The Heat Have Franchise-Altering Decisions to Make Over the Next Few Days

Free agency is normally an exciting, hope-filled time for Miami Heat fans. Next to a title run, anticipating the team's improvement is the biggest thrill a fan can have. Unfortunately, free agency is already causing sleepless night and angina this year, and right now it's more about the Heat keeping what they have than adding to it. Usually the Heat triumph during this period, but barring a miracle, it sure doesn't seem like they are in a position to come out on top. It could hurt if the Heat don't play their cards right. 

When NBA free agency opens at 12:01 a.m. Friday, the Heat will have three very apparent situations to address: Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside's futures with the team, and the pursuit of Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant. The problem is that the team must figure out how to juggle all three at once. Even the reported attempt to manipulate all three at the same time has already caused a bit of resentment from some of those involved. 

Hassan Whiteside has made it clear he is in no mood to procrastinate once he's free to sign with any team. He's been broke for a long time, and he's not going to wait around for a bus to hit him before he cashes in this lottery ticket.

Dwyane Wade's agent has reached out to teams to let them know he will field offers, with the Spurs and Mavs being two rumored possible destinations. Wade and the team danced this dance last year only to kiss and make up, but putting Whiteside and Durant ahead of him in the pecking order could prove the disrespectful act that gives him an excuse to leave town.

If Kevin Durant chooses the Heat from the five to seven teams he is interviewing this weekend, he will certainly want to see that the Heat have some of these issues figured out. Unlike when the Heat landed Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh in the same offseason, this time the moving parts aren't exactly texting each other to work out how to make things fit. This one is entirely on the Heat to figure out, including everything from recruiting to salary cap constraints. 

It's a stressful time to be a Heat fan. There are too many pots on the stove. It's clear the Heat has come to a fork in the road. This offseason could determine its performance over the next decade. Dominoes falling this offseason will certainly effect the future.

If the team is to lose Dwyane Wade, the Dan Marino of this generation in Miami sports, there will be a lasting impact. If the Heat pays an immature Hassan Whiteside $100 million dollars based on 1.5 seasons only to watch him play with less passion and dedication than he did when he was a struggling nobody bouncing around Europe, it could torpedo the cap situation for years. Worst of all, if the team sells out for Durant and in the process does not prioritize Wade and Whiteside, it could go zero for three. That would leave Pat Riley scrambling for fallback options.

Chris Bosh's unknown future health also muddies the Heat's future waters. If he retires, the team will recoup his entire salary come February. If he decides to play and once more must sit out the rest of the year, the team has to assume he will never play again — and then wait until next year for his money to come off the books. 

If the offseason goes sideways for the Heat, it's not hard to envision a scenario where Pat Riley decides he isn't in the mood for a rebuild. Riley is 71 years old and has never been a man of extreme patience. Coach Erik Spoelstra reportedly is set to sign a contract extension that could keep him with the team until 2020. It's easy to imagine Riley passing the reins off to Spoelstra, who has studied with Riley for well over a decade. This has always seemed like the most likely scenario, but we thought that day would never come. If the Heat don't play their cards right this offseason, that day may be here.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi