Pat Riley says the Heat are "close" to being a contender...are they?
Confidence is definitely an important attribute in sports, and arguably no one in the NBA has more confidence than Pat Riley and his nine championship rings. Therefore, it wasn’t much of a surprise to hear that the current Miami Heat team president believes his basketball team is close to being a contender.
“I don’t have much patience. You know me,” Riley said (via the Miami Herald). “I want to build another championship team and we’re close. Maybe we need another player. Maybe we need less. I don’t know. The point is we’re right there and we’re a contender, and I’m proud of that.”
This isn’t a super outlandish claim; at the time of the NBA’s shutdown, the Heat were cruising towards home court in the first round of the playoffs. At 41-24, you could even say the Heat somewhat exceeded expectations.
All-Star Jimmy Butler and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Goran Dragic provided the type of production we all expected, but Bam Adebayo exploded into a fringe All-Star. The organization also hit on young players like Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, and Duncan Robinson, and they acquired players like Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder for reinforcement.
In other words, whenever the season/playoffs resume, it wouldn’t be super shocking to see the Heat make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, there are essentially three true contenders in the league: the Bucks, Lakers, and Clippers. The Heat need to make some major moves if they hope to match one of those three teams, much less the various second-tier East organizations that they’re angling with (including the Raptors, Celtics, Sixers, and maybe the Nets).
Fortunately, the Heat have some financial flexibility, so they should be able to find a third star to pair with Butler and Bam (all without compromising their depth).
This upcoming offseason, the organization could easily open up more than $20 in cap space, and they could clear enough space for a max contract if they found a taker for Kelly Olynyk and his player option.
However, that means the organization would have to bail on the likes of Dragic, Crowder, Solomon Hill, Meyers Leonard, and others. Plus, the upcoming free agent class could be underwhelming, with many of the top names (including Andre Drummond) playing Bam’s position.
In reality, it’s more likely that the Heat front office is eyeing the 2021 offseason, when Giannis Antetokounmpo hits free agency. Miami will be working with plenty of cap space, and they’ll have the basis of a roster that could attract free agents. Of course, the city of Miami is alluring in and of itself.
So, if we’re taking Riley’s quote literally, then the Heat are relatively “close” to being a contender. However, they won’t earn that moniker until the 2021 offseason at the earliest, and it’d require them adding a major name in free agency.