Heat might be wise to trade Jimmy Butler and start over, but we’d also be wise to stop counting them

The miami heat just finished a tough week in what has, so far, been a tough season, losing to the Detroit Pistonsthe Memphis Grizzlies – which were without Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. – and finally the Spurs Saturday night to drop to 12-15 in total. If the playoffs started today, Miami would squeak into the last play-in spot.

Of course, the playoffs don’t start for four months, which begs the question: How should the Heat approach those four months? Continuing to believe that they can compete with anyone when they are healthy, or resigning themselves to the seemingly growing reality that they are not a true competitor and it might be wise to break the list and start over. Charles Barkley recently suggested they do the latter.

“Maybe it’s time to break up the team and start over,” Barkley said on Inside the NBA. “They have contracts that are like…they’re not good. So they have to start over. That’s my personal opinion. It’s like, ‘Hey, trade some of these guys to suitors or teams that [can] find us young and start over.'”

Erik Spoelstra was asked about Barkley’s comment. “We don’t care,” Spoelstra said.

It’s Heat Culture, as nauseating as that phrase has become. They don’t care what anyone says or thinks outside their walls, and they still believe they can win. It’s quite refreshing. Most of us who cover the league like to play games on paper. We like to talk about offensive and defensive ratings, net roster ratings, midrange dependency, 3-point prevalence, spacing, and we add it all up to decide who can and can’t compete with that, sometimes before the games are actually played.

The Heat prefer to play games. They’re not doing so well right now, but every year we seem to do it with the Heat, seeing them as some sort of JV contender, if not an outright contender. Yet they’re still in the mix — one NBA Finals game last season, two championship wins in 2020.

Barkley is right about risky contracts. Jimmy Butler will earn $45 million next season and $48 million in 2024-25. Kyle Lowry will earn just under $30 million next season. Duncan Robinson is making $17 million this season and he owes over $37 million over the next two seasons. Bam Adebayo is in the second year of a $163 million contract. Tyler Herro’s four-year, $120 million contract hasn’t even started yet.

There is an argument, perhaps a strong one, that Miami should deal with losing some of that money. They could start with Jimmy Butler, their only real asset apart from Adebayo who would bring back a comeback worthy of a rebuild. They could pair whatever they collect for Butler with Adebayo and Herro moving forward. It could very well be a smart move before Butler, who owes nearly $95 million over the next two seasons, starts to depreciate both as a player and as a trade chip.

But again, that would be the strategy of a team that’s willing to let go of its present in pursuit of a better future, but the Heat just don’t play it that way. They live in the present. That’s not to say they’re throwing all caution to the wind. Not too long ago, everyone wanted them to trade for Chris Paul or even Russell Westbrook, and the Heat said they were good with acquiring Butler. They thought Butler was enough. Almost everyone thought they were crazy, but they weren’t. Butler has been a star at the championship level, and you can bet Miami thinks he will be again in the playoffs.

So they will continue to play. Keep looking for ways to win on the sidelines, not fight, overcome their last 10 offense and free throw rate, poor shooting and lack of dependent depth, to get games into the final minutes where Butler can go to be the best player on the pitch. It might not be the smart way, but it’s the Heat way. Throw in the stats, throw the ball and let’s play. We can rule them all out, but as always they will continue to take and love their chances.

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