© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Riley Can Still Make Magic Happen

Alex Donno
July 02, 2019 - 10:09 pm

The Miami Heat were over the salary cap and into the luxury tax before NBA free agency opened on June 30th. 

Despite having negative cap space to work with, Pat Riley pulled off a masterful series of trades to open up the room necessary to bring 29 year old guard Jimmy Butler into the fold. 

Butler, a 4-time NBA All Star, made his intentions known to both the Miami Heat and to his former club, the Philadelphia 76ers. 

After revealing that Miami is where he wanted to be, the Heat agreed to acquire Butler from Philly in a sign and trade in exchange for guard Josh Richardson. 

Still, Miami needed to deal Hassan Whiteside to Portland, getting Moe Harkless and Meyers Leonard in return, to clear more room. 

Even that wasn't enough. Not quite. 

The Heat sent the newly acquired Harkless and a draft pick to the LA Clippers to finish up this exhausting sequence. 

It took four teams and a ton of "cap gymnastics" from Heat GM Andy Elisburgh to get this symphony from Maestro Riley into the final stanza. 

Plus, Riley never had to deal away young jewels like Bam Adebayo and Derrick Jones, Jr. He got to keep verteran point guard Goran Dragic. 

This is a refreshing reminder that Pat Riley has not lost his touch or his ambition. 

If we can criticize Riley for handing out bad contracts to Whiteside, Dion Waiters and James Johnson in the recent past, we must also praise "The Godfather" for course-correcting. 

Butler can raise Miami's level to that of a playoff team and potential second round finisher. More must be added down the line to make the Heat a championship contender. 

Reportedly, a big factor in Butler's choice was his belief that the Heat's long term project is strong. Miami will see Goran Dragic's contract come off the books a summer from now, with Johnson and Waiters' deals set to expire the following year. They will have opportunities to spend big money in upcoming summers. 

If Butler raises the Heat's level and their prestige in 2019, he can help make the franchise an even more desireable destination for others in 2020 and 2021. 

Don't look at this Butler signing as the end. It's only the beginning. 

Pat Riley has the Miami Heat back on track. I, for one, cannot wait to see where this train takes us.