Heat Need To Do Right For Dwyane Wade


So Dwyane Wade is supposed to wait for 2016?

Maybe when the Miami Heat visit the Los Angeles Lakers next Tuesday, he can ask Kobe Bryant how waiting for the big summer splash is working out.

While there were those that ready to right the final chapter of Wade’s legacy, he has turned back the clock. Wade, who is averaging 23 points per game, on 50.5% shooting, has done everything he can do to carry this Heat team.

It just hasn’t paid off the way he had hoped.

After the departure of You Know Who, Pat Riley’s new grand design was to build to be competitive over the two seasons leading in to the summer of 2016, when the likes of Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, and Dwight Howard possibly entering into free agency, while long-shot targets like Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond will be restricted free agents ready to be pounced on. With a rising salary cap to as high as $80 million, Riley will do whatever it takes to insure that the Heat have money to spend.

Even if it means limiting what the Heat can do this season and next.

And as Wade pointed out recently, he can’t concern himself with what Riley and the Heat have planned for two years down the road. He’s in the present, fighting to help this current edition of the Heat get through their struggles in hopes of trying to gain ground in the standings.

Naturally, Riley is looking out for the long-term prospects of the franchise, as he has to address a roster that will one day not have Wade on it.

Of course, the original plan has hit a bit of a snag as Miami has been a shell of what fans have experienced over the last four years, with a defense made of paper, injuries piling up, and inconsistent performances from key players have the Heat 15-20, and clinging to a game and a half lead over the Indiana Pacers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With a West Coast trip looming over the next week, the Heat find themselves at a crossroads.

What’s particularly frustrating is the current state of the East, as upstart teams like Atlanta, Toronto, and Washington have risen to the top of the conference, while preseason favorites Chicago, who is trying to get their stars healthy, and Cleveland, whose players seem like they’ve never met before, try to keep pace with the leaders. One would think that the Heat’s roster back in the preseason would have been more than good enough to compete with the current state of the top 5. Yet the current state of affairs, the other thing not helping is that the Heat don’t own their draft pick next year – unless they fall into the top 10 – so trying to be competitive now seems like the best course of action.

And Wade deserves better than this.

He took less money to help this team rebuild and it hasn’t worked out according to plan. For him to answer questions about the plans of 2016 is a bit of a slap in the face. Much like Kobe, Wade is a competitor that wants to compete for titles and not sit through lost seasons. And, like Kobe, Wade doesn’t have a lot of time left in his career to wait for the winds to change.

But he could add a little pressure. Wade can opt out of the deal he signed over the summer and can easily suggest that the Heat do right by him in the present or else. I doubt he would even do that, as he’s built up so much goodwill with Heat fans, and those across the country view him as the ultimate face of the franchise, that it would be weak for him to just abandon ship because things got tough.

Trusting in Riley’s plan is something Heat fans can appreciate, as he’s hit homeruns with trades for Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, and Shaquille O’Neal, while hitting big in the summer of 2010 with the additions of You Know Who and Chris Bosh. But by the same token, Heat fans also want to stick it to those that doubt how good this team could be in the present, which is something that they haven’t had a lot to be proud of.

So what then? As pointed out numerous times over the past few weeks, the Heat lack resources to bring in major help that won’t hamper the cap situation beyond 2016. So he can hold firm, which means we can just ride the storm out and not focus on 2016.

Or Riley can step out of that box and take a chance to shake things up.

I suggested weeks ago that the Heat should get crazy and and explore the thought of adding Lance Stephenson, a man that has seen his honeymoon phase with the Hornets already come to an end, and is actively being shopped around. Or maybe someone like Knicks point guard Jose Calderon, who could easily be the next person out of Manhattan, that makes $7.4 million next season, and $7.7 million in 2016-17, that Miami could gamble on. With the projected cap increase, that contract wouldn’t be much of a deterrent for Riley’s big summer plans.

But to hesitate on pulling the trigger on a deal because of the risks of hampering the Heat’s chances in 2016 is wrong.

There had to be a segment of Heat fans wondering how Miami couldn’t jump into the Iman Shumpert sweepstakes, considering what exactly the Knicks got back for him in the trade that literally broke Twitter. Of course, as it has been repeatedly beaten over every Heat fan’s head, Miami has nothing in the way of assets to trade. But all New York got in return was a second round pick and players that they’re ultimately going to waive.

Could the Heat have beaten that offer? Sure. Problem is the Knicks were more than willing to give Shumpert away for nothing because the Cavaliers were willing to take JR Smith’s contract (and nonsense) off of their books. Smith is due a $6.4 million player option for next season (which he probably decided the moment he signed the contract that he was going to exercise). Also, Shumpert is a free agent, which means the Heat would let him walk this summer, as opposed to re-signing him and tie up money going into 2016, so doing the deal to have him for half a season, as well as another season of Smith, might not have been worth it to the Heat.

But in the context of this season? Maybe it could have been. A player like Shumpert could have helped stop the bleeding on defense, an area the Heat are severely lacking. Even though a backcourt tandem of Smith and Mario Chalmers at any point could have been the worst thing ever, doing something to help improve this year’s team might have been a gamble worth trying. Of course, the Knicks weren’t going to do a deal where they take on money beyond this year, so the Heat would have had to have brought another team in to help move money around.

Options are out there, and Riley should kick all the tires he can to help improve the Heat. Although it’s two years away, 2016 might as well be a lifetime away. It would wrong for the Heat to waste Wade’s renaissance season because they’re looking down the road.

For Dwyane Wade, much like Kobe Bryant, time is running out.

For the 2014-15 Miami Heat, time is also running out.

Unless Pat Riley makes his move.

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