It was a quiet end for the Miami Heat Big Three. Seven years after LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade came together in a dramatic first chapter in 2010, the last chapter was finally closed when the Heat and Chris Bosh, and the Players Union, hammered out a negotiation to part ways, leaving the Heat cap room and Chris Bosh the ability to resume his career. Just as important as a friendly divorce, there was the metaphorical nail in the coffin to the Heat exceptionalism that swept through South Beach in 2010. Miami’s Big Three didn’t last as long as many wanted and so the end just turns a page and leaves a hollow feeling. A lot was left on the table. The Heat Big Three could have done more. They didn’t. And so here they are. Miami Heat history.
With Bosh no longer a part of the Heat present and future and with everyone having buried their hatchets, Pat Riley can truly rebuild. Unlike 2010, Riley won’t have an easy time of it. There isn’t a top-5 player eager to defect to Miami. The top free agent is Blake Griffin though it is unlikely he’ll want to leave a perennial 50 win team to come to Miami, though if anyone can make the case, Riley can. The Heat need front court and scoring help. They were a below average rebounding team, terrible at passing the ball, average shot makers, and didn’t score enough points. They had a top-5 three point defense and a top-10 defense overall and, yet, didn’t make the playoffs because of offensive liabilities.
Is Dwyane Wade a short term answer?
Wade hasn’t made it public if he is going to opt-out his deal and it’s a huge fiscal decision. He is due to make $23 million next year with Chicago. Riley was allergic to that number last summer, and this summer, as he fills the Heat’s holes, it is the same Wade tune.
You can argue both sides. Bring Wade back? Yes. He is a South Beach staple, a historical Heat figure. But Wade is at the end of his career. Pay him $10 million and nothing more. Bring Wade back? Are you crazy? The Heat cannot afford a golden parachute as a thank you to Wade when he won’t live up to it. This isn’t a time for sentimentality. The Heat have to look at the future and give the reins to a young offensive star who is trusted at the end of games.
Wade had a solid year with Chicago, better than anyone expected, but he is descending. He played the fewest minutes of his career, made the fewest shots since his rookie year, had a career low field goal percentage and assist number, and the second lowest point total of his exceptional career. His defense was pretty good, considering his age. His defensive rating was the same as it was during the 2013-14 season, the last year of the Big Three. But with his numbers trending downward, why would Riles want Wade other than as a way to say I’m sorry?
Riley took it on the chin from fans and media when Wade free agent talks broke down last summer and Wade went north. Before the ink was dry on his Bulls deal, the blame game started and the pejoratives began raining down on Riley’s head. Riley is selfish. Riley is stubborn. Riley holds grudges; he blamed Wade for not telling him LeBron was leaving. Riley blamed Wade for not trying to talk LeBron out of leaving. Riley is vindictive. Riley is out of touch. On and on, Riley couldn’t escape the scrutiny that forced him to publicly fall on his sword and utter through gritted teeth a mea culpa. But as the season wore on, Riley was redeemed. He was right. Wade isn’t worth $23 million. He didn’t even make the All-Star team.
Wade’s value as a Miami institution doesn’t add up to what he actually brings at this stage in his career. If Wade was in Miami last year, the Heat still may have missed the playoffs. Dion Waiters numbers last year, and Wade’s, were similar. Waiters was a much better three point scorer and he made some of those Wade clutch shots.
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The odds of Wade turning down$23 million is far-fetched but if he does do that to take half that much with the Heat what happens to Waiters? He had a breakout year despite the injuries. With Wade on board, he is relegated to coming off the bench. Someone is going to pay Waiters to be a starter. Are the Heat willing to make the choice of Wade over Waiters?
One of the hallmarks of Wade’s extraordinary career is he can recruit in a way Riley can’t and Waiters can’t. Wade has cache around the league. If Riley tries to make a play for Paul George having Wade helps convince George to stay long term.
Without Wade, it is true rebuilding. It is the Danny Ainge playbook. Say goodbye to your Hall of Fame talent that brought you titles. Honor them when they return. But accept that time moves on. There is a beginning. (Summer of 2010). A Middle. (Ray Allen three). And an End. (2017 Chris Bosh goodbye).
It just may be time to turn the page. For good.
photo via llananba