The chances of the Miami Heat making a big splash this off-season were slim already, but a crushing blow was dealt by one of the team's former stars on Friday. LeBron James officially opted out of the final year on his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, becoming an unrestricted free agent.
While this may sound good on the surface for any non-Cavs suitor for James services, it hurts several teams who wanted their shot at The King. The only way that the Heat could have swung a deal for LeBron was to do a sign and trade with Cleveland.
Miami simply does not have the cap room to go out and do much in free agency. Despite team president Pat Riley's distinguished career as a coach and executive, one has to wonder whether the 73-year-old will ever be able to close a deal with a big name free agent again.
The Heat got a forum with Kevin Durant in 2016 and Gordon Heyward last summer, but neither decided to take their talents to South Beach. For someone who always likes to be in the center of the action, it is going to be a uniquely different offseason for Riley as he tries to retool the roster from within.
Due to his recent public disagreements with head coach Erik Spoelstra, center Hassan Whiteside could be a piece dangled to shake up the roster. However, it remains to be seen whether teams still hold his more traditional post skills in high regard, especially with his large salary.
No matter what happens with Whiteside, the Heat have options. While they do not possess financial flexibility, Miami does have a lot of players talented enough and cheap enough to get creative on the trade market.
Riley has swung and missed, but the roster he has built is at least a competitive group with young assets. Names like Josh Richardson, Justice Winslow and Bam Adebayo are good young players that many teams in the league would love to have.
The Miami roster also boasts a borderline All-Star in Goran Dragic and a talented, but temperamental center in Whiteside. Riley also rewrote a previous wrong in bringing Dwyane Wade back to the Heat this winter to likely finishing his career playing home games at the American Airlines Arena.
The Heat are a middling playoff team in the Eastern Conference, but they have done about the best that can be expected in the aftermath of LeBron's departure and Chris Bosh's career-ending ailment.
Miami fans are used to a high-level winner and so there has been some discontent involved with this group. I would say that Heat fans should be happy with what they have and say a prayer of thanks that they do not have to go through what fans in Orlando, Sacramento or Phoenix have to.
The franchise's direction going forward is unclear, but the only guarantee is that while they are guided by Riley, there will be no tanking in the 305. That, in and of itself, is a win to me.
Cover photo from Wikipedia Commons