The NBA trade deadline came and went Thursday, and while Heat fans were ready to yell out “LET’S DAAAANCE!!” like Kevin Bacon at the end of Footloose and celebrate in endless falling confetti, the actual day amounted to nothing more than the proverbial wet fart. The Heat traded away players and got no players in return.
Leading up to the big day, fans’ collective imaginations were filled with Pat Riley making a move for Atlanta’s Al Horford or New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson. As it turns out, Riles traded for a guy no one heard of and then managed to trade that guy away for nothing (no, seriously — nothing). The Heat also traded away fan favorite Chris “Birdman” Andersen to the Grizzlies. In return, the Heat got more of nothing.
But we’re here to tell you that the Heat not making a big splash is actually good news. In fact, it's the best news. That is, if you’re into trusting Riley and seeing things in big-picture form.
Here are five reasons the Heat was better off doing what it did yesterday:
5. They Kept Hassan
One of the big questions coming into the trade deadline was whether the Heat would part ways with its seven-foot, shot-blocking, Snapchat-starring man-baby known as Hassan Whiteside. Practically speaking, it wouldn’t have made much sense for another team to trade for Whiteside. He’ll be a free agent this summer and would only be an expensive part-time rental. But teams have been known to fall for Riley’s Jedi mind tricks in the past, and it would have shocked no one if the Heat were able to get someone to pull the trigger for Hassan.
But as of 3 p.m. Thursday, Hassan was still a member of the Heat, and in many ways that’s great news. Because the next three months is going to be all about seeing if Hassan has a future with the Heat. Whiteside has had a roller-coaster season. He's been great at times and at others, not so much. He's shown a penchant for losing his shit at the drop of a dime and using his elbows as weapons of mass destruction on opposing players' faces. He's also been chummy with DJ Khaled. Hassan's been an amazing shot-blocker but at times has stifled the Heat’s offense like a drunk baby elephant. The major questions need answered here are (a) is he going to figure into the Heat’s long-term plans, and (b) is he worth max money? Hassan has three months to get the Heat (or any other team) to take notice. In the meantime, he’ll be a valuable key in a playoff run, where defense is at a premium. He'll also be making more Snapchat videos, we're sure.
4. They Could Still Get a Decent Player Without Sacrificing the Future
Trades are exciting, but they always cost something. Be it a solid player or draft picks, you’re always going to have to give up to get up. But then there are players who are cut or bought out by their respective teams that can be had for either ten-day contracts or a cheap limited-time contract.
Among some of the players expected be given the heave-ho by their teams come March are guys like New Jersey’s Joe Johnson, Boston’s David Lee, and Denver’s Steve Novak. All three might be too much for Miami to afford, but they’ll at least be there to negotiate with. And any of those guys would be a huge boost for a shooter-depleted Heat team.
3. They Kept Justise Winslow
This is arguably the most important key to all of this. As assets go, the Heat are pretty strapped. Whiteside has an expiring contract, Luol Deng is a nice player but wouldn’t fetch much, and the rest of the NBA treat Josh McRoberts like he’s infected with Zika. But standout rookie Justise Winslow is the one guy who NBA teams would drool over in any possible trade scenarios.
At just 19 years of age, Winslow has already proven he is well on his way to becoming an all-world defensive player. He can rebound, and he can run. All he needs is a cleaner jumper and he’s gonna go all Scarface, because the world is his.
He’s also a rookie, and, as it turns out, Pat Riley hates rookies. Riley has also made it clear that he wants to win now and ain’t got time for the future with young'uns learning the big-boy game and their flying cars and talking toasters. So leading up to Thursday, there was legit concern Riley would turn Winslow into a bevy of players to make a playoff run this year. Instead, no deals were made. Justise is still a Heat. The future is bright. Gotta wear shades.
2. They Don’t Have to Worry About Luxury Tax for a While
This is pretty much exactly what the Heat’s goal was for the trade deadline. The grand plan from the beginning had been to shed salary to drop below the NBA’s luxury tax threshold. It began when it traded away Mario Chalmers earlier this season, and then when it traded Birdman (and two second-round picks) to Memphis this week. The Heat also traded away Brian Roberts (whom it got for Birdman) and Jarnell Stokes. The result: The Heat doesn’t have to worry about repeater tax issues and trimmed $11 million from its payroll. And what does this mean?
1. This Means the Summer of 2016 Is a Go
The lack of activity now means that the plan to make a run at someone like Kevin Durant is still in play come July. There’s also the possibility of at least making Whiteside a strong offer, if not the max. Either way, while Riley has publicly said he wants to win now, he has all along kept his eyes on the bigger picture: the free-agent class of 2016.