The Heat's underdog story has come to an end.
It was a historic postseason for Miami, which became the second No. 8 seed in NBA history to reach the NBA Finals after defeating the No. 1 seed Bucks, No. 5 seed Knicks and No. 2 seed Celtics to win the Eastern Conference.
Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and the Nuggets' well-rounded attack proved to be too much for the Heat, whose supporting cast couldn't replicate the same magic from their run through the East. Despite giving Denver a fight in almost every contest, Miami has fallen in five games, coming up three wins short of a title.
Now, the Heat face an offseason full of questions and tough decisions as they try to maximize their championship window with superstar forward Jimmy Butler.
The Sporting News breaks down what's ahead for the runner-ups below.
Key storyline: Should the Heat trade for Damian Lillard to get Jimmy Butler a co-star?
To be clear, Butler already has two co-stars in Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro.
In the last four seasons, Adebayo has been Miami's defensive anchor for three Conference Finals runs and two NBA Finals runs. Herro's scoring prowess was severely missed during the 2023 NBA Playoffs after he suffered a freak hand injury diving after a loose ball in Game 1 against the Bucks.
But if the Heat want to get over the hump to win an NBA title, they may have to consider trading for another superstar to pair alongside Butler. A few names that could pop up in trade rumors this offseason are Damian Lillard, Trae Young, and Bradley Beal.
Lillard is stuck on a rebuilding Trail Blazers team, but Portland is reportedly focused on moving its No. 3 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft to try and put some contending pieces around the All-Star guard. Should the Trail Blazers change their mind and focus on the future instead, Miami should be the first team calling.
Young faced some turmoil with the Hawks coaching staff and front office this season and after falling in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the All-Star guard could be on the move. As one of the most prolific playmakers in the NBA, averaging 26.2 points and 10.2 assists per game this season, Young would be a perfect fit for what Miami needs on offense.
Lastly, there is Beal, who has been as loyal to Washington as Lillard has been to Portland. Beal is in the second year of his five-year, $251 million contract extension with the Wizards, but the 29-year-old could be a valuable trade target if Washington looks to build for the future.
The three-time All-Star has averaged 25.5 points per game over his last seven seasons and would surely help Miami's offensive struggles.
While this is all pure speculation, Heat president Pat Riley has a history of taking big swings to keep the franchise within title contention at all times. Don't be surprised if he tries to knock one out of the park with a blockbuster move this offseason.
Heat free agents in 2023
The Heat have a few key rotation pieces that they will need to re-sign this offseason.
Breakout playoff performers like Gabe Vincent and Max Strus are both set to hit unrestricted free agency and there will be plenty of teams interested in acquiring their talents after this past postseason. Frontcourt reserves Kevin Love and Cody Zeller will also be unrestricted free agents, while Heat legend Udonis Haslem is set to retire.
Victor Oladipo has a player option worth $9.5 million, and there's a good chance he picks that up as he recovers from a torn patellar tendon in his left knee suffered in the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
|Unrestricted||Restricted||Player Option||Team Option|
|Kevin Love||Omer Yurtseven||Victor Oladipo||None|
|Udonis Haslem||Orlando Robinson|
|Gabe Vincent||Jamal Cain|
An unrestricted free agent is free to sign with any team. A restricted free agent can sign an offer sheet with any team, but the player's original team can bring him back by matching the offer.
Last offseason, player, and team options had to be exercised by June 29, the day before free-agent negotiations began.
Heat future salary and roster
The Heat only have seven players under contract for the 2023-24 season, with Oladipo's player option and Haywood Highsmith's non-guaranteed deal possibly bringing that number up to nine.
As mentioned above, Miami's top priority will be re-signing key rotation pieces like Strus and Vincent. It also has two big contract extension decisions to make.
Both Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry are extension-eligible this offseason. And while working an extension for Adebayo will be a no-brainer, the Heat will have to decide what they want to do with Lowry, whose overall impact and contributions have diminished as he enters his age-37 season.
On the bright side, Miami has Butler under contract for at least two more seasons and Herro under contract through the 2026-27 season.
|Jimmy Butler||$45.2 million||$48.8 million||$52.4 million (PO)||UFA|
|Bam Adebayo||$32.6 million||$34.9 million||$37.1 million||UFA|
|Kyle Lowry||$29.7 million||UFA|
|Tyler Herro||$27.0 million||$29.0 million||$31.0 million||$33.0 million|
|Duncan Robinson||$18.2 million||$19.4 million||$19.9 million||UFA|
|Victor Oladipo||$9.5 million (PO)||UFA|
|Caleb Martin||$6.8 million||$7.1 million (PO)||UFA|
|Nikola Jovic||$2.4 million||$2.5 million (TO)||$4.5 million (TO)||RFA|
|Haywood Highsmith||$1.9 million (NG)||RFA|
PO = Player option
TO = Team option
NG = Non-guaranteed
UFA = Unrestricted free agent
RFA = Restricted free agent
Heat NBA draft picks 2023
The Heat own one pick in the 2023 NBA Draft — No. 18 overall.
Miami should target a playmaker or scorer with its first-round pick, and there should be some prospects available who would kill two birds with one stone.
In my post-lottery Mock Draft, I had the Heat selecting Bilal Coulibaly, who is Victor Wembanyama's teammate with Metropolitans 92. The 6-foot-6 guard is an excellent athlete with relentless energy and a long 7-foot-2 wingspan. While he wouldn't solve Miami's problems for more scoring right away, his upside potential would thrive in "Heat Culture."
Some scoring options I like for the Heat at pick No. 18 are Ohio State wing Brice Sensabaugh, Arkansas guard Nick Smith Jr., Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin and Duke wing Dariq Whitehead.
The Heat's second-round pick will be sent to the Thunder (via three different trades).