Since LeBron James’ abrupt return to Cleveland last summer, the Heat have been trying to pick up the pieces, and Pat Riley and company have done a relatively admirable job so far, given the circumstances. They picked up Luol Deng, signed Chris Bosh to a mammoth long-term deal, and snagged Goran Dragic at the trade deadline. The Heat even looked poised to make a playoff run before Bosh was diagnosed with life-threatening blood clots on his lungs and was lost for the season.
But Bosh has since recovered and is ready to help the Heat get back into contention next year, and Dragic is a big part of those plans for the organization. Even during the Big 3 era, the Heat never had an elite point guard on their roster. That issue was magnified when one of their primary ball-handlers skipped town for Cleveland and was exacerbated by the fact that the point guard they drafted last summer (at James’ behest), Shabazz Napier, simply isn’t ready to handle that type of responsibility.
The Heat want to secure Dragic for the foreseeable future, but complicating matters is the issue of how to handle Dwyane Wade‘s ongoing contract negotiations, which have stalled over the past month. As rumors have it, Wade has grown tired of absorbing the financial hits so that the front office can have roster flexibility moving forward. He signed for much less than he was worth back in 2010 to make the numbers work with Bosh and James, and then did the same last summer in an effort to keep the Big 3 together.
But the contract he signed last year gave him a player option going into next season worth about $16.1 million, and as free agency looms ever closer, it’s looking more and more like he’ll opt out. This is at least partly why the Heat aren’t offering Dragic the full max deal he’s eligible for that would be in the $100 million range.
Although Dragic could be tempted by an offer from the Los Angeles Lakers, who have made it clear he’s one of their targets in free agency, the Heat can still offer him a longer-term deal. There’s also the added bonus that Dragic apparently likes it in Miami. Via ESPN’s Marc Stein:
Sources told ESPN.com that the Heat are planning to offer Dragic a five-year deal in excess of $80 million to keep him in Miami after acquiring the 2014 All-NBA third-team selection from Phoenix on trade deadline day in February.
Only Miami can offer a five-year deal this summer to Dragic, who told local reporters after the season that he “had a great time” with the Heat despite missing out on the playoffs. He said on more than one occasion that “I want to come back.”
The Heat have a lot of balls in the air this summer, and they’ll have to proceed with caution to make sure everything turns out as planned. If they are, in fact, able to retain everyone and stay healthy, they could find themselves right back in the mix for the Eastern Conference crown.
For Dragic, this should be a no-brainer. Despite being one of the league’s premier point guards, his career trajectory has been confounding, to say the least. He’s bounced back and forth from Phoenix to Houston then back out of Phoenix yet again. This is an opportunity for Dragic to ensure his long-term security with a stable organization that has consistently proven its commitment to winning. And the Heat have a much better chance of winning sooner rather than later than their counterparts in New York and Los Angeles. If Dragic has to take a little less money to keep Wade around, then so be it.
(Via ESPN’s Marc Stein)