Miami’s only young player of consequence is rookie Justise Winslow, while Hassan Whiteside – one of the great finds out of the NBA D-League in recent years – will be difficult for the Heat to re-sign this summer, when he could easily get multiple max contract offers.
That’s what makes Monday night’s news – multiple reports stating that Chris Bosh could be facing blood clot issues for a second straight year – potentially devastating for the Heat on multiple levels.
The first, of course, is the concern for Bosh personally. One of the more fascinating individuals in the league, Bosh has expanded his game to become one of the NBA’s most complete forwards, and has eclipsed Wade as the best player on the Heat for the past couple seasons. The league would be diminished without him.
But for the Heat, losing him for any length of time – let alone the rest of this season or beyond – would be crushing. With a healthy Bosh, thanks to the parity in the Eastern Conference, Miami at least would have a puncher’s chance of getting to the conference finals – where team president Pat Riley could get a shot at knocking off LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, an opportunity for which he’s been hoping ever since James left South Beach 18 months ago.
Without Bosh though, the same parity that exists in the East would almost assuredly lead to the Heat missing the playoffs for a second straight season. As the league gets ready to kick off its final two-month sprint to the finish Thursday night – just a few hours after the league’s 3 p.m. trade deadline – the Heat is in fifth place in the East, but remains only 2.5 games ahead of the Pistons in ninth and five games ahead of the Wizards in 10th.
It’s going to be very difficult for Miami, which already is struggling to effectively mesh Wade and Dragic together, to hang onto one of those playoff spots without Bosh. And, unlike last season, when the Heat dropped in the standings over the final two months of the season to earn the 10th spot in the NBA draft, Miami won’t much benefit from a late-season free fall this time. The Heat is currently in 10th place league wide, 8.5 games up on the Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks, who are tied for the ninth-worst record in the league.
That would potentially leave the Heat without a playoff trip for a second year in a row, and without the reward of a truly valuable lottery pick it could really use to pair with Winslow to prepare for the next era in the franchise’s history.
What will that next era look like? That remains to be seen. The Heat is set to have around $40 million in cap room this summer, but somewhere around $15 million of that is set to go to Wade to keep him with the franchise, leaving Miami with roughly $25 million in cap room – but with only five players under contract, and without having re-signed Whiteside yet.
That’s what will make the next three days tense in South Florida. Yahoo! reported Monday night that Bosh had met with Heat doctors that day, and was supposed to again Thursday – which just happens to be trade deadline day.
Given the state Miami would be in without him, if the news comes down that Bosh’s health issues could sideline him for a significant chunk of the season’s final two months, Riley and the Heat will have some tough choices to make.
Riley turns 71 next month, and has no interest in entering into any kind of rebuild. That was why he had no problem moving those two first-round picks – one of them a completely unprotected pick in 2021, the other partially protected in 2018 and then unprotected in 2019 – for Dragic. Adding Dragic was thought to help the Heat in its quest to catch the Cavaliers in the East, but that was before Bosh’s clotting issues last year prevented that from happening. Now it appears another health scare for Bosh could short circuit this season as well.
Re-signing Bosh and Wade when James went back to Cleveland and then using draft capital to trade for Dragic was supposed to keep the Heat competing for championships. But age and health issues could ultimately prevent what would be a scintillating playoff series between the Heat and Cavaliers. And those same issues would leave the Heat with a very uncertain path forward – both over the next few days and beyond.