Miami Heat: Which primary ball-handlers are likely to return next season?

Goran Dragic #7 of the Miami Heat handles the ball against D'Angelo Russell #1(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Goran Dragic #7 of the Miami Heat handles the ball against D'Angelo Russell #1(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Miami Heat are entering an offseason where creativity is required in order to improve. We’ll break down position groups and see who is likely to return, and we start with the primary ball-handlers.

With the offseason under way for the Miami Heat, it’s time to take a look at the forecast for each player over the next few days, evaluating the likelihood each will return. Considering the fact that the NBA is moving in a direction that streamlines positions, we’re going to follow suit and categorize players as primary ball-handlers, wings and bigs.

We’ll start with the primary ball-handlers for the Miami Heat, and go through each position over the coming days.

Goran Dragic

Goran Dragic has a player option worth $19.2 million this summer. He’s expressed uncertainty whether he will exercise it or not, but this is an amount that could be difficult to recoup on the open market if he opts out.

If in fact he does end up opting out, it may be with the intention of re-signing with the Heat (or another team) for a lesser first-year salary that guarantees him more years and long-term money.

Dragic may also choose to prioritize playing time, which may be diminished going forward with the emergence of Justise Winslow starting at point guard. If that’s the case, he may decide to sacrifice some money in order to go elsewhere in the hopes of getting more playing time and avoid coming off the bench.

Dragic is likely to return to the Heat, but it’s far from a lock.

Justise Winslow

Point Justise became a thing this season as Winslow found his niche, starting at point guard. The 6’7″ Winslow started 52 games throughout the season, a number of which were at the one in place of Goran Dragic while Dragic was out with injury, and Winslow played so well there that he kept the spot.

Winslow begins a 3-year, $39 million contract extension that kicks in this summer, which makes him somewhat less appealing as part of trade packages than he might have been prior to the extension. It’s safe to say Winslow’s greatest value remains with his current team.

Barring some unforeseen trade, Winslow is a virtual lock to return in 2019-2020.

Dion Waiters

With two years and $24.7 million left on his contract, Dion Waiters may find himself as part of a trade package this coming season. Pat Riley has indicated that changes are coming, and Waiters figures to have a salary that is overvalued but may not be impossible to move in combination with picks or other incentives.

Waiters missed 38 games last season but actually ended up having the best true shooting season of his career with a 53 percent true shooting percentage. This was thanks in large part to by far his highest 3-point rate, taking 60.5 percent of his field goal attempts from behind the arc.

This might be Waiters in his best configuration, a passable-to-decent defender who takes the shots he’s best at and doesn’t waste a lot of possessions with lower value attempts. While his value in Miami is reasonable, there may be a team out there that wants a guy like Dion Waiters on a reasonable contract with just two years remaining.

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Waiters is neutral, probably the least likely of the primary ball-handlers to return to the Miami Heat next season.