Plan B: Don’t Rule Out Pat Riley Trading For A-List Talent

Commentary6 years ago4 min readGreg Sylvander

Pat Riley has a reputation of being a man with a plan. Dating back to his arrival in Miami, he has orchestrated several wholesale rebuilds, with a few retools along the way. Whether it be the summers of 1996 and 2000, to the largest trade in NBA history in 2005 or the 2010 jackpot, Riley has never let the HEAT operate aimlessly for any considerable length of time.

But in the wake of easily the greatest free agent coup in NBA history, HEAT fans have grown accustomed to expectations of grandiose free agent acquisitions since the once and former king decided to take his reigns here. In the summer of 2016, that exact ideology mostly fixated on a whale named Kevin Durant. It was the 2016 plan—it was the only plan for so many—but it didn’t quite turn out the way HEAT fans had wished or expected.

When it became clear that 2016 wouldn’t be the year that proved fruitful via free agency, the fan base seemingly shifted to next offseason—the 2017 plan—to approach the future. As the list of available 2017 free agents dwindles, HEAT fans are becoming restless, irritable and discontent over the future of this franchise.

However, I urge you to look at the road back to contention through a means by which Riley has proven to be great at. His first love, and the primary method by which he has built so many championship contending teams: Trades.

Riley’s go-to move is finding the disgruntled star who has worn out his welcome, needs a change of scenery and is ready to pounce on the opportunity via trade. This method, on which he’s built contenders several times prior to 2010, has somewhat been lost by the fan base amidst The Decision and Durant “whale hunting” pursuits.

One end of this approach that seems to be neglected by HEAT faithful is that it’s virtually impossible to predict who will be available on the trade market, and when. NBA players who today may be considered untouchable by teams can be acquired months from now, sometimes even at a discount.

Instead of feeling a sense of hopelessness when it appears that Gordon Hayward is as good as it gets in the Summer of 2017, keep a watchful eye on those “disgruntled” stars around the league.

Is John Wall happy in Washington next to Bradley Beal? If this rebuild in Indiana doesn’t work, what happens to Paul George? Is this the year Sacramento finally divorces DeMarcus Cousins? Does Jimmy Butler lose another locker room? Do the Clippers start feeling the pressure of their window closing?

These are just a few examples of scenarios that today may seem improbable, maybe even impossible, but who knows what tomorrow may bring? Things change fast in this league, and this has been proven itself time and time again.

The point is, there are probably a handful of budding stars, or outright superstars, that are much closer to being available via trade than we realize. That handful of players likely includes stars I didn’t even mention above.

Not coincidentally, the HEAT has constructed a roster filled with young players to be showcased while supplemented with expiring contracts galore (December 16 is when recently signed players can be traded). These are key ingredients in being able to facilitate the type of trades that transform a franchise. Expiring contracts allow you to take back long-term contracts that teams may look to shed when moving a superstar. That cost of doing business should be embraced if it means you net a star.

Yes, Chris Bosh’s health makes it difficult to approach team building long-term. It does get in the way of practical roster construction. But it appears we may finally gain some clarity on the long-term prospects of basketball life, with or without Bosh, soon. That clarity will only help in providing direction for Riley & Co.

Now is when HEAT fans should look to trust the organization more than ever. Because as a wise man once screamed at @DutchBeek, “WE’RE NOT GOING TO BE IN THE BLEEPING LOTTERY FOR FIVE YEARS!!!! THAT’S NOT WHAT WE DO!!!”

Relax. It will come in due time.