Tuesday 12 December 2017 / 09:50 AM

WADE-LESS HEAT LACK PUNCH

Since being drafted out of Marquette, Dwayne Wade has been the fixture of the Miami Heat franchise. Wade led a revolution of basketball in South Beach, becoming one of the premier shooting guards in the NBA. His second season, the Heat made the trade for Shaquille O’Neal from the Lakers, and Wade brought a title home in just his third NBA season. And with that title, Wade’s immortal status in Florida was cemented.

Just a few years later, LeBron James joined Wade and Chris Bosh, forming the NBA’s preeminent ‘Super Team’, and with them won another two NBA titles. The staggering impact of Wade was never more apparent than with James, as even with ‘The King’ in Miami, it never stopped being D-Wade’s Heat. And as James took his talents back to Cleveland, Wade led the rebuild, working with Dragic and a supporting cast to a surprising run in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Miami looked to be on the verge of a reemergence, with Hassan Whiteside agreeing to come back, and with plenty of space to sign another max player and room to put more money into the supporting cast.

But behind the scenes, things were not as rosy. Wade had taken pay cut after pay cut, waiting for a larger salary so the Heat could retain other players around him. First LeBron, then Bosh and Dragic. And now Wade looked to finally be paid. Pat Riley and the front office, however, had other plans. Riley was plotting the coup of a run at Durant, and the return of Whiteside. The front office worried of Wade’s health, and lowballed him on several offers. But even as the offers continued to fall short of Wade’s demands, the overall perception was that Wade would ultimately return home.

And then he did – but not to Miami. Wade decided to return to his hometown of Chicago, agreeing to a two-year deal. And in one fell swoop, the Miami Heat lost their face of the franchise, and the cogs of a machine that once showed promise now looked to be clogged. So what happens from here?

Miami lost its face, but also the presence in the paint and on the wing that Wade provided. Chris Bosh, the star forward for the Heat, hasn’t played since last season, and is looking like he has played his last game in a Miami Heat uniform. A team that once featured four star players now features just Dragic and Whiteside, and a cast of unproven role players. Without Wade and Bosh, the bulk of Miami’s offense is gone, instead left with a cast lacking much firepower.

And it’s not just Wade and Bosh, the Heat also lost its veterans. Luol Deng, the key piece for Miami that did a beyond serviceable job of replacing LeBron James, left town for Los Angeles. Miami also lost Joe Johnson, who was a valuable piece off the bench in relief of Wade, and Miami’s only proven shooting guard outside of Wade.

Every team deals with attrition, but Miami’s losses are looking massive. Especially considering who they brought in to replace the damage. Miami matched an offer sheet that Brooklyn made on guard Tyler Johnson, who was serviceable for Miami last year, but far from proven. Aside from Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, Derrick Williams, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt and Willie Reed also joined Miami. The cast has some solid players, but none to make up for the production of Deng, Johnson, Wade and Bosh.

It’s not all bad for Miami, as the core of Josh Richardson, Johnson, Whiteside, and Justise Winslow is young and very promising. But it’s hard to argue that any team has lost more this offseason than Miami has. The Heat lost the bulk of their offense, and every bit of their veteran leadership. The team will now rely on the leadership of Bosh, who can only look on from the bench.

The Heat will be in great shape to reload in the 2017 offseason, but the 2016-2017 season looks to be a long one in Miami. But most first steps on a new path are.

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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