Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat finished the 2021-22 regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference. They forced a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics in the conference finals. Miami’s comeback fell a bit short after Butler missed what could have been a game-winning three-pointer in the final seconds.
The Heat’s home loss in Game 7 led to more questions than answers. Butler was forced to play all 48 minutes as his supporting cast struggled big time. In his first season in South Beach, six-time All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry looked like a shell of his former self. The reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year, Tyler Herro put up a disastrous postseason performance.
Front office head Pat Riley and Co. now have to look forward to a summer in which Miami will have to change things up if its going to be considered top-end title contenders moving forward. Boasting some bad contracts, that will likely include using draft picks to move said deals while finding Butler more help. Below, we look at three moves the Miami must make to return to contention.
Miami Heat use mid-level exception on another shooter
Miami shot just 42% from the field and 30% from three-point range in the Eastern Conference Finals. Victor Oladipo (31%), Gabe Vincent (39%), Max Strus (30%), Kyle Lowry (29%) and Tyler Herro (37%) were all horrible in that regard.
We know Boston’s defense is the best in the NBA. But something has to give if Miami is going to return to title contention in 2022-23. That should include the team using its projected $10.26 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception on a wing shooter.
The good news? There’s a ton of players who could make sense at that price point. In particular, we’re looking at Otto Porter Jr. of the Golden State Warriors. The forward shot 37% from three-point range during the regular season. He’s playing under a minimum contract and will likely leave the Western Conference champs in free agency. Having someone with his ability to spot up on the perimeter would have changed the dynamics in this season’s playoffs.
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Miami Heat use first-round pick in 2022 NBA Draft on a point guard
Miami has its first-round pick each year from 2022-2028 with an exception of 2025. This gives Riley and Co. an opportunity to use said selections to find immediate impact performers. While we’ll focus on a potential blockbuster later in this article, using its first-round pick (27th overall) on a veteran point guard could make sense.
As noted above, Lowry is a shell of his former self. While he has two more years remaining on his contract, the Heat need to find a capable backup. Gabe Vincent, Victor Oladipo and Max Strus just aren’t that.
Perhaps, Miami can offer up its first-round pick to the Indiana Pacers for veteran T.J. McConnell and a second-round selection. McConnell has experience playing in this role and would bring some stability to the second unit. The team would need to move off Vincent’s contract and another piece in order to make the salaries work. Corey Joseph (Detroit Pistons) and Kemba Walker (New York Knicks) are two other options.
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Miami Heat blockbuster trade
As noted above, Miami can use multiple first-round picks to package in a trade for another star player to team up with Butler. Throughout his tenure in South Beach, Riley has not been afraid to do just that. While the move for Lowry last summer didn’t pan out, we’re not expecting Riley to be gunshy this summer.
Miami remains a destination organization. Star players would love to find their way to South Beach. With the assets to make this work, expect a lot of Heat trade rumors in this regard.
We’re looking especially at Miami targeting a frontcourt presence to team up with Bam Adebayo. That’s where someone like Jerami Grant of the Detroit Pistons makes sense. The Heat offer up a future first-round pick while moving off Duncan Robinson’s bloated contract to make this work. A starting core of Lowry, Butler, P.J. Tucker, Grant and Bam would be vastly improved from the unit we saw during the 2021-22 season.