Wednesday night, fans were introduced to the 2019-20 Miami Heat. There were T-shirt cannons, a pre-tip Justise Winslow speech, a new introduction video, and, uh, holy shit, like an entire roster of new-ish players who are apparently all going to win Rookie of the Year.
It only confirmed what everyone knew all along: The Miami Heat is the king of the overnight rebuild.
It’s one thing to hit on a player like 19-year-old Tyler Herro in the middle of the first round of the NBA Draft. That’s fun. That’s how you build a winner. The Warriors drafted their core. It’s the longest, yet cheapest and most stable, route to a championship.
It is an entirely different thing for the story of opening night to be a pair of rookies most Heat fans just recently learned existed — Kendrick Nunn and Chris Silva.
Nunn — a 24-year-old guard the Heat snagged out of the Warriors’ system in the final week of last season — got the starting nod in his NBA debut after having a 40-point game in the Heat’s final preseason game. All he did was drop 24 points on 10-18 shooting in 27 minutes, a stat line Heat fans would have been happy to see from prime Dwyane Wade in an opener. Nunn will undoubtedly have every chance to play big minutes this season, likely to the detriment of Dion Waiters.
Silva — a rookie forward on a two-way contract — burst into the game late and ended up playing 11 of the final period’s 12 minutes, contributing eight points and six rebounds in that limited time. He also was a beast on defense, continually shutting down the Grizzlies pick-and-roll game on the other end.
Again, these two players propelling the Heat to a season-opening 120-101 win against the Memphis Grizzlies is just part of the story. Beyond Herro, Justise Winslow (27-7-7) and Bam Adebayo led the way, both of them Heat draft picks and current franchise corner pieces. Throw in Derrick Jones Jr. and Duncan Robinson, who played a combined 39 minutes, and you have an entire Heat team that was homegrown, winning a season opener sans Wade, Udonis Haslem, Jimmy Butler, or any other “adult” in the room.
The Miami Heat might not win 60 games this season, but the team has already nailed its rebuild-on-the-fly strategy to the point that other teams in town, namely the Marlins or Dolphins, can only hope to match it within five years of stinking. As the dead money of Waiters and James Johnson, plus the money of Goran Dragic, comes off the books in the near future, the Heat will have an embarrassment of riches to supersize and turn its weak areas into strengths.
It wasn’t always easy. Or pretty. It wasn’t even always clear what the hell the plan was. But you have to hand it to Pat Riley and the Heat for making chicken salad out of the chicken shit they knowingly purchased in a few regrettable off-seasons following the departure of LeBron James and the health-induced retirement of Chris Bosh.
The Miami Heat stuck the rebuild on a rebuild it wasn’t even all that committed to. That’s how you know you’ve got a premium organization built for the long haul.