Miami Heat

Heat offseason outlook: How will Miami handle difficult situation with Hassan Whiteside?

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Heat center Hassan Whiteside (Getty Images)

Big issue 1: The Heat got themselves into their own financial mess - they have no cap space available, will pay Tyler Johnson $19 million next season and owe Dion Waiters, who played 76 games in the last two seasons, $46 million over the next three years.

But at the top of the mess is Hassan Whiteside, who was handed a max contract in the summer of 2016 by the Heat, who have now deemed their costly big man unplayable in important situations. Whiteside got just 15.4 minutes per game in the postseason, and he complained bitterly about it.

Clearly, the Heat would like to be rid of Whiteside, and he would welcome a change. But Miami attempted to move him at the trade deadline and got no takers. There's little chance that will change this summer, but expect the Heat to keep trying.

Big issue 2: There will be trade talks aplenty for the Heat as they try to unload not just Whiteside, but James Johnson, Josh Richardson and just about anyone who could bring back some salary relief and hope for changing the Heat's stale dynamic. Overriding all of that, though, is what happens with the greatest player in franchise history, Dwyane Wade.

Wade returned to Miami in February after his bitter breakup with the franchise two years ago. He is 36 and playing on borrowed time with a bum knee, but he was effective in the postseason, averaging 16.6 points for a team that struggled to find offense.

Still, he has wavered on whether this season will be his last. If he can come back on a cheap contract, the Heat would welcome him.

Free-agent outlook: It's too bad that the Heat don't have more free agents on the roster, or they might be able to avoid the same mistakes that left them with such a bloated payroll.

The top free agent on the board is Wayne Ellington, who, at age 30, has developed into a useful 3-point specialist. Of his 9.1 shots per game, 7.5 were from the 3-point line, and he made 39.2 percent of them. The Heat would like to have him back, but his career year might have forced him out of their price range.

The young folks: There is some hope here. One reason Whiteside became so expendable is the energy and competence shown by rookie Bam Adebayo, who is raw offensively but did an excellent job on the defensive end for the Heat - he was fourth among rookies in rebounding percentage and seventh in defensive rating.

Also promising was the development of Justise Winslow as a small-ball power forward. He has been frustratingly slow to develop, but Winslow is already a lockdown defender at 21 years old and played much better in the second half of the year as he gained confidence in his 3-point shot. Unlocking his potential is critical to the Heat's future.

As for the draft, Miami is in dire straits. It owes this year's first-round pick to Phoenix and its second-round pick to Houston. It also owes 2021's first-rounder to Phoenix and, in total, owes six of its next seven second-round picks to other teams.

In other words, over the next seven years, the Heat have 14 potential picks, but only have the rights to six of them.

Wait till next year: The Heat have built a team for the present and future that figures to produce the same results as this one did, much as they did the three previous seasons: 41-48 wins, a low seed in the East, a first-round exit.

The payroll is loaded for two more years, so don't expect much to change. Sit back and enjoy the mediocrity until 2020-21.

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