2017-18 Miami Heat success does not hinge on signing top free agent

Jan 9, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) dribbles the ball around Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow (20) during the second half at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jazz won 98-83. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) dribbles the ball around Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow (20) during the second half at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jazz won 98-83. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami Heat may be trying to land a top free agent like Gordon Hayward, but their 2017-18 success is not dependent upon it.

Remember in the summer of 2016, when Miami Heat president Pat Riley was so set on “catching a whale,” that he lost Dwyane Wade to the Chicago Bulls?

In case you forever blocked it out of your memory to avoid traumatization, let me quickly remind you.

Wade felt so disrespected that Riley did not prioritize his contract over chasing the likes of Kevin Durant (and probably re-signing Hassan Whiteside), that he chose to play for the most chaotic organization in the Eastern Conference instead.

Under the guise of wanting to return home, a la best friend LeBron James. But really to stick it to Heat management the best way he could.

Now who was right in that situation, is highly debatable. While some argue that Riley was just doing what he thought was best for the team, others side with Wade and say he deserved better. But what is even more up for discussion is whether Wade really came out on the better side of things. Especially now that the Bulls have traded away their best player in Jimmy Butler.

But I digress.

The point is, the entire situation probably could have been avoided had the idea of signing a top free agent not been so romanticized. Like the only way to have a successful season would have been adding another headlining act.

Spoiler: it was not.

I know what you are thinking: how was Miami’s 2016-17 run a success? They finished 41-41, and missed out on the 2017 Playoffs (thanks Chicago, in an ironic twist of events.) But there were so many beautiful things that came out of last year; Goran Dragic playing his best basketball yet, James Johnson developing into a star, Dion Waiters proving the doubters wrong… just to name a few.

Really, how could turning 11-30 into 30-11 not be considered successful?

Another tangent, I know.

So let me get to the point. More so than ever, the Heat do not have to land a top free agent to continue building upon the organization’s winning legacy. No, not even Gordon Hayward.

Now before you stop reading, hear me out.

Would Hayward in South Beach be a dream come true? Absolutely. And not just for Hayward’s wife, either.

At 27, the 6-foot-8 forward averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game last season on almost 40 percent shooting from downtown, a set of numbers that fit perfectly with the Heat’s current game. Having attended Butler University, his work ethic is as strong as the rest of the roster’s. And making his first All-Star team in 2017, Hayward clearly has yet to reach his ceiling, meaning Miami’s impeccable player development could work wonders on the stud.

At the very least, on paper, the Indiana-native looks to be a perfect match for the Heat.

There is better news, too. Hayward’s first free agency meeting is with Riley.

But at the end of the day, Riley cannot ignore the likes of Johnson and Dion, just to focus on a guy who very well may end up staying with the Utah Jazz. Or signing with the Boston Celtics. Because the worst thing that can happen to Miami is not losing out on another big name. It is forcing talent they already have, out.


Johnson and Waiters have already made it clear they want to stay in South Beach. And from the looks of things, the front office want them to stick around as well. It will seemingly just come down to one thing: money.

The Heat’s 2016-17 season may have started off rocky. Between losing Wade and Chris Bosh, a team of freshly assembled players needing time to build chemistry and a plethora of injuries… the future looked bleak. At least at first glance.

However the team’s culture proved to be a bigger factor than so-called top talent. Because boy did Miami come back with a vengeance. So imagine what they could do moving forward, after having already played together for an entire year (given they all stay healthy, of course.) Especially under head coach Erik Spoelstra’s incredible leadership.

In a perfect world, Riley would have it all: Hayward would buy into The Culture, while Johnson and Waiters took paycuts to re-sign. And his vision may indeed come true. After all, the Big Three made it work.

But in case not all the stars (literally and figuratively) align for Godfather Riley, fans should not worry. As long as history does not repeat itself.

Because the grit of this past season’s squad will be enough to do more than just survive, moving forward.

Next: Getting to know the Miami Heat's summer league roster

Regardless of the circumstances, Miami Heat Basketball does not quit.