The Miami Heat almost pulled off the impossible after entering the NBA Finals as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Miami crushed the Milwaukee Bucks, cruised by the New York Knicks, and blew the doors off TD Garden against the Boston Celtics in Game 7.
Still, the Heat came up short in the NBA Finals for the third time dating back to the 2013-’14 season. The Denver Nuggets proved to be too tough and the series was over in five games. Now, the focus is on placing the organization in the best spot to make another playoff run.
With the NBA Draft set for Thursday night, let’s dive into the realistic predictions for the Heat’s 2023 NBA offseason.
Miami Heat keep No. 18 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, select intriguing prospect
There are several ways that Miami can go with the No. 18 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. The easiest idea would be to keep the pick and make a selection but the organization can also trade the pick for a future first-round pick.
While it would not be surprising to see a trade take place, the Heat keep it and select Jett Howard from Michigan. Howard, 20, is the son of former Heat player and coach Juwan Howard, who is now the head coach of the men’s college basketball program in Ann Arbor.
The 20-year-old wing stands at 6-foot-8 and shoots well from the three-point line. In fact, Howard has drawn comparisons to former NBA player Mike Miller, who played on the Heat’s “Big 3” championship teams.
Howard has the size to play the three or four spots but needs to develop more shot creation within the Heat’s program. Overall, it would be a good addition for Miami and he should be ready to play relatively soon.
If Howard is not on the board, Kobe Bufkin (Michigan), Jalen Hood-Schifino (Indiana), Cason Wallace (Kentucky), Jordan Hawkins (Connecticut), and Olivier-Maxence Prosper (Marquette) would be good fits. Most of them will be off the board but they should be Miami’s targets.
Gabe Vincent signs a long-term deal with the Miami Heat
Gabe Vincent was an important piece to the Heat’s playoff run and is set to become a free agent this offseason. Vincent, 27, struggled in the NBA Finals but did enough throughout the postseason to suggest he should be a top priority during this free agency period.
The 27-year-old guard’s scrappy play on both ends of the floor is a perfect fit for Miami and with Kyle Lowry entering the final year of his contract, it makes sense to use his bird rights to keep him on the team.
Vincent ends up signing a three-year, $30 million contract with the Heat in this scenario. It allows more security beyond Lowry’s expected departure in the next year and more time for Vincent to further develop his game.
As for Miami’s other key free agent, Max Strus seems to be the least likely to return based on his market and the organization’s tax situation. Howard’s long-range shooting would help as the Heat could be set to lose Strus’ three-point abilities.
It would be ideal to see both Vincent and Strus return but it makes more sense for only one of them to return due to the second tax apron. The Heat are likely to exceed it but how much farther into the luxury tax are they willing to go for the 2023-’24 season?
Miami Heat won’t land Damian Lillard, Paul George, or another star player
The Heat could have gone all-in with Bradley Beal and brought him to the team. Instead, Beal’s desire for the Phoenix Suns and Miami’s mindset on his contract put the team in a situation where the easiest possible acquisition didn’t take place.
It is no secret. The Heat have Damian Lillard as their top offseason priority as there is a genuine belief that he could finally ask out of Portland. Miami could receive an answer as early as Thursday night on whether that will be the case or not.
If not, Paul George has also been thrown out there as a possible trade target. George, 33, is even less certain as Lillard as the Los Angles Clippers are gauging his trade value. Despite the Heat’s interest in these high-level players, we are predicting that a trade doesn’t happen.
Lillard would be the best possible outcome for Miami but it is hard to bank on him asking out of Portland. Meanwhile, there is no guarantee that George will even be on the trade market and if he does find himself there, the easiest way is to say “Miami and Miami only.”
The Heat are playing a risky game but they aren’t against running it back for another season. Maybe, the idea of waiting until the NBA trade deadline is not bad as Lowry’s expiring contract could be useful once organizations realize they have no chance at a title.
Kevin Love, Goran Dragic find themselves in a Miami Heat uniform next year
Kevin Love’s presence with the Heat during the second half of the 2022-’23 season was simply a game-changer. Love, 34, provided a breath of fresh air and more veteran presence within a locker room that needed some change.
It is obvious that Miami wants the 34-year-old forward to return and it will make that happen with a two-year deal worth up to $7.6 million. Love embraced the Heat after being bought out by the Cleveland Cavaliers and played decent in the NBA playoffs.
With the Heat likely to run it back in this scenario, they end up bringing back an old friend to replace Udonis Haslem as the team’s veteran captain. Goran Dragic, who played with Miami from 2015-2021, returns on a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum.
Dragic has stated his desire to retire with the Heat and it makes sense for the organization to bring him back for more depth and leadership. The 37-year-old guard could embrace the new role and go season-by-season with his playing career moving forward.
Miami needs to fill out its roster and Dragic would be a good addition. It doesn’t hurt to have more leadership in the locker room and his return would make several key players happy, including Jimmy Butler.
More transactions for the Miami Heat’s 2023 NBA offseason
The Heat won’t blow up the current roster for the sake of blowing it up. If someone like Lillard requests a trade from Portland, Miami will go all-in on making him a member of the team next season.
If not, there won’t be any desperation. There is no need for it. The Heat will remain aggressive in ways to improve the roster but it has to make sense for them. In this scenario, it is about filling out the 15-man roster and two-way contracts.
The Heat won’t bring back Cody Zeller or Omer Yurtseven as Orlando Robinson signs a contract to be on the main roster. In Robinson’s place, the Heat sign Azuolas Tubelis to a two-way contract as a method to retain some size. Tubelis is a 6-foot-11 big man from Arizona in this year’s NBA Draft.
Nikola Jovic’s emergence as a rotation piece allows Miami to be comfortable with Zeller and Yurtseven’s departures. As for the Heat’s other two-way player, Jamal Cain also secures a spot on the main roster next to Robinson.
Both players represent Miami’s next development projects and should get some time to play this season. Now, the next task would be filling out two more two-way contract spots as the new CBA agreement allows teams to carry three slots.
Jamaree Bouyea and Justin Powell round out the two-way contracts as both provide their own style of play. Bouyea has been a member of the Heat’s G-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, while Powell is a prospect out of Washington State in this year’s NBA Draft.
This would give the Heat the following roster structure.
- Miami Heat starting lineup: Gabe Vincent, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Caleb Martin, Bam Adebayo
- Miami Heat bench: Kyle Lowry, Duncan Robinson, Kevin Love, Nikola Jovic, Jett Howard, Haywood Highsmith, Jamal Cain, Orlando Robinson, Goran Dragic, Victor Oladipo, Jamaree Bouyea (two-way), Justin Powell (two-way), Azuolas Tubelis (two-way)
The Heat could substitute Love into the starting lineup for Martin but this is just a rough projection. Lowry, Duncan Robinson, and Love would lead off the bench while Jovic, Howard, and Highsmith grow into their roles.
This would give Miami some serious depth as Cain, Orlando Robinson, and Dragic would be called upon if needed. It would not be a flashy offseason overall; however, the development of the Heat’s young players would really take centerstage.
Obviously, the organization would love Lillard but it may not be possible if the Trail Blazers trade the No. 3 overall pick in the NBA Draft or if he decides to stay. If so, the Heat would have the flexibility for moves at the NBA trade deadline.
It would not be the end of the world if Miami runs it back with this roster. The addition of a third star is absolutely the priority but this is still a good team if the young players can make more jumps in their development.