The Miami Heat are on a decent run of form, but for the good of their future they must trade Goran Dragic.
On Sunday night, New Orleans shocked the basketball world by trading for DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings. The 2017 NBA Trade Deadline looked set to be a dud, but New Orleans managed to pull off the biggest trade in years, and many feel that the Sacramento Kings were robbed. In reality, the Kings are just trying to blow things up and start over, and with Dave Joerger at the helm, they have a coach capable of overseeing a rebuild.
You may wonder what this has to do with the Miami Heat, and the answer to that question is simple. The Miami Heat need to follow the lead of Sacramento and take on any phone calls from general managers enquiring about their players. While the Kings were robbed, Pat Riley is a much better GM than Vlade Divac, and he is a guy who could land big hauls for the likes of Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside.
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It may seem strange that this article is being written with the Heat just two games away from a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but the reality is that this current core of Miami players isn’t going to take the Heat anywhere special.
The statisticians over at Fivethirtyeight have given the Heat a 40 percent chance of making the playoffs, and their numbers show that a 7-seed is probably the highest potential seed that the Heat can get. If they land in one of these seeds, they will almost certainly be dispatched by the Cavaliers or the Celtics within a seven-game series.
The Heat are 9-16 against teams above .500, and they simply don’t have the star power to match up with the high-powered offenses in Cleveland and Boston, regardless of how good Eric Spoelstra’s coaching is.
The Heat’s winning run was excellent, and it showed that the current roster isn’t one peppered with basement dwellers and castoffs, but I would argue that the winning run, and the general improvement before the All-Star break, was because of Eric Spoelstra’s system. His “five out” system creates good looks regardless of whether LeBron James or Rodney McGruder is on the court, and the defensive philosophy is something that he has continually preached since he became a head coach.
The only real argument for the Heat keeping a player like Goran Dragic is that he is capable of running an offense and co-existing with some of the big name free agents that will be available this summer like Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap.
Dragic is capable of turning a limited group of players into an offensive juggernaut. The Heat score eight more points per 100 possessions when he is on the court, but his defence is problematic due to his lack of size, and this very nearly neutralizes his overall net rating.
Regardless of his value potentially being evened out, he is still a good player and the Heat could easily demand a draft pick or a young player for him, or even both in some cases. Someone like the Denver Nuggets may like the idea of Goran Dragic running their pace offense, or the Detroit Pistons might prefer him running their pick-and-roll heavy scheme in place of Reggie Jackson.
The Pistons would be an intriguing trade partner as they are a team swamped with young players such as Henry Ellenson and Stanley Johnson, who may be in need of a new home due to the logjam the in Detroit.
While the Heat are a fun team with Dragic, and he is a good player to partner with younger players, he isn’t going to be a part of their next championship team. Pat Riley is a man who is addicted to winning, he has 10 rings, and he knows the quality — and age — of player you need in order to win.
The upcoming draft class is the strongest that there has been for quite some time, it is loaded with talent, and the Heat need to get as high a pick as possible. If Dragic is traded for a first, they will have two draft picks in one of the most loaded drafts in a while.
The current core of players won’t take the Heat anywhere, and Pat Riley should be having a fire sale in order to get this team closer to a championship. The trading of Dragic would also free up cap room, which would allow Pat Riley to try and tempt someone like Blake Griffin to come and ply his trade in South Beach.
One of the major reasons that the Heat need to go all in on the draft is that winning teams are generally built through the draft. Sure, the arrivals of Chris Bosh and LeBron James were pivotal for the Heat’s previous success, but Dwyane Wade was their guy, a player they had developed for a long time.
It is almost impossible to build an entire franchise in free agency, you have to find a star or two in the draft in order to have success. Someone like Malik Monk or Lonzo Ball could be the next great franchise cornerstone for the Miami Heat, and the Heat need to maximize their chances of landing a top-five pick.
The Sacramento Kings have a terrible history when it comes to making draft picks, but they are giving themselves the best possible chance of landing another franchise player, as opposed to making the playoffs as a low seed and getting dispatched quickly.
Making the playoffs is an achievement for most franchises; as a Timberwolves fan, I would love to see my team even play in a playoff series. But the Heat have consistently won titles, so a playoff appearance isn’t as meaningful to this fan base. Dragic makes the team fun, but his overall value is nullified by his defense and age, and the Heat need to move towards the top of this draft.