As players get frustrated with a lack of playing time, the Miami Heat need to clear the logjam at guard before this season’s trade deadline.
A quick Google search defines a logjam as: a crowded mass of logs blocking a river.
For the Miami Heat, their logs are too many good-to-great guards, and the river is a steady rotation that is less redundant or, at least, the least redundant as a team with 13 role players can be.
“I’m going to tell you one thing about our team that we do have a problem with — we have a logjam,” Pat Riley told reporters back in May. “We have too many good-to-great players. We have too many. We have like 11 or 12 guys.”
The problem was at arm’s distance for most of the season while Dion Waiters worked to get back from ankle surgery. But then, earlier this month, came his flash-in-the-pan, 11-minute debut against the Timberwolves. Waiters got the nod because Dwyane Wade was under the weather, and he was everything Heat fans remembered Philly Cheese to be. Check that. He was better. His first play wasn’t a pull up from midrange, but rather a kick out for an open Rodney McGruder three-pointer. Huzzah! Prince Cheese has returned!
Waiters sat the next two games.
Then this week, after having played in four-straight games but just 12 minutes in a blowout loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Waiters turned to the dark side of his irrational confidence.
“F— patience!” Waiters said after the game. “I want to play. I’ve been patient long enough. What do I got to be patient for? Come on man. I’ve been patient. I think everybody knows that. It’s time. What are we waiting for? If I’m out there, play me.
The next step is being back in the starting lineup, s— like that,” Waiters said. “Patience has run out. I’m tired of this. Get back to my regular self.”
Something has to give, and it might not be what Waiters is pining for.
The Heat entered the season with seven guards competing for six rotation spots in Spoelstra’s three-guard lineup: Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, McGruder, Tyler Johnson, Wade, Wayne Ellington and Waiters. Waiters’ ongoing rehab helped other guys get minutes, but it also resulted in Derrick Jones Jr. playing himself into the conversation.
Eight guys competing for six rotation spots.
Then the emergence of Winslow as a point guard.
The logjam got jammier.
Ellington has already fallen out of the rotation. He wasn’t helping, and will likely be traded before the trade deadline. The Thunder, Bucks and Rockets are reportedly interested.
So that leaves eight players competing for six spots. Winslow and Richardson aren’t going anywhere. Wade is unimpeachable during his last dance. So we’re down to Dragic, Waiters, Johnson, Jones Jr. and McGruder.
In the midst of a playoff push, Spoelstra and his front office need to decide which six guards they want to roll with in the postseason. Dragic is the best of the bunch and, with what Jones Jr. has meant to the zone and boards, he should also have an inside track.
So can the Heat trade Johnson and McGruder? Johnson provides some nice scoring, but his contract itself is an albatross. Unless the Bulls are willing to swap their problem (Jabari Parker’s $20 million deal and allergy to defense) for Miami’s, it’s hard to find a taker.
McGruder would be easier to move. He makes about $1.5 million, plays hard on both ends and is a reliable shot and decision maker. It’s not out of the question that the Heat could get a late first-round pick from a contender looking for good help. There are several teams who could use McGruder and afford that price, but it hasn’t been in the front office’s nature to trade a contributor on a value contract during a playoff run. Plus, like, #culture.
The Heat are trying to be both buyers and sellers. To upgrade the team for an immediate playoff run while also setting itself up with more flexibility. It’s not an impossible thing to do. We saw the Bucks pull it off with the George Hill trade. But it’s hard.
My advice: trade Ellington and McGruder for multiple picks and salary filler, then use those picks as sweetener to get off of either Johnson or Waiters. If that doesn’t work, it might be time to kick the tires on what trading Dragic could net in return.
The logjam is real, and so are the problems it yields. Between now the the trade deadline on Feb. 7, the Heat need to do something about it. You drown not by falling into a river, but by staying submerged in it.
Wes Goldberg is the former site expert of All U Can Heat and has returned to his old stomping grounds to contribute a weekly column for the rest of the season. Look for it here on Friday mornings, and check out his daily Miami Heat podcast Locked On Heat.