Dave Hyde: Does 'The Next Thing' for Pat Riley mean a shot at Giannis or Beal?

©Sun Sentinel

Miami Heat president Pat Riley during a news conference at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on September 27, 2019. - Carline Jean/Sun Sentinel/TNS

Pat Riley enjoyed the afterglow of the Miami Heat season. He thanked everyone from scouts to coaches Friday for that storybook run into the NBA Finals. He said any talk of his retiring is now gone. Dead. Off the table.

“This is a dream for me, this late,” he said of that Heat run.

There’s just one question now: Who’s traded to improve this team?

“If there’s a next thing that can take us to another level, I’m open to it,” Pat Riley said.

Surprised? Grow up. Which of course is the central question for the Heat this offseason. Do you trust this roster enough that it can grow into a sustainable contender?

“Do you just run it back without doing anything, if you got the cooperation (from the team’s free agents to re-sign)?” Riley asked. “I think about that. We were in the Finals. Are we a Finalist?

“Can we get through the Eastern Conference next year with what’s happening in Philadelphia? Or what’s going to happen in Milwaukee or Brooklyn or Boston? We already know Boston’s got their team together and three first-round picks.

“Toronto? There’s a lot of very good teams. That’s was the question I kick around in my mind … are we good enough? Or do we need to get around to the next thing earlier.”

That’s his theme for this offseason: The Next Thing. It used to be “The Main Thing” back when LeBron James and Chris Bosh arrived in 2010. The Main Thing was winning. The Next Thing is … well, Riley framed it as the next date was the coming draft.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though. This is Pat Riley. He’s not just looking at the No. 20 pick in the draft. If there’s a next, big swing to be made, he’ll take it. He’s not going to sun himself on coming two games short of a title.

Let’s not act surprised, either, if a big trade comes like Caron Butler, Lamar Odom and Brian Grant were when traded off a fun and young 2004-05 for Shaquille O’Neal. Those three players guaranteed a playoff trip. O’Neal guaranteed a shot at a ring.

You can win the balanced way the Heat did this year. To have sustained winning, though, you always need big stars. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a year from free agency — unless Milwaukee trades him now. Washington’s Bradley Beal can be had in a trade — but at what price?

There are two untouchables on the Heat after their playoff run: Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler. Adebayo for his age, attitude and great talent that hasn’t tapped out. Butler because he’s played around half the league and knows this is his best fit.

Tyler Herro is close after these playoffs. You love his game, his age, his verve. But the most dangerous thing the Heat could do is think they’re a finished product. And that doesn’t mean filling an obvious hole with a role player — only 6-foot-9 bodies and over need apply.

This cuts to the deep truth of this past season. It was a storybook season for a reason, and it’s not simply because it played out beside Disney. But do storybook seasons get a second printing?

Maybe they do if they grow up. But Riley made the mistake of over-believing before. He couldn’t get upgrades and then over-invested in a team that went 30-11 over the second half of 2016-17 season. That team was all ignition and no lift-off the next year.

This team isn’t that team. No chance of another Dion Waiters eating spiked gummi bears on a team flight. But are you so sure this team is clearly better than Boston by the next playoffs?

These postseason Riley talks are famous for lines like the shot at LeBron of, “No more smiley faces with hidden agendas.” But there’s another line he posed after a feel-good season went nowhere. He wasn’t all “goose-bumply and fuzzy-haired.”

The goose-bumps and fuzzy-hairs are fading from this year already. Riley’s big question is what to do now — if anything. That depends in part on if a Giannis or Beal are available. And who’s traded if they are?

———

©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)