Maybe next to the “Zen Master” Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, Miami Heat President Pat Riley is the greatest mind in the NBA.
Riley has been instrumental in orchestrating all three of the Heat’s championships, the first as head coach in 2006, and the next two in 2012 and ’13 watching from just behind the bench solely as a front office executive.
The ’06 banner was aided by the acquisition of center Shaquille O’Neal two years prior; Riley and company pairing him with his budding superstar Dwyane Wade.
Riley was also extremely important in the signing of LeBron James and Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010. The story of Riley throwing his rings down on the table has been widely publicized.
That “Big 3” took the Heat to four-straight appearances in the NBA Finals.
A similar strategy didn’t work this offseason.
Miami struck out on the Kevin Durant sweepstakes as Riley failed to convince Durant to bring his talents to South Beach in the same way he convinced James.
Thus far, aside from Hassan Whiteside, who Riley retained with a max contract, he has missed out on all other free agents. The list of FAs he’s failed to bring to Miami also includes Wade.
After 13 years in a Heat uniform, Wade is taking his talents elsewhere.
For the first time in his career, Wade wanted to be the highest-paid player on the Heat roster. Despite being 34 years old it wasn’t an unreasonable request by the twelve-time all-star.
Wade has taken smaller contracts in order for the Heat to sign good players.
Riley offered too little this time.
Wade is going back home to Chicago.
With Wade gone, Durant no longer available, and not many big-name players left on the open market, Riley may have to wait until next year to make his move.
Maybe there’s a plan in place internally, but from the outside looking in, things don’t look great for Miami.
The Heat have a lot of money tied up in Goran Dragic and Whiteside, neither of whom are superstars at the moment, although Whiteside certainly shows potential to become a really good big man.
The role players they have aren’t great either.
As Riley has been unable to sign a big-name player (in his prime, or at least not over the hill of his career) for multiple off seasons in a row now, you have to begin to wonder if he has lost his touch.
With the NBA’s salary cap rising again next year, Riley will have to re-learn that in today’s league money talks, and players will listen to the most money.