When Miami lost out on re-signing LeBron James, there was a global understanding that Miami would suffer some sort of drop-off.
Even with the expected drop-off, hope wasn’t lost. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh both re-signed with Miami after opting out and with the departure of James, there would have been more freedom and touches for both Wade and Bosh. Offseason additions of Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger, and Luol Deng were seen as “big” moves that would keep Miami in relevancy.
Hell, some people even felt that Mario Chalmers was ready to make a leap and elevate his status as a NBA player.
While the addition of Shabazz Napier wasn’t enough to persuade James to stay in South Beach, the Miami Heat were in a great situation going into the regular season. Remember, the Eastern Conference isn’t known for the toughest competition amongst teams. With two Milwaukee Bucks losses, the Eastern Conference would have three representatives in the NBA Playoffs below a .500 record.
On the flip-side, in the Western Conference, all eight playoff teams have .500 record or better, with the possibility that ten teams finish above the .500 mark.
The point is Miami was never in trouble. They had the pieces to be a threat in the East with an above-average chance to make it back to the finals for a fifth straight year. Things haven’t panned out with the injury bug to blame. Chris Andersen, Michael Beasley, Hassan Whiteside, Deng, McRoberts and Napier are all on the most recent injury report, per Basketball Reference.
And everyone’s hoping for a quick and healthy Chris Bosh recovery.
We were robbed of the opportunity to see a potentially deadly Dragic-Wade-Bosh combo but were blessed with the diamond-in-the-rough, Hassan Whiteside, at least when he’s behaving
There are three players on Miami’s roster that hold player options for next season, Wade, Dragic, and Deng. We all know about the Dragic saga leading up to the trade deadline, listing Miami as one of his preferred destinations, and Deng would be foolish to not opt-in next season from a financial standpoint. Finally, Wade is Mr. Miami. He’s not going anywhere.
If this comes to fruition, the roster would look like:
PG: Goran Dragic
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Chris Bosh
C: Hassan Whiteside
Bench: Josh McRoberts, Mario Chalmers, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem, Shabazz Napier, Zoran Dragic, James Ennis, Tyler Johnson, Michael Beasley (Team Option)
This team would have it all: the ball handling, shooting, rebounding, shot blocking, steals, toughness. There might be too much star-power for some, but we’re talking about Wade, Bosh, and Haslem; three players that will absolutely keep teammates in check.
Miami could very well be championship contenders in a snap. They’ll also be set if all fails next year too.
What if Dragic bolts down for the West Coast and Deng opts out and signs for a better contender? Or Wade retires? It could turn into a rebuilding process in an instant… And it wouldn’t take that long.
For this year’s draft and the next, Miami owns their own first round pick if it is 1-10. Miami surrenders the pick if it is 11th or later. With four games left in Miami’s season, sitting half of a game out of 8th, Miami would be better off missing the playoffs.
They’ve essentially played themselves out the playoffs their last 10 games, going 3-7 and averaging 91.5 points per game, second worst in the NBA in that span.
If the standings hold, Miami would have the 10th worst record in the NBA, just bad enough to mathematically hold a top-10 pick. With a potential nightmare year next season, two consecutive top-10 picks could quickly turn around a team.
Who knows? Maybe Pat Riley pulls a David Griffin-LeBron James and trades away their two consecutive lottery picks to land a superstar? Even just one top-10 pick holds tremendous value. You also can’t forget about the salary cap explosion that is about to take place for the 2016-17 season. Don’t you think free agents will want to flock towards tax-free Florida?
That free-agent class could be a legendary one.
It’s never a good feeling to be in the NBA Finals one year and missing out on the playoffs altogether the next. However, looking ahead, Miami only has one legitimate excuse for not returning to the Finals within the next two years and that would be because of Bosh’s health.
Miami might not make the playoffs this year, but we shouldn’t expect them to be gone for too long.