The Miami Heat’s third loss in a row is punctuated by Goran Dragic‘s absence. Without a true point guard, should they start shopping for new additions?
Last week, the Miami Heat ran the Brooklyn Nets out of their own gym.
Head coach Erik Spoelstra started Goran Dragic at point, and the Slovenia national had one of his patented, solid games: 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting from the floor.
Last night, the Heat had a runback against the Nets; however, this time it was in South Beach, and this time they were without Dragic. The first 12 minutes of the game now stand as one of the most offensively abysmal quarters in recent Heat history, as the team managed just 13 points on 6-for-29 shooting.
Without Dragic, Miami’s only true point guard, the Heat’s offense grinded to a halt.
Spoelstra started Josh Richardson in Dragic’s stead, and while Richardson has been able to match Dragic’s scoring output, his playmaking and shot creation fall short.
As primary scorer, Richardson controlling the offense from the top of the key hampers his effectiveness.
Whereas James Johnson and Rodney McGruder have been capable assist men for Miami, having found ways to use their physicality or athleticism to create high percentage looks, Richardson is out of place when he lingers around the half-court logo.
McGruder has cemented himself as one of Miami’s leading lob dispensers. He’s instinctively capable of finding Hassan Whiteside in the lane, and he did so last night. Three of his four assists came on hustling through the lane, and shoveling Whiteside the rock for the finish.
Conversely, Johnson’s passes made ample use of hand-off-to-screen action to find 3’s. Already 6-foot-8 without his afro, Johnson is an imposing body who can create a split-second time lapse between defenders and his teammates, long enough to give Miami’s shooters a window of opportunity to convert.
However, with Richardson at the point, he spent the night afflicted by Russell Westbrook syndrome, an acute case of immobility, after giving up the ball beyond the 3-point line and being removed from the play.
Richardson is usually an active scorer, so moving him into upper management as a primary passer completely takes him out of his element. Though he racked up five assists last night, three of them came through passes from the mid-court logo, or premature gathers that ended his dribble and relied on Whiteside to outmaneuver Jarret Allen to score.
In what became Miami’s second-lowest scoring game of the season—though the night holds the record for the fewest points in the first quarter this season—it was painfully obvious that without a true point guard to probe defenses and steer the offense, the Heat are destined to struggle.
What’s worse, is that Miami’s best option for the job, Dragic, is already missing time to a nagging knee injury. Though the team wants to be optimistic, the truth is, Dragic is another key player sidelined to injury just 17 games into the year and his prognosis is troubling.
We felt like [his knee] was something we could get under control,” Spoelstra told the Miami Herald. “There are no absolutes in this league and every case is different, and his knee hasn’t responded the way any of us had hoped.”
Barring Dragic’s immediate return at 100 percent strength, Miami lacks another real option at point that can score and distribute like Dragic. Johnson is a close second, but he is also returning from injury and still in the process of feeling out his game.
So, what now?
Dysfunction in DC
Assuming Miami can’t materialize a point guard out of its existing roster, trading is the most immediate fix, even if that seems unlikely.
Following the refusal to swap for Jimmy Butler at the start of the season, Miami made clear that Richardson, the team’s most valuable piece, is off the table.
Richardson currently leads the team in scoring (20.1 points per game) and is shooting a team high 42.7 percent from 3. Miami also has a minus-16.7 net rating when Richardson is off the floor, which speaks to his defensive impact that rivals his offensive production.
Richardson is the exact type of player Miami runs its organization around; a hard-working, defensive-minded athlete, who doesn’t shy away from the growing spotlight.
However, all those traits also make him ripe for being high on the list of players the rest of the league lusts over.
If the Heat were to cool on the idea of blocking Richardson from trade scenarios, would swapping him in a deal for a point guard be worth it?
That said, there are other ways the Heat could acquire a decent guard even without dealing Richardson, namely by preying on the dysfunction of the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards have opened the doors for a fire sale.
After starting the year 6-11, the only thing more likely than winning in Washington is another personnel meltdown. John Wall reportedly had a Butler-esque practice tirade—though he did apologize, allegedly. Bradley Beal has passively removed himself from the chaos, simply saying, “I’ve been dealing with this for seven years.”
Making a play to pick up a guard from the Wizards might be a easy acquisition for the Heat, who should want to give up as little as possible.
I get it.
Never trade within your own conference, let alone your division when the pieces are this important to future success.
But having the chance to pry Tomas Satoransky from the decaying grasp of the Wizards is too good of an opportunity to pass up.
(Why would you even think for a minute I’d suggest getting Wall? Between his attitude problems and bloated salary, he is the last player Miami needs to acquire.)
Picking up Satoransky would be a relatively painless affair.
He is on the final year of his contract, a $3.1 million deal that could easily be swapped for Bam Adebayo. Sure, trading Adebayo isn’t ideal, but his continued lack of play time is worrisome, and his contributions would be outweighed by Satoransky’s role at point.
Satoransky, who ranked third in assists (6.6 per game) in EuroBasket 2017, is cut from the same cloth as the modern NBA’s ideal point guard.
At 6-foot-7, he has the added height to find passing options over the top of smaller defenders, and his smooth shooting stroke has gifted him back-to-back seasons shooting at least 40 percent from 3.
Additionally, Satoransky can dish out skip passes that fit perfectly in Miami’s constant hunt for open triples. He is also composed on the break, further supporting his knack for finding trailers for easy dump-ins.
As a backup point guard, Miami wouldn’t need to figure out what to do with Satoransky when Dragic is at full health. Nor would the team have to answer questions about long term fit, since his deal expires in July.
Satoransky represents a low-risk, high reward opportunity for Miami to flesh out its roster and turn the tides of its current three-game losing streak.
With plenty of injuries still on the horizon—Tyler Johnson missed the Nets game with a hamstring strain, while Dion Waiters is still nowhere to be found—the Heat can try and jump start the season by taking a calculated risk.
Though Miami isn’t as desperate as the King-less Cleveland Cavaliers, shaking something up this early in the season could create long-term momentum.