In the Midst of Trade Rumors, Miami Heat Continue to Build Patiently

Commentary

The past few weeks have felt like an eternity for Miami Heat fans. Ever since Jimmy Butler made it known that he’d like to be traded to Miami, the rumor mill has been churning nonstop.

By now, we’ve heard a variety of reports from sources with conflicting agendas. Countless trade offers have seemingly materialized and fallen apart. The potential for a Jimmy Butler trade has created chaos in what is typically a slow news period for the NBA.

Whether a deal between Miami and Minnesota will ever come to fruition is impossible to predict at this point, but while everyone has been speculating about blockbuster trades, Pat Riley and the Heat have continued to build. Over the weekend, former 10th overall pick Justise Winslow agreed to a three-year extension worth $39 million.

Is this a good deal? Is this a bad deal? Did Miami get a bargain? Did they overpay? What does this mean for their cap situation going forward? How does this impact a potential Jimmy Butler trade?

These are questions you, the reader, undoubtedly want answers to. Unfortunately, I’m not here to give you those answers. Other people more qualified than myself (@NekiasNBA) may be willing to tackle those questions, but any discussion of the contract’s value and long-term financial implications requires a combination of blind speculation and careful analysis of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement that I am not willing or able to engage in.

Here is what most matters to me and what should most matter to you: Justise Winslow has agreed to play for the Miami Heat for an additional three seasons. Any conversation regarding contract details can be left to someone else.

So ignoring cap space, trade rumors, and the idea of overpaying vs. underpaying, what does this contract extension mean?

For Justise Winslow, it means the next stage in his NBA career. Still only 22, Winslow is entering his second contract. An increase in cash comes with higher expectations. The first few years of Justise Winslow’s career have been up and down. He’s shown a tremendous amount of potential in some areas of the game, displaying his versatility on defense and playmaking ability on offense.

The limitations of his game have also been evident. His jump shot has only recently shown signs of serviceability and his consistency finishing through contact still leaves much to be desired. He’s dealt with season-ending injuries and elevated his game in the playoffs. He’s inspired die-hard fans and relentless detractors.

This second contract signals a possible end to this polarization. Winslow is done getting his feet wet in the NBA. It is time for him to sink or swim. No longer shielded by excuses of youth and inexperience, Justise Winslow enters the stage of his career where he will develop his identity as an NBA player. By the time this next contract expires, Winslow may not have reached his peak, but at the very least he will have shown us what peak Justise Winslow can look like. This next contract is where Winslow proves people right or wrong.

For the Miami Heat, this contract extension signals a continued commitment to player development and a faith in their young core of Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, and Bam Adebayo. Miami has demonstrated their faith in Josh Richardson, inking him to a similar extension this past year and allegedly making him unavailable in trade negotiations for Jimmy Butler (whether Richardson remained unavailable as negotiations progressed has been disputed, but it seems widely accepted that Miami valued him enough to make him unavailable at the beginning of negotiations).

Despite being the youngest of the trio, Bam Adebayo may have the most support from the Heat organization. Alonzo Mourning spoke to 790 The Ticket’s Brendan Tobin last month and said, “[Adebayo is] obviously a phenomenal talent. He came in the league at 19-years old. Sky’s the limit for his potential of being the best player on this team one day, which I feel he will be really simply because of his work ethic.”

This vote of confidence means a lot coming from Mourning, a Heat legend and front office executive. Adebayo is yet another name that has been reportedly held out of trade negotiations (this fact has been far less disputed than Richardson’s status). The Miami Heat clearly view Bam Adebayo and Josh Richardson as core pieces going forward. The question has always been Justise Winslow.

Winslow has not been held out of trade talks as far as we know, and he has certainly been the most polarizing of Miami’s young trio. He has not shown the polish or consistency of the older Richardson, and he doesn’t seem to possess the same unique physical traits that make the younger Adebayo so appealing as a prospect.

Winslow certainly has his own distinct qualities that make him valuable, but if Miami was going to give up on one of their young prospects, it seemed like Winslow would be the odd man out. The extension all but solidifies Miami’s commitment to this young trio going forward and hints at a willingness to build slowly and patiently around their youth instead of throwing everything away in exchange for a big star.

Patience is a virtue and Heat fans should be encouraged by this approach. The team has found recent success in the draft and shouldn’t shy away from it going forward. If a great player becomes available, Miami will inevitably pursue it, but with security in their young core, they don’t need to negotiate from a place of desperation. Regardless of how these trade rumors play out, the Miami Heat seem to be comfortable with their future.

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