The Miami Heat signed Jarnell Stokes in their latest trip down nostalgia road.
After celebrating their 30th season in the NBA, the Miami Heat might be in the market for a new slogan.
Given their decisions through the first 53 days of free agency, maybe they should consider this: “Miami Heat, from there and back again.”
Or maybe: “Miami Heat: What goes around, comes around.”
Or, a personal favorite: “Miami Heat: Why did you move?”
For a team that was rated as having the worst offseason because of a sheer lack of roster moves, the Heat are trying to change the narrative, aggressively announcing their new signings.
The Heat have most recently announced Jarnell Stokes will be joining the training camp roster.
Of the four players Miami added to the training camp roster, Stokes is the second familiar name. After affixing Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten to two-way contracts following Summer League performances, Stokes joins Briante Weber as a former member of Heat Nation.
Since being drafted No. 35 by the Utah Jazz in 2014, Stokes has bounced around the NBA, G-League and overseas, looking for his basketball home.
Like Weber, Stokes spent part of the 2015-16 season with Miami. The duo’s biggest accomplishment was winning the 2016 G-League championship with Miami’s affiliate club, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
That season, Stokes notched 21 points and 10 rebounds per game through 22 contests, and was selected to the G-League All-Star Game.
Though training camp stands as a last-ditch chance for some players to join NBA rosters full time, Stokes will have a difficult time wooing Miami.
At 6-foot-9, Stokes is an undersized center. While he could prove useful should the Heat turn towards small ball full time, he would still be competing for minutes with James Johnson, Bam Adebayo Kelly Olynyk and potentially Maten, if he gets called up from the Skyforce.
Whether or not he makes the full roster, Stokes’ return is indicative of Miami’s continued roster indecision.
Known for their efforts to develop young, unproven talent, the Heat’s willingness to indulge in old flames brings to question the Heat’s strategy moving forward.
In 2011, Marist College’s Institute for Public Opinion investigated which super powers US citizens want most. To no surprise, 28 percent claimed time travel was their most wanted ability, which tied for first with mind reading.
Hindsight is 20/20, so having the ability to step into the past and rewrite one’s miscalculations only makes sense.
In the NBA, players and teams are always trying to avoid making the same mistakes. Look no further than ex-Heat LeBron James.
He has publicly admonished his “Decision” program from the summer of 2010, an hour-long special on ESPN in which he unveiled his signing with Miami.
Similarly, Miami’s recent roster moves signal a lingering sensation of regret.
Realistically, Weber and Stokes aren’t the best available options Miami could have pursued. Few other teams, at least publicly, made offers to either.
In other words, even if the Heat didn’t sign Weber and Stokes right away, they’d likely be available later in the season as Miami’s needs and rotations solidify.
Why then, would the Heat lean in to a pair of players they let walk freely in seasons past?
Maybe the team identified some untapped potential in them, but the acquisitions appear more a function of remorse than anything else.
In 2016, when Miami let Weber and Stokes walk, Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson were signed to massive deals. Two years later and the contracts haven’t worked out as planned, with both players being shopped in trade packages.
Given the skill sets of Weber and Stokes – a backup guard and center respectively – Miami could very well have had approximations of Whiteside and Johnson at an infinitesimally lower cost.
Instead, the Heat are strapped for cash through 2020.
Neither Whiteside nor Johnson has a team option, guaranteeing they’ll be on Miami’s roster unless they are bought out or traded.
Of course, having Weber and Stokes by no means precludes the same success Miami has seen in the last two years.
Without Whiteside, Miami’s defense is likely punished in the paint, while missing out on some 31 points per game offensively.
Ultimately, the February trade deadline is still months away, so Miami still has time to find the fix-all lineup or blockbuster trade that can help them push deeper into the playoffs.
Whiteside and Johnson have another season to impress, and if not, maybe they appearances from old faces will resuscitate the Heat’s post season dreams.
Training camp can’t come soon enough.