Miami Heat: Is Devin Booker the Answer?

The Miami Heat are dealing with an unexpected issue this summer, namely the potential departure of Dwyane Wade after 12 seasons with the franchise. While the outcome is unclear, the solution – at least in part – might lie in drafting Devin Booker out of the University of Kentucky. 

Let’s start with the possible scenarios in which the Wade situation will play out:

  1. Wade and the Heat are unable to find a comfortable middle ground in the negotiations and team president Pat Riley refuses to balk. Wade, still a productive All-Star when healthy, joins another team that is willing to pay him or provide an opportunity to win a title.
  2. As some have suggested, Wade is looking to recoup some of the money he lost in previous contracts, namely in 2010 and 2014. He took less money in 2010 to re-sign with Miami and he opted out of the contract four years later to provide the team some financial flexibility. He lost millions in the process and could some of that back with a one-year deal worth over $23 million (he’s set to make $16 this season if decides not to opt out of his current contract).
  3. He opts out of his deal this year and then re-signs with Miami for a three-year deal worth $45 million. The deal allows him to make back some of the money he lost in terms of overall worth and gives him the multi-year deal he’s rumored to want. It also gives the team the flexibility they need both this season and the next, when the salary cap is expected to increase quite a bit.

In scenario #1, Miami’s best hope is to re-tool via free agency without spending too much. If Riley’s overall plan is to still maintain some flexibility for 2016, he’d likely sign someone that can produce but won’t break the bank – San Antonio’s Danny Green seems like a good fit here. In that case, drafting Booker to learn the nuances of playing shooting guard from Green would be a natural fit. Understanding how to get open, spacing the floor and play improved defense at the NBA level…Green could be a mentor to Booker in much the same way Wade was expected to be.

Scenario #2 speeds up the timetable for Booker’s development. At just 18 years old, he’s likely not ready to step in as a starter, nor would he have to with Wade back in Miami for (at least) one more year. While Wade could potentially leave via free agency in 2016 or retire outright, he would still have a full season to guide Booker to the next level.

The connection with Wade and Booker has already been established by Riley himself who interviewed the former Kentucky sharpshooter at the NBA Draft Combine. Here’s what Booker had to say about the talk with Riley:

“A great, great meeting,” he said of his face time with Riley, and their discussion that touched on Dwyane Wade. “It’s humbling. He said D-Wade is getting older now, is on the last part of his career, and come and learn from him. And I thought that would be a great fit for me and I’m willing to learn from all veterans, especially one of the best two-guards to ever play the game. So I think that would be a great fit for myself.”

At least one scouting report (via DraftExpress.com) indicates that Booker’s game has some holes to fill, namely finishing at the rim at a high percentage, creating his own shot and defensive quickness. Not coincidentally, these are all areas in which Wade not only thrives but possesses at an elite level. While no one would expect Booker to match Wade’s abilities, some tutelage at the hands of a master would undoubtedly help.

 

In the third scenario, everyone wins: Riley’s plan is maintained, Wade gets the deal he wants and Booker spends the first three years of his professional career learning from a future hall-of-famer.

By the time Booker’s “apprenticeship” with Wade is over, he’ll still be just 21 years old. Concerns of his lateral quickness and ability to finish at the rim will likely have been resolved and once Wade retires (presumably the goal by the end of the 2017-18 season), Booker will have nearly reached his prime and be ready to assume a greater leadership role.

Just because Wade’s contract issue was unexpected, doesn’t mean Miami doesn’t have options. Some of them aren’t very palatable for Heat fans but the reality is that Wade’s career is nearly at an end. Whether he leaves now or fades away slowly while still in a Heat jersey is still anyone’s guess.

But in Booker – an athletic, intelligent player that can provide elite-level shooting that Wade never could – Miami might have their best option at salvaging their future.