Sunday 22 October 2017 / 12:06 PM

REBUILDING HEAT DIG IN FOR THE LONG GAME

Watching the Miami Heat defeat the Orlando Magic 108-96 last night put me in a contemplative mood. I saw flashbacks of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh eviscerating teams in front of a roaring American Airlines Arena. All of a sudden, the Heat became the epicenter of the NBA – and then they disappeared from the limelight even quicker.

Flashes of Wade throwing lobs to LeBron happened so many times that Heat fans got used to it. And whenever LeBron and Wade were playing subpar, Chris Bosh was there to carry the team. And let’s not forget about Ray Allen and his ice-veined three-pointers. My first question watching their 2016-17 opener was, who are these guys in Heat uniforms? I know LeBron left, but where is Wade? Where is Bosh? Where is Allen?

Sitting through an incredibly back-and-forth game with a team that Miami would have blown out a few years ago made the Heat’s stark situation a reality. Instead of figuring out different ways to say, “I used to be a star, kid”, Miami fans need to start looking towards the future. With LeBron home in Cleveland, D-Wade in Chicago, Bosh’s career likely over as he deals with blood clots, and Ray Allen enjoying free agency and opening restaurants, this Heat team seems very strange.

The only remaining fixtures of the Heat’s high-achieving past are Udonis Haslem and coach Erik Spoelstra. But what I do see is the potential for the Heat to bounce back given the right opportunities.

This Miami team is hungry, and also very young. In addition to this season, the Heat have Hassan Whiteside for three more seasons at over $22 million a year. The 27-year-old has the potential to be one of the best centers in the NBA, and with some work and the right players around him, I can see him dominating the NBA in the next three years.

Justise Winslow is on the Heat for at least two more years at over $2.5 million a year, and he has been drawing comparisons to Draymond Green’s ascension from his rookie season to the Warriors powerhouse he is today. Winslow is 20 years old. Josh Richardson, 23, has the potential to start being extremely productive on the court, along with 24-year-old Tyler Johnson, whose contract is good until 2020.

Realistically, the Miami Heat are not likely to come anywhere close to the Finals without some serious manpower. There could be anywhere up to 10 more years of LeBron dominating the East.

Luckily for the Heat and master orchestrator Pat Riley, they will have a significant amount of cap space and money freed up by the end of next summer once Bosh is released, and if they choose to trade Dragic. Bosh is still set to make nearly $23.7 million this year, $25.2 million next year and $26.8 million the following year. Dragic, who is an excellent point guard, has a lot of value in a market where good point guards are hard to come by.

Landing some franchise-caliber players or All-Star talent by next year is very possible, and if the Heat end up in the NBA lottery this year they could pick up some quality new talent as well. Although you probably shouldn’t hold your breath to get James or Wade back, nor should you hope for Steph Curry or Kevin Durant, there are still going to be some very appealing free agents for the Heat to look at in 2017.

What I am looking at is bringing both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to Miami, as both will have an early termination option in 2017. The Heat could very well scoop up Andre Iguodala if things go sour in Golden State, Nick Young from the Lakers, Kyle Lowry from the Raptors, or Derrick Rose from the Knicks…make a couple of those moves happen, and the future is looking brighter down in Florida.

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About the author

Alex Moskov

Alex has come on board with CBS as our basketball and gridiron expert, providing opinions and analysis from the bright lights of the NBA and NFL.

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