthier) assets this summer. Moving McRoberts will also clear more cap space for a potential free agent acquisition. It’s just not working out anymore with him, so it may be time to say goodbye.

Luol Deng‘s move to the small-ball four position may have revitalized his career, which has considerable implications in the summer. He may be able to command more money on the market that the HEAT might be willing to pay him. In an ideal world, he will be amiable to a pay-cut to bolster Miami’s depth, but basketball is a business. Amare Stoudemire came to Miami in an effort to revive his career. For a while, Stoudemire was productive as the starter during Hassan Whiteside’s semi-exile from the starting lineup.

But that all fell apart in the playoffs. We won’t dwell too much on that, but his showing vs. Toronto was brutal to watch. Shortly after Miami’s Game 7 loss, Stoudemire was on record as saying he “expected to play more,” and that his limited playing time this past season was “not a part of the deal.” After watching his play, it’s clear those minutes he didn’t play were earned. Stoudemire is no longer the player he was in Phoenix and New York. If he wants to come back, he won’t receive the minutes he thinks he deserves. This might result in the two sides parting ways this summer.

There is no question that Joe Johnson‘s arrival in Miami earlier this Spring revitalized this team’s fortunes. Since his first game with the team on February 28, Miami, which was chugging along at 32-26, finished the season on a 16-8 run at 48-34 and the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Compare that to last season where Miami was 25-33 on that same date and finished 37-45. His play was fantastic, allowing Luol Deng to move to the small-ball power forward spot and injecting the starting lineup with shooting and a legitimate third scoring option in Bosh’s absence.

But it fell off in the postseason. Joe became a non-factor, and it led to the HEAT’s struggles against Charlotte and then Toronto. Had he played the way he did in the regular season, it’s likely the HEAT would have had a date with LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals this year. In spite of these failings, the reality is what’s done is done. Joe Johnson came to Miami for the chance to play, and he got that chance. But with increased playing time came more scrutiny, and we saw Joe fade in many big games down the stretch. This will surely impact his free agent prospects in the offseason, and may affect a potential return.

Which leaves us the enigmatic Hassan Whiteside. His sprained MCL was a cruel end to a solid sophomore season with the Miami HEAT. All signs point to Whiteside remaining with the HEAT this summer. It appears he’s grateful for Miami’s willingness to take a chance on him. Unlike most situations, because of the contract he signed last season, the HEAT do not have Whiteside’s Bird Rights, meaning they cannot go over the cap to re-sign him, something that has cap-savvy HEAT fans feeling nervous going into this summer. But Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg are miracle men.

Miami will need Whiteside’s services next season and in the years to come, so he will be a priority for them in July when players start changing addresses. The Miami HEAT need Hassan Whiteside. They got lucky when he came across HEAT scouts, and his emergence as a legitimate defensive anchor in this league has taken the league by storm. With Whiteside potentially starting at center for the HEAT for the next six years, Miami will have a foundation they can build around to add to Miami’s young pieces. I don’t expect him to leave, but I’ll address that in a later piece. Safe to say I’ve written enough here as it is.

So now we know the potential holes and question marks on this current roster. Here’s the list of players to choose from in July that could realistically help the Miami HEAT.

Free Agent Prospects

Guards

  • Courtney Lee
  • Eric Gordon
  • Brian Roberts
  • Seth Curry (RFA)
  • Kent Bazemore
  • Joe Johnson*
  • Kevin Martin
  • Marcus Thornton
  • Greivis Vasquez
  • O.J. Mayo
  • Gerald Henderson
  • E’Twaun Moore
  • Jamal Crawford
  • Dwyane Wade*

Forwards

  • Kevin Durant
  • LeBron James
  • Harrison Barnes (RFA)
  • Nicolas Batum
  • Mike Miller
  • Chandler Parsons
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Terrence Jones (RFA)
  • Anthony Tolliver
  • Luol Deng*
  • Marreese Speights
  • David Lee
  • Chase Budinger
  • Caron Butler (Player Option)
  • Josh Smith
  • Kevin Seraphin
  • Evan Turner
  • Josh Smith
  • Charlie Villanueva
  • Mirza Teletovic
  • Jeff Green
  • David West (Player Option)

Centers

  • Andre Drummond (RFA)
  • Hassan Whiteside*
  • Al Horford
  • Dwight Howard (Player Option)
  • Nene
  • Ian Mahinmi
  • Jason Thompson
  • Jordan Hill
  • Timofey Mozgov
  • Anderson Varejao
  • Marreese Speights
  • Joakim Noah
  • Pau Gasol
  • Donatas Montiejunas

The Pipe Dream

So that’s the list. But before this ends, I couldn’t let you go without providing my pipe dream HEAT roster for 2016-17.

PG: Goran Dragic – Tyler Johnson – Briante Weber
SG: Dwyane Wade – Josh Richardson – Marcus Thornton
SF: Kevin Durant – Justise Winslow – Dorell Wright
PF: Chris Bosh – Luol Deng – Jarnell Stokes/Draft Pick
C: Hassan Whiteside – Nene – Udonis Haslem

This roster wins them a title. Stay tuned for the summer.

3 thoughts on “Enter The Whiteside.

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