After another Finals run that fell short of a title, the Miami Heat entered this offseason poised to make a big move. They were connected with the pursuit of Bradley Beal before he landed on the Phoenix Suns as his preferred destination, as well as briefly being mentioned as a possible suitor for James Harden.
However, they have since moved on to targeting Damian Lillard, who has made clear to the Blazers that he wants to be in Miami when the season starts, but to this point a deal has not been made and the two sides sit at a stalemate. Landing Lillard is what will make this summer a success for Miami, so that looms over everything, but in the meantime we’re going to take stock of their offseason thus far and the moves they’ve made in the Draft, free agency, and trades.
The Heat added a high-floor wing in Jaime Jaquez Jr. out of UCLA with the 18th overall pick, as he seemingly fits Miami’s culture extremely well as a tough-nosed player. The question, at this point, is whether Jaquez is still part of the Heat when the season starts or if he’ll be headed off to the Blazers in a Lillard deal. In any case, this is what our Brad Rowland wrote on Draft night when the Heat took Jaquez, giving them a B for the selection, if only for it being a bit earlier than most expected Jaquez to go.
I’m a sucker for Jaime Jaquez, and I’ll admit that. This is a substantial rise from where most had him during the season but, well, this is about where I had him the entire time. Miami is also a wonderful landing spot because the Heat do a fantastic job putting players in positions to succeed. Jaquez’s toughness and feel for the game fit beautifully with the Heat.
Free Agency/Contract Extensions: B
So far the Heat have been fairly quiet on the free agent market, which isn’t a surprise given how important landing Lillard is in determining how desirable a destination they are for potential vet minimum signees. Re-signing Kevin Love was a perfectly solid move given how good he was in their postseason run. Thomas Bryant gives them a big for the regular season rotation that can space the floor. If they land Lillard, there will likely be another flurry of signings to fill out the roster. Josh Richardson’s return to Miami is a very nice signing on the minimum as they needed to bolster their guard depth with Gabe Vincent and Max Strus departing. Losing two starters from their Finals run is no small thing, but they’ve mitigated those losses solidly so far, and, obviously, would be more than fine with those departures so long as they land Lillard as well.
It’s impossible to fully hand out a grade to the Heat until we know whether they’ve successfully dealt for Lillard. If so, this offseason is an A+, as they’ll have added a near-perfect complement to their star duo of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo for what figures to be an outgoing package that is not near the same impact of Lillard on the court (with all due respect to Tyler Herro). Having an elite scoring guard like Lillard alongside Butler (who is a tremendous scorer, but not at the same volume) and Adebayo (who is maybe the most versatile big man defender in the NBA) would make them one of the favorites in the East.
If somehow the Blazers find another trade partner and send Lillard elsewhere, then this offseason is a step back for the Heat. The only trades they’ve made otherwise are salary dumping Victor Oladipo to OKC and a sign-and-trade sending Max Strus to Cleveland, opening up some roster space (and a trade exception) by bringing back only a second round pick thanks to the involvement of the Spurs. Losing Strus and Vincent without landing Lillard would seemingly drop them behind the top teams in the East and create an uphill battle to return to the Finals in the near future.