MIAMI – “This team did not come together like I thought it would...I’m disappointed in myself.”
As hard as you were on Pat Riley, he's been even harder on himself.
Riley told media back in April of last year that he deserved all the blame he was getting for the relatively disappointing seasons Miami had turned in under his watch over the past four years.
But Riley also said something else that day in April.
“Whether you believe me or not, I think we're right at the launching pad right now.”
It sounded, at the time, like a message of hope with little facts to support it. Sure, the Heat had paid off some of their "student debt" as Riley called it. But they seemed at least a couple years away from digging out of the hole that Riley, himself, had dug with multiple bad deals.
It turns out, Riley was right. And we were all wrong.
Riley's redemption actually began at last year's trade deadline. So we'll start by looking at what the Heat's roster (and cap obligations) looked like 14 months ago versus where they stand today.
It's been a shocking transformation to say the least.
Roster to begin the 2018-19 season (with years and $ remaining on contract, in order of highest annual salary).
- Hassan Whiteside-2 years, $52.5 Million
- Tyler Johnson-2 years, $38.5 Million
- Goran Dragic-2 years, $37.3 Million
- James Johnson-3 years, $46 million
- Dion Waiters-3 years, $39.5 Million
- Josh Richardson-4 years, $52 Million
- Justise Winslow-2 years, $26 million
- Kelly Olynyk-3 years, $38 Million
- Wayne Ellington-1 year, $6.3 Million
- Bam Adebayo-3 years, $11.5 Million
- Dwyane Wade-$2.4 Million
- Udonis Haslem-$2.4 Million
- Rodney McGruder-$1.5 Million
A few notes:
-Player options are included as years in current deals. The exercise is about salary obligations, so Johnson's player option, for example, would be viewed as one the Heat would have been obligated to pay since he's not likely to opt out.
-Included team options for Adebayo since it was a virtual certainty it would be picked up.
-McGruder was eventually waived, but at the time the season began, his $1.5 was guaranteed. The Heat were fortunate to stay out of the luxury tax when the Clippers claimed him.
-Did not include players who were signed to two-way deals, etc. later.
In some cases, these numbers are estimates. But you get the point: The cap sheet in October of 2018 wasn't pretty.
Fast forward to today's roster (salary obligations include the beginning of this season).
- Jimmy Butler-4 years, $141 Million
- Goran Dragic-1 year, $19.2 Million
- Andre Iguodala-2 years, $32 Million
- Solomon Hill-1 year, $13.3 Million
- Kelly Olynyk-2 years, $23.9 Million
- Meyers Leonard-1 year, $11.3 Million
- Jae Crowder-1 year, $7.8 Million
- Ryan Anderson-3 years, $15.6 Million (waived & stretched)
- Bam Adebayo-2 years, $8.6 Million
- Tyler Herro-4 years, $17.1 Million (inclulding team options)
- Udonis Haslem-1 year, $2.6 Million
- Derrick Jones, Jr.-1 year, $1.6 Million
- Duncan Robinson-1 year, $1.4 Million (plus non-guaranteed 2020-21 AND Restricted in 21-22).
- Kendrick Nunn-1 year, $1.4 Million (see Robinson)
- KZ Okpala-1 year, $898,000
- Chris Silva-1 year, $466,918
The Heat got here thanks to a number of moves: Trading Tyler Johnson and Ellington for Anderson, pulling off the mega-deal involving Whiteside, Richardson and Butler among others, and the most recent deal sending Winslow, James Johnson and Waiters to Memphis for Iguodala, Crowder and Hill.
The roster transformation itself is astounding. But what's most encouraging for Heat fans is how well the team is set up to make big moves over the next 16 months. Consider:
The Heat had very few contracts in October of 2018 who would be considered "attractive" to other teams.
Fast forward to now, and the Heat have a lot more true "assets." In addition to owning their first round picks in 2020, 2022 and two of three years from 2023-2025, the Heat also boast young players on team-friendly contracts who could be building blocks of Miami's future OR could be enticing to another team if a true superstar demands to be traded.
(Yes, some pick protections make dealing picks a little tough in their current state, but protections could be removed through other deals).
What's more? These moves have somehow put the Heat in a position that would have been unthinkable a year ago: They're going to be one of very few teams who will have cap space THIS summer.
My five teams projected to have cap space this summer:— Jeff Siegel (@jgsiegel) February 6, 2020
New York: 38.76Mhttps://t.co/xF361xjHaR
It seems unlikely, but if Anthony Davis decided to leave LA, the Heat are one of a very few teams who could sign him into space by making one or two small moves. That space could also make Miami more attractive to a team who is being forced to trade a star. If Washington were to look to deal Bradley Beal, for example, the Heat wouldn’t need to necessarily match salary to take him back, thus saving Washington some cash.
Riley made mistakes. He’s owned up to them. And he deserved much of the criticism he received at the time. He has even criticized himself.
But now, they truly are at the launching pad.