Willie Reed says returning to the Heat next season ‘would be great.’ But is it realistic?

Miami Heat forward Willie Reed, left, tries to drive past Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk, right, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 26, 2017, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

MIAMI — This offseason is going to be different for Willie Reed.

Then again, this season was different for Reed. He played in a career-high 71 games and averaged a career-best 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in his first season with the Heat.

But will it be Reed’s only season with the Heat? He is expected to turn down his $1.6 million player option with Miami to enter free agency this summer, as more money is expected to be available on the open market.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like for me, to be honest,” Reed said when asked about this offseason during his exit interview. “Obviously I’ve never been in a position like this before. So I’m just trying to trust the process with things that I’ve done before, continue to work on my body, continue to work on my game and then deal with that when the time comes.”

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As the Heat’s backup center behind starter Hassan Whiteside, how much is Miami willing to pay Reed to return next season? That answer is up in the air.

With the Heat expected to have about $38 million in cap space after it clears Chris Bosh’s contract off their salary cap, Miami needs to prioritize its free agents. And if the Heat want to bring back this season’s core, their top two priorities are expected to be re-signing James Johnson and Dion Waiters with Reed farther down the list.

“We all have families,” Reed said when asked about his free-agent situation. “We all want to be a part of something special. I love this team, I love these guys in the locker room. Being here would be great. Hopefully something works out. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m just going to continue to do my part, continue to embrace this culture and embrace those guys that are around this summer as we continue to try to get better.”

Reed will spend his offseason in Miami as he focuses on improving his body and footwork. If this season was any indication, he will improve in both of those areas.

After focusing on his offensive game last summer, the 6-foot-11 Reed finished four games with 16 or more points this season. His NBA career-high entering the season was 14 points.

“I just want to continue to grow,” Reed said of this summer. “I know that I grew offensively this year. But I want to be able to gain more weight while still keeping my athletic ability and be able to move my feet better and guard on switches in case that happens, and just become an all-around player for this team.”

For “this team”? Reed wants to return to Miami, but at what price?

“I definitely will be around here working out this summer,” Reed said. “My family loves Miami, obviously. I can take my son and my family to the beach whenever I want. Go down to the beach and then just continue to work out and work on my body, do some yoga, do some boxing, do some conditioning stuff and try to get better for next season.”

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