Monday, December 6 2021

NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Between challenging the Miami’s big three to “stay together if you got the guts” and saying “No more smiling faces with hidden agendas” after LeBron James left, Heat president Pat Riley – without the benefit of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or LeBron recruiting – tried to lure Kyle Lowry in 2014 free agency.

Seven years later, Riley got his man.

And fortified an even stronger identity for his team.

The best player to change teams in free agency this summer, Lowry adds to the mettle, ferocity and and nastiness already brought by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Miami’s new big three isn’t nearly as talented as the previous edition. But this group has the potential to build on the Heat’s special run to the 2020 NBA Finals.

Lowry didn’t come cheap. Miami gave him a three-year contract worth more than $85 million and sent Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa to the Raptors to complete the sign-and-trade.

The Heat also doubled down on Butler – who recruited his friend Lowry – with a three-year extension projected to be worth about $142 million.

Completing the dramatic offseason coup, Miami poached P.J. Tucker from the NBA-champion Bucks with a two-year, $14.35 million contract that includes a player option.

That group is short on shooting. So, the Heat saved enough flexibility to keep 3-point specialist Duncan Robinson for $89.91 million over five years (with $10 million unguaranteed in an early termination-option season in year five). Robinson will be essential in creating the space necessary for this team to flourish.

But this could all blow up, anyway. Lowry is 35, Butler 32, Tucker 36. Though Butler remains excellent, he has heavy mileage and his max extension will carry him through age 36 in 2026.

Lowry is coming off his worst season in a decade. Maybe that’s mostly because he’s 35 and declining. Maybe that’s because the Raptors spent a wayward year in Tampa then leaned into tanking once they got derailed.

At least Lowry fits the Heat’s image. If he helps them win sooner than later, they’ll gladly deal with any long-term repercussions.

Miami signed a trio of veteran bigs – Markieff Morris, Dewayne Dedmon and Udonis Haslem – who’ll bring even more toughness. So will a re-signed Victor Oladipo if he ever gets healthy.

The Heat re-signed a few younger players – Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Omer Yurtseven – to two-year minimum contracts with only the first season guaranteed. That’s nice team control. But ready or not, Vincent and/or Strus might be pressed into the rotation.

Miami lost guard depth with Dragic (Raptors) and Kendrick Nunn (Lakers) outgoing, though Tyler Herromaybe surprisinglyremaining.

The Heat made themselves into a championship contender. They’ll need more breaks than most contenders, and their floor is way lower than most contenders. If this goes wrong, Miami could be down for years.

But that 2020 Finals run happened only because the Heat gave themselves a chance to be competitive. For better or worse, Riley’s ambition and urgency have remained intact.

Though Lowry would’ve added more value seven years ago, he still elevates Miami into a higher class of teams. Even considering the downside, the Heat’s newfound upside is welcome.

Offseason grade: B

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