Miami Heat offseason mailbag: Is upgrading the roster realistic?

Plus a best guess for how the Miami Heat's offseason plays out.
Miami Heat v Memphis Grizzlies
Miami Heat v Memphis Grizzlies / Justin Ford/GettyImages

Welcome back to the Miami Heat offseason mailbag! Every week, I’ll jump on here and try my best to answer your questions and provide some explanations during what should be an eventful summer. Let’s do it.

As always, thanks to everyone who sent in questions on X. It’s also where you can send future mailbag questions.

  1. Resolve the Jimmy Butler situation. Butler becomes extension-eligible on July 7, a week after the start of free agency and the conclusion of the NBA draft. The Heat should know by then whether they plan to extend Butler, if he’ll be OK playing another season without a long-term commitment, or if they’ll need to trade him. And when I say they should – I mean, they better. The Heat can’t afford to go back and forth with Butler in the middle of July while the rest of the league is sorting out their rosters and signing free agents.
  2. Make a major roster move. This team is better than last season’s record suggests, as injuries took a toll. But it’s also no longer good enough to compete at the top of the East even when healthy (and good health is far from the expectation with this group). Running it back is not an option. Whether the Heat land a star or make material rotation upgrades, they have to do something to upgrade the overall talent level.
  3. Trim payroll. The Heat are $5.2 million below the second tax apron and will be dangerously close to crossing it if they don’t make any moves, sign their 15th overall draft pick and the four players with player options opt in. Crossing the second apron threshold is not an option because it limits Miami’s ability to improve the roster (cannot aggregate contracts in a trade, can’t use trade exceptions or the mid-level exception, cannot trade a 2032 first-round pick) and makes it difficult if not impossible to land an All-Star. Don’t be surprised if the Heat make a cost-saving move in July.
  4. Talk to Bam Adebayo about an extension: Like Butler, Bam Adebayo is also extension-eligible this summer. Unless he makes the All-NBA team (unlikely), the extension can be worth up to $165 million over three years. Unlike Butler, there’s less of a rush for Bam to sign since he can’t become a free agent until 2026. But the Heat and Bam should come to some understanding on the timeline for Adebayo’s new deal.

Timelines are like quarterbacks. If you have two, you have none. It’s not that I have a problem with young players – and the Heat understand draft picks are important to build depth – but the Heat are asking too much of their young players to be considered a serious contender. 

That said, a healthy and more engaged Butler, a full season for Terry Rozier, moving Tyler Herro back to a sixth-man role and leaps from Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Nikola Jovic make what should be a solid playoff team. But teams like the Celtics, 76ers, Bucks, Pacers and Knicks have all improved since Miami’s Finals run. This team won’t contend for a championship, but it could still be fun to watch.

I’m going to try to tackle these both at the same time. If the Heat don’t get Donovan Mitchell this summer (we have updates on the latest intel here), then they should pivot to find another No.1-type scorer (we have a list here).

Unfortunately for our friend GasmanD, any trade like that would cost at least one of Jovic or Jaquez. But you have to give something up to get something.

If that doesn’t pan out, then the Heat should try to upgrade the supporting cast around Butler and Adebayo. It’s worth revisiting what kind of players best fit around a 34-year-old Butler and prime Adebayo.

Neither is especially big for his position, so adding size across other positions is vital. Last season’s backcourt of Rozier and Herro was small and Jovic, though listed at 6-foot-11, is a little light in the caboose. Adding size would also allow the Heat to go back to a switching defensive scheme that best suits Adebayo.

And because neither is a floor-spacing threat (Butler and Bam both took more 3s than usual last season, but defenses aren’t closing out on them), those bigger players at other positions also need to be able to make 3s consistently.

So we’re looking for big, switchable 3-point shooters. Some names that come to mind: Portland’s Jerami Grant, Charlotte’s Grant Williams, Brooklyn’s Dorian Finney-Smith, Toronto’s Bruce Brown, Detroit’s Quentin Grimes, San Antonio’s Keldon Johnson and Zach Collins, Detroit’s Isaiah Stewart, Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes, Memphis’ Marcus Smart and Houston’s Dillon Brooks.

I wish I could give you a better answer, but I have no idea. I believe that the Heat want to work things out with Butler but, right now, the sides are far apart. Butler wants a maximum extension right now, and the Heat don’t want to have that conversation until next summer. As I said on my podcast (and caught some heat for), I wouldn’t be surprised if Butler got traded only because I’ve learned to not be surprised by anything in the NBA, especially when money is involved.

As for Herro, my best guess is that he will come off the bench next season if he's on the team. The Heat were going in that direction at the end of the regular season before Duncan Robinson’s injury thrust Herro back into the starting lineup, and there are enough people internally who believe the team is better when Herro is a sixth man. But I also think the Heat might have to consider trading him in a money-saving move to reduce payroll, add draft capital and give them the flexibility to upgrade the roster.

I do think the team will look different next season. As I said, running it back once after a Finals run is fine, but running it back for a third season after back-to-back play-in tournament appearances for a team with this payroll is not an option.

Spoelstra isn’t married to any particular style of play, but he understands that because his two stars are non-shooters he needs to space the floor as much as possible. Typically, smaller players are better floor-spacers. 

It’s not like Spoelstra hasn’t tried to size up. When Kevin Love signed two seasons ago, Spoelstra immediately put him in the starting lineup before finding it wasn’t viable. When he had Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard, he routinely started them alongside Bam. It’s why Spoelstra rushed Jovic into the starting lineup even before he was ready. Spo recognized he needed to get bigger. 

The problem is that Love is 35, Olynyk was traded, Leonard is out of the league and Jovic isn’t strong enough to allow Adebayo to move to power forward. Finding a near-7-footer who can shoot 3s and hold up defensively isn’t easy.