The Miami Heat had a very dull trade deadline, but Pat Riley‘s reasoning for this shows he is still the right man for Miami.
Manic is perhaps the best word to use to describe the trade deadline, as multiple teams were desperately trying to add to their rosters. The Indiana Pacers, for example, were desperately trying to flip their first round pick for Brook Lopez, while the Detroit Pistons were shoppingAndre Drummond with the hope that someone bit the bullet on a potential project player.
One team who wasn’t active at all was the Miami Heat. The lack of activity was in fact so apparent, that the Heat weren’t even involved in any rumours on Twitter. The closest thing to a rumor was that Serge Ibaka “intrigued” Pat Riley, but this is hardly something that you could write an entire article about.
Article continues below ...
The Heat might have been open to taking calls, as they have a lot of players on team-friendly contracts. Players such as Wayne Ellington, Dion Waiters and James Johnson are on one-year contracts with a player option attached, which means that you could be renting a role player for two years as opposed to one year.
So where does this leave the Miami Heat?
After a shocking start to the season, Miami won 15 of its last 19 games in order to claw its way back towards a playoff spot. Because of this, many expected Miami to go into the market as buyers, perhaps adding a player such as Serge Ibaka or Wilson Chandler in order to take them over the likes of Detroit and Charlotte. In reality, they stayed put, keeping their core of role players together and insisting that Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside are franchise players.
In his recent media availability, Pat Riley said he was pleased that the Heat didn’t make any “stupid” moves. He didn’t criticize teams that did, but he made the point that the coaching staff loves the current roster, and it would be pointless to make sideways moves purely to get a look at “different guys.” Riley admitted that the Heat simply didn’t have the assets to go out and land a player in the caliber of Jimmy Butler or DeMarcus Cousins, so he decided to keep chemistry intact in order to make the playoffs.
While some may consider this unambitious, I feel it was a very good decision that will benefit the franchise in the long term. The Miami Heat aren’t a star-studded team, but they play well at both ends and there is a clear chemistry in the camp.
If Riley had broken this up, then he would have erased one of the major advantages that Miami has over the other teams chasing a playoff spot.
Pat Riley also had another motive for keeping this group together, as it is clear that he wants to see how these players play under pressure. The lack of expectation coming into the season meant that these players were not under real pressure, but Riley told reporters that they will now be operating under “real pressure” in order to make a playoff spot. Pat Riley is a man with 10 championship rings, so he knows as well as anyone the kind of mentality that is needed in order to succeed.
My fellow HoopsHabit scribe Luke Duffy wrote about the re-emergence of Dion Waiters and he cited the increase in the intelligent side of his game. While I agree that Waiters has been excellent, it will be intriguing to see whether he keeps this up for the final games, as the Heat have been challenged by Pat Riley to make the playoffs.
By keeping the roster intact, Pat Riley is already taking the first step in building his next championship team. If some of these players crumble, then it is unlikely that their options will be taken up next season. If they don’t crumble, then he knows he has the pieces in play to make a championship run, he just needs to find a superstar either from within, or from free agency.
Riley hasn’t been stupid, he didn’t cave to the pressure of portions of the fanbase who wanted the team to mortgage their future for a supposed star. He admitted that “summer” is the point of emphasis for this team, and it was wise to keep as much cap space as possible, while not blowing up the core of the roster. While I question whether the likes of Waiters, Dragic and James Johnson are long-term pieces, they deserve the opportunity to prove that they are.
When the Chris Bosh money becomes available this summer, Miami will have the opportunity to land their next big superstar in a loaded free agency class that includes Paul Millsap, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and potentially Kevin Durant. Riley will at a minimum get an interview with these players, and he will be able to sell their dedicated roster and incredible culture to them.
By avoiding making a lateral move, Riley challenged this group of players to prove to him, and everyone else, that they are worthy of being a pivotal part of one of the winningest franchises in American sports.
Dion Waiters is the first to accept the challenge put forth by Pat Riley, as he admitted that he wants to remain in Miami.
Does Dion Waiters want to stay in Miami long term? “Oh yeah for sure. It’s Miami, my son love it. Why not?”
In order for this to happen, he will have to continue his level of play, and come up in big moments. Riley perhaps summed it up best when he said that the team has to gauge the “impact on winning” that Dion Waiters has.
Other organizations motivate their players like this of course, but one of the major reasons Miami has been so good of late is because of its unique culture. Pat Riley is constantly keeping them on their toes and pushing for more.