The Breakdown: Miami Loses Its Franchise Icon

The Breakdown: Miami Loses Its Franchise Icon

1.) What was your first reaction when news broke that Dwyane Wade was signing with the Chicago Bulls? 

Eli Horowitz: I wasn’t surprised. The Bulls management claimed to want get younger, but that’s not their nature. The Bulls management is known for being conservative while doing just enough to maintain a profit-earning, competitive team. As GM Gar Forman recently pointed out, the Bulls have won more games than any other team in the East over ten years. No trophies, but seats were filled and fans tuned in. Once Rondo was signed, the aforementioned “rebuild” was tossed out the door. Adding Rondo and Wade are conservative moves in that the Bulls will neither contend nor reboot. They will garner plenty of attention and keep the front office employed.

James HolasAfter the way Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley crossed swords two summers ago, and after seeing how Wade reacted to Riley’s disrespectful opening offer of $10 million, I’m actually impressed that Wade followed through and bounced. It’s the nature of the beast. Wade was within his rights wanting to cash in a la Kobe Bryant after repeatedly, literally, “taking one for the team”.

Wade is finally putting himself first, and to do that, he has to return to his Chicago roots. What should be a stirring homecoming for him is overshadowed by an ugly end to his amazing 13 year run as the face of the franchise. All of this drama happening in the same time frame as Kevin Durant turning away from nine years in Oklahoma City to join the Warriors is a lesson in the narratives and reality of player and team loyalty in regards to sports. It’s never as simple as good or bad, it’s never a nice, neat story, but like anything involving human nature, the happy ending for one side won’t always be happy for all.

Sharon Brown: Shocked. I really thought he and the Heat would work out.

Torkil Bang: ”Are the Bulls actually conducting a psychological experiment to make Jimmy Butler’s brain explode,” was my first reaction. Then I read that Butler had been recruiting Wade, so perhaps it’s Hoiberg who’s the guinea pig.

I wasn’t surprised that Wade left Miami, though. When you make the face of your franchise through a decade feel like an afterthought, or even unwanted, you shouldn’t expect him to stay on a discount.

Vivek Jacob: The way it got dragged out, not surprised. Good for him. As he said, relationships matter. He was the face of the franchise, and deserved much better.

2.) Were the Miami Heat right in not giving into his contract demands? 

Eli Horowitz: Wade is signing at two years, $47 million. The Heat offered two years, $40 million. The Heat should not have let Wade walk over $7 million. After striking out on Durant, the Heat will be looking to a deep 2017 free agent class. While they need cap flexibility to make that work, an essential one-year deal to Wade wouldn’t have changed their 2017 free agency outlook (assuming Wade would have wanted to opt out after a year to take advantage of next year’s increasing cap). The Heat need to stay as competitive as possible to land 2017 free agents and losing Wade will hurt that, especially in the playoffs.

James HolasIf this was a movie, Pat Riley would have ran in the rain to stop Wade from getting on that train; there’d be long dramatic stares full of hurt, words of reconciliation, and Riley would coax owner Micky Arison into digging DEEP, dammit, and taking care of their own. Freeze frame on Riley with a fatherly hand on Wade’s shoulder while Dwyane tearfully, cheerfully signs on for his new shiny stack of loot.

But in reality, Pat Riley has a responsibility to his franchise to keep them moving forward, and Miami simply isn’t in a place financially to reward Wade for his loyalty AND continue building a competitive team. With Hassan Whiteside ($27 million a year) and Chris Bosh (almost $25 million a year) set to devour about half of Miami’s cap space, giving another quarter of Miami’s space to a soon-to-be 35-year-old shooting guard just wasn’t happening.

Sharon Brown:  We always talk about players who should be loyal to teams, but what about the team being loyal to the players. Wade helped bring three championships to Miami. I believe letting Wade go was a mistake and really don’t believe the team will be as competitive as they were last season. With the uncertainty surrounding Chris Bosh’s health, the Heat is in dire straits. My question is, how will they fare with Hassan Whiteside as the franchise player?

Torkil Bang: From a business point-of-view, Wade was the best free agent left on the market. And the fact that other teams – with cap room to do it – were ready to pay Wade what he wanted says that this is his market value. The Heat came so close to that value with their offer that they might as well have made the jump.

The uncertainty surrounding Bosh makes it unclear where they were headed anyway.

But there is also loyalty. And that’s not about Wade’s loyalty to Miami, but about the Heat’s loyalty to Wade. Miami has been good for Wade, but he has given them much more value than they could ever repay. So in this special case, I’ll say no, they should absolutely have paid him, as soon as it was clear that they weren’t getting Durant. And considering that they had already virtually sent Wade packing by making the agreement with Whiteside and hunting Durant, there is no reason why Wade should be the one to give in just to be a ”Heat-lifer.” Miami had already made a mockery of that.

Vivek Jacob: From a purely business standpoint, yes. With max contracts handed out to Dragic, 30, and Whiteside, 27, the Heat need to find a star that fits within their window. Having been unable to strike a deal with Durant, they need to look ahead to the 2017 off-season. The uncertainty over Chris Bosh makes flexibility that much more important as well. A deal with Wade would have curtailed those plans. The departures of Wade and Deng will also allow more opportunity for Winslow to develop.

From the human side of things, no. The way Riley went about his business is exactly the type of treatment that pushes players away from loyalty and focus on decisions from purely a business perspective. Handing out max contracts to Whiteside, Dragic, and Bosh. Telling Whiteside that his contract would be adjusted for Durant but not for Wade. This was a how to on disrespecting your franchise player.

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3.) How does the trio of Rajon Rondo, Wade, and Jimmy Butler coexist?

Eli Horowitz: The better question is how can Rondo, Wade, and Butler coexist with Fred Holberg? Holberg was brought in to run the Pace and Space and it flopped with Rose and Butler. While many analysts pegged it on injuries, the system is predicated on quick outlets, distance shooting, and dribble penetration. When your two stars (Rose and Butler) shoot 29.3 percent and 31.2 percent from three, your system will not work. Teams just didn’t have to respect the “space.” With Rondo and Wade both below 30 percent from three on their careers (though Rondo was a respectable 36.5 percent last year), there’s no way they will run Holberg’s system. Fred may have to concede to the first unit, and work exclusively with a young second unit of Grant, Valentine, McDermott, and Portis, who are built to run.

The challenge will be to create an offense through a ball-pounder like Rondo. Likely starting alongside Wade, Butler, Mirotic, and Lopez, there’s just no space available with the lack of shooting and low-post scoring. Wade and Butler can be effective utilizing read and react principles like backdoor cuts, screening away, and split cuts to open up the offense and create movement. Rondo can initiate the offense with a high screen to appease his touch quota, and the Bulls will need to feature a ton of off-ball motion to compensate for the lack of shooting.

It won’t be the current style of NBA offenses, but Wade, Butler, and Rondo can make plays. It’s unfortunate a second year coach will be tasked to bring out the best of this group.

James Holas: Ball dominant, shot-challenged Rondo and ball dominant, jumper challenged Wade joining ball dominant Butler in Chicago? It’s like a hedgehog and a porcupine giving a lap dance to the Michelin Man. Last year Rondo, Wade, and Butler combined to shoot a shade over six threes a game, making two, for 33 percent (Analytics!); Klay Thompson took (8.1) and made (3.5, 42.5 percent) more all by his lonesome.

Spacing matters, and it’ll be tough sledding for all involved if Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, the only two real deal shooters left on the squad, can’t defend well enough to stay on the floor. Honestly, Jose Calderon would have been a better fit as a floor spacer with Wade and Butler taking on the bulk of the playmaking on, but alas, he’s now a Laker. What exactly is going on in Chicago?

Torkil Bang: Butler and Rondo didn’t make sense, and adding Wade really doesn’t help. It is probably one of the worst three-point shooting backcourts in the NBA since the 1990’s. And we are talking about three perennial All-Star players.

And now they’re supposed to play in Hoiberg’s Pace-and-Space system? It might work, but there are just too many reasons why it won’t.

Vivek Jacob: I think putting Rondo next to two guys that have the work ethic and competitive level of Wade and Butler will be good for him, when they’re actually on the court. The question I have is how many games will Butler and Wade play? Butler has played 67, 65, and 67 games in his past three seasons and Wade just played more than 70 games for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

On the court, they obviously struggle shooting threes, but they are a trio that has a high basketball IQ and can penetrate at will. McDermott, Mirotic, and Snell will all be recipients of wide open looks as a result.

4.) Where does Miami turn from here?

Eli HorrowitzThe Heat still have Bosh (32) if he can return from his health problems, Dragic (30), Whiteside (27), and Justise Winslow (20). Given the ages of the first three, and with many top players on one year deals (two with an opt out), the Heat are in retool mode for now. The 2017 free agent class is stacked, and the Heat will be huge players in that. Allowing Winslow to develop and Dragic to grow comfortable in Miami is not a bad silver lining for a year in which the Heat were not going to contend anyway.

James Holas With Whiteside now locked in for the next four years, Pat Riley needs a shrewd assessment of the assets at hand. Miami’s number one priority will be deciding what to do about Tyler Johnson. The Nets’ four-year, $50 million offer sheet to the promising swing man has Riley on the clock. He has three days to decide if retaining his services is worth paying him $37 million in years three and four of his deal. Next on the agenda: assessing if Chris Bosh will be able to perform again. This is bigger than basketball, so they’ll be as cautious as the situation calls for. Also, how can Riley replace the productivity of vets Joe Johnson and Luol Deng, both who were vital to the late season surge and who combined for over 25 ppg and 10 rpg in Miami’s playoff run? Long time Heat mainstay Udonis Haslem, along with fellow bench guys Gerald Green, Amare Stoudemire, and Dorell Wright, all are on the market. Riley has some tough decisions to make.

Sharon Brown: Like I said earlier, I think they are in dire straits but I may be wrong. Spoelstra will have his hands full to say the least.

Torkil Bang: As mentioned above, everything now depends on Bosh. I’m not a doctor, so I won’t go into his medical condition or the risks that come with it. But it seems obvious that the Heat aren’t taking any chances with him, as well they shouldn’t. It is a complex situation given that he wants to play.

I’ll assume that there’ll be some massive buyout this season, but that Miami won’t get any cap relief.

This will leave them with Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside as their two biggest assets going into next off-season. While that seems quite alluring, it doesn’t look like a championship caliber team, yet. But that changes quite a bit if you add Westbrook in 2017. They will have competition from most of the league, but he should be their main target, which makes even more sense with Wade out of the picture.

Vivek Jacob: The 2017 off-season. Winslow’s development and enhancing Whiteside’s offensive game should be a top priority.

With word spreading that the cap will be at about $102 million next season and not the original $107-$110 million that was projected, the Heat have to be prudent about how they go about the remainder of this offseason. They obviously have to fill out their roster, but how much cash they blow doing so will definitely be impacted. Riley is shrewd enough to take fliers on guys willing to gamble on one year deals so that’s what I’m expecting.

5.) The NBA is a business, but if you had an aging franchise icon along the lines of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, etc. would you feel justified in overpaying him to keep him another year or two? 

Elit Horowitz: Every case is different. This is a salary capped league, and you owe it to the paying fans to do what’s best for the entire team, not just one player. In some circumstances, like with Tim and Dirk, you don’t have to make that decision as the players want to ensure the team stays competitive and are willing to take less money. If the player demands more like Kobe and Wade, then you need to decide what is better long-term. By overpaying an aging star, you are taking away crucial minutes from younger guys. At the same time, such as with the Lakers, your team might be really bad (since handcuffed financially) and you end up with draft picks that turn into Russell and Ingram.

James HolasIt’s not a cop-out to answer this with: “it depends.” Let’s look at last season’ Lakers. They positioned themselves for the “secret tank”, i.e., gave lip service about wanting to compete but keeping an incompetent coach and signing dreck. Los Angeles had nothing but mounds of cap space, so lavishing that final two-year, $48 million onto Kobe Bryant meant absolutely nothing, an easy decision. Same with this season’s Mavericks. After swinging (again!) and missing (again!) on big name free agents, Mark Cuban waved the white flag and forked over two years and $40 million for Dirk Nowitzki Appreciation.

For a team that’s trying to be competitive, it’s basically not possible to cough up gobs of “thank you” money to a fading star. The average starter will be making about $15 million a year soon, with the big guns making $25 to $30 million; it’s just not feasible to lock up such a large portion of your salary cap in an effort to show gratitude to a guy who isn’t a big impact guy. That sounds disrespectful to Wade, whose 19 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.6 assists last season show that he can still get it done at an elite level for stretches. But Miami lost to the team that lost to the eventual champs, he turns 35 in January, and Miami was five points worse per 100 possessions when Wade was on the floor than when he was off.

Hey, if the money is there, there’s nothing wrong with tossing a congratulatory “Thanks For Your Time” deal at your favorite legend. But as a GM, sometimes you have to make the hard decisions, and as fans, we have to understand that this IS a business.

Sharon Brown: Yes, I think it is justifiable to overpay an aging veteran player who brought championships to the franchises. I look at how much money the players have brought in the organization with their name only. Those players have been literally responsible for selling merchandise for the NBA and the various franchises. Loyalty goes both ways.

Torkil Bang: Production/dollar looks good on a spreadsheet, and should be accounted for when you build a team. But Wade is/was the foundation, the guy who brought Miami their first championship, and the guy LeBron James and Chris Bosh wanted to play with. Overpaying? Perhaps, but it’s not Kobe-level crippling for the franchise, and if he had stayed, he would still make the team look good. Right now, it’s less attractive than before.

Vivek Jacob: Yes I would. That’s just how I prefer to see franchises handle their business. Those names mentioned have taken their franchises forward in a major way (in the case of Kobe, maintained their esteemed status) and deserve to be rewarded. In terms of the overall value they’ve brought to the franchise, it’s not overpaying at all.

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