Hello, random internet person. Did you know the Miami Heat finished the second half of the 2016-17 season with a 30-11 record, narrowly missing out on a playoff berth? How the run was sparked by career-years from Dion Waiters and James Johnson? You did? Because it’s been rehashed 871 times?
Well then, let’s move on.
The Heat decided to run things back with a couple tweaks, specifically the additions of Kelly Olynyk, shiny new draftee Bam Adebayo, and the return of Dwyane Wade. They didn’t set the world on fire, but they were able to win 44 games and make the playoffs behind a strong defense.
Miami’s lack of star power was evident in their first round series with the Phildelphia 76ers. Ben Simmons picked the Heat apart when he was surrounded by shooters. Joel Embiid shut down the paint while he knocked the rust off on the other end. Goran Dragic played relatively well, and Wade gave some Flashes, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
With limited draft capital, no cap flexibility, no true star, and no young player with a clear path to stardom, Miami is in a dangerous spot. They’re good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to make serious noise. This offseason, Miami will need to figure out a way to get out of No Man’s Land.
8. ND: The Heat didn’t capture the same magic as they did during their 30-11 run last year, but still overcame plenty of injuries in their return to the postseason. Did this season make you feel better or worse about the direction of the team?
I’ll be honest, when it was all said and done, I expected more out of the Heat this season. At least on paper. And not just because they were coming off of their 30-11 run, but due to the fact that they managed to hang onto guys like Wayne Ellington, James Johnson and Dion Waiters.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel good about the team’s future. Both Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow showed huge growth this year. And Bam Adebayo was obviously a steal. So the youth movement alone seems to be trending in the right direction. On top of that, I don’t see Goran Dragic going anywhere. And if roster changes do need to be made, there are a handful of pieces that should get Miami pretty solid returns. So here’s to 2018-19. I’m ready.
7. Hassan Whiteside has been heavily debated throughout the course of the season. How do you feel about him, and do you think it’s time for a trade?
I may be Hassan Whiteside’s only remaining fan, but I continue to stand by him. Did he make mistakes this season? Absolutely. Does he need to change his attitude moving forward? For sure. But I don’t think it’s fair to discard him after one lackluster year. Especially one that had so many moving parts as to why it didn’t go exactly as planned.
I don’t think head coach Erik Spoelstra necessarily utilized him in the best way, especially during the playoffs. The team’s rotations were constantly changing due to an abundance of injuries. And of course, Whiteside’s own injury greatly affected his season too. I’d love for him to stick around and prove his worth to all the haters out there.
6. Was there anything specific that bothered you about Spo’s usage of Whiteside?
I think my biggest criticism of Spoelstra this season is regarding the fact that he seemingly had a very short leash on Whiteside. While I admit that in many situations, the big guy should know better, I think he deserves a little latitude on the court.
This year, especially during the team’s playoff push, Whiteside was rarely given a chance to work through any sort of issue. Spoelstra would tag him in, he would maybe miss one dunk or turn the ball over once, and that was it; back to the bench Whiteside went. Some players need a little more time than others to find their groove, and I think a lot of frustration on both sides could have been spared, if Spoelstra would have just given him more room to breathe.
5. Speaking of bigs that need more leeway, Bam Adebayo exceeded expectations in a limited role. There’s an argument to be made he was snubbed for an All-Rookie spot this year. How excited are you for him moving forward?
Adebayo has already proven himself in my eyes, so I can’t wait to see how he works with the Heat coaching staff to keep improving his already-impressive skill-set. I would love to see him play alongside Kelly Olynyk more (plus-9.0 net rating in 477 minutes together), as well as just get more minutes period. And I think what fans should be most excited about is his playmaking ability and how it’s only bound to develop with time.
4. That’s a great point about his playmaking. He’s shown flashes of being able to grab-and-go. At some point, he has to be allowed to make decisions with the ball. One playmaker the Heat missed at times was Dion Waiters. He missed most of the year following ankle surgery. How confident are you in him making a positive impact for Miami next year?
I’m still not completely sold on the idea of Waiters being the answer for Miami.
First off, I think it was a bad move to postpone surgery. If it really was inevitable anyways, he should have gotten it out of the way in the summer. That certainly rubbed me the wrong way, as if Riley was duped into giving Waiters his new contract. Though the Heat could have definitely used both his scoring and confidence, I haven’t seen enough consistency from Waiters to label him a saving grace just yet. However, I do look forward to his return and hope he’ll continue to grow into Miami’s system.
3. We’ll stick with shooting guards here. Wayne Ellington just posted the greatest volume-three point shooting season in Heat history. He was also virtually unplayable during Miami’s playoff series loss to the Sixers. The Heat can use his shooting, but they also have a ton of shooting guards on the roster already. How do you think Miami should approach his free agency this summer?
While I understand there’s a bit of a logjam at the shooting guard position and the Heat are already capped out salary-wise, I think letting go of Wayne Ellington would be a huge mistake. Beyond the fact that he put up career numbers in 2017-18 (and broke league records), it became crystal clear just how dedicated to Miami’s culture he really is. The more guys like that on the team, the better. Especially when it comes to creating as well-rounded of a roster as possible. Right now, Ellington may live beyond-the-arc, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d be open to expanding his skill-set as well.
2. Miami doesn’t have a pick in this year’s draft, but they’ll likely try to put themselves in position to get into the second round or the undrafted free agent market. Is there a sleeper that interests you? A guy like Kostas Antetokounmpo?
I’m going to leave this one in Pat Riley’s hands. He clearly has a knack for spotting something special in guys, which others may not be able to see. So in Riley I trust.
1. Miami won’t have cap space to work with, but they’ll have exceptions at their disposal. Who are some guys you’d like to see them target?
LeBron James, duh. I mean, how epic would that be, especially considering Dwyane Wade’s recent return? But on a more realistic note, I could see Julius Randle fitting into the system quite nicely if a sign-and-trade could be worked out. I sometimes also contemplate the idea of Tyreke Evans coming over, but that may be a bigger project than I’d like the Heat to take on right now.