There is very little doubt that Miami Heat team president Pat Riley will go down in history as one of the greatest front office executives in the league. The 74-year-old’s unmatched expertise was once again on display this summer, as he engineered a string of moves that have brought life to a Heat squad that was on the brink of irrelevance in the league.
Last season was all about the farewell tour of Dwyane Wade, but once the dust had settled, it was clear that Miami was on its way to a full rebuild. And then, Riley worked his magic. He once again shocked the league by bringing in Jimmy Butler to South Beach, and in the process, fast-tracked his team’s progress into finding the new face of their franchise.
However, by doing so, much more will be expected of Miami this season as opposed to if they had decided to fully embrace the tank. Well, Riley just proved that the Miami Heat do not tank, and perhaps inadvertently put a ton of pressure on his current roster. Then again, what else would you expect from a big-market team like the Heat, right?
Here are three players that will be faced with the most pressure this coming season — in varying degrees — as they all embark on the next phase of their careers with the Heat.
3. Goran Dragic
6-foot-3 point guard Goran Dragic will be entering his sixth season with the Heat. A one-time All-Star himself, Dragic can perhaps be best described as the Heat’s almost franchise player. Riley brought in the Slovenian national in the middle of the 2014-15 season, in the hopes that he would be the team’s cornerstone point guard.
While Dragic was able to somewhat live up to the high expectations, more than a few would say that he still fell a bit short.
Last season, the former Most Improved Player of the Year winner had his worst campaign with the Heat — an injury-plagued one — which led to a lot of talk pertaining to a potential trade away from the team.
Well, after a crazy summer, Dragic is still a member of the Heat, and it looks as though he will be sticking around. This might not be for too long, though, with the 33-year-old now entering the final year of his five-season deal.
Dragic will have a lot to prove this season, and if all goes well for him, he could actually be looking at a relatively good payday next summer — be it with Miami or otherwise — in what is expected to be a shallow free agent class.
2. Jimmy Butler
As mentioned previously, Butler is now the new face of the Miami Heat franchise.
It seems like a perfect fit on paper, but the four-time All-Star will need to prove his worth on the basketball court. Butler did well to help us forget (slightly) all the drama he caused with the Minnesota Timberwolves early last season.
Butler will now have very little competition in Miami as the team’s number one option — similar to his situation with the Chicago Bulls a few years back — so big things are definitely expected from the former Marquette standout.
The torch will now be passed on to Butler, and he will need to prove that he has what it takes.
1. Bam Adebayo
At 22 and with just two seasons under his belt, Bam Adebayo can still be considered as a relative newcomer in the league. However, despite this, there are some who are saying that the development of the 6-foot-10 big man will have a huge impact on the future of the franchise.
As a matter of fact, after a very promising sophomore campaign where he would put up 8.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.8 blocks in just 23.3 minutes per contest, people are saying that the time has come for Adebayo to spread his wings.
With Hassan Whiteside now out of the picture, Bam will have much more breathing room, and this is exactly why a lot of folks are expecting a breakout year from the former 14th overall pick. Now whether or not this will come to fruition, we will need to just wait and see.
It’s definitely an exciting time to be a Heat fan right now. They will be entering the new campaign with a pretty formidable squad, with some even expecting Miami to comfortably secure a Top 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Nonetheless, the Heat are definitely not championship contenders at the moment, but perhaps this coming season will be a good barometer of how this team will fare in league in the next few years.