Why the Miami Heat Are Stuck in Basketball Purgatory
It seems that since LeBron James left Miami and returned to the Cavaliers, the Miami Heat have been stuck in mediocrity. Since he left, the Heat have only won one playoff series, and have only made the playoffs twice in five seasons.
So that means the Miami Heat are not good enough to contend for championships, but they also are not bad enough to get a high draft pick. The highest pick Miami has had since LeBron left was the 10th pick in 2015 where they drafted Justise Winslow.
The Heat can try tanking to get high picks, but that strategy is not always effective because the lottery is determined on chance. For example, the New York Knicks had the worst record last year, but only received the third pick, while the New Orleans Pelicans won the lottery’s first overall pick while also winning 16 more games than them. Plus, Miami is missing many of its picks because they have traded away their 2021 first and 2020, 2021, 2023, and 2024 second-round picks. The Heat also now owe Indiana 3 extra second-round picks that they gave away in KZ Okpala trade on draft night. So even if the Heat decide to tank, they would only have one pick almost every upcoming year.
Nobody is expecting the Miami Heat to win a championship anytime soon with their current roster. With the amount of money the team costs though, they should be one of the best teams in the league. In December 2018, Business Insider made a list of the highest paid sports teams in the world. The Miami Heat were in 8th place, ahead of teams such as Juventus (the soccer club with Ronaldo) Paris Saint-Germain (the team with Mbappé and Neymar) and the Portland Trailblazers (who made the Western Conference Finals last year). With the salary these players are earning you would think they would at least make the playoffs.
Luckily for the Heat, the team’s three highest-paid players, Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, and Ryan Anderson, all have contracts that expire after the 2020 season. This leaves Miami with more cap space to sign free agents or give their younger guys such as Adebayo and Richardson the money they want to keep them on the team.
That happens after the 2020 season though. So, Heat fans are going to have to wait for ‘possible’ success. The Heat will likely miss the playoffs for another season and the rookies they drafted will probably get rotation minutes. The Miami Heat are a team that desperately needs some shooting, and they drafted Tyler Herro to help with that problem. The Heat were 21st in 3P% during the regular season last year with no player on the team shooting above 40% past the arc. Herro’s best attribute is his shooting; he hit 35% of his shots in college with the Wildcats. The Heat also traded up to get the 32nd pick KZ Okpala. Okpala is a solid 3 and D forward who can also provide the Heat by spreading the floor. Okpala came at a steep price for Miami though, since the team had to give away three future second-round picks for him.
The last selection Miami made on draft night was selecting Bol Bol at 44. Bol was a player who had a lot of hype and was a top 5 player before the season. Most teams were concerned with the center’s slim frame and previous foot injury that limited him to only nine games at Oregon, so that caused him to fall far down the draft, all the way to the Heat at 44, in the second round. Miami got this pick from Atlanta before the draft for a future second-round pick and cash. Then, Miami decided to trade this pick to the Nuggets for a future second-round pick and cash. To summarize, Miami just traded a pick and cash for a pick and cash. Bol was a high-risk pick, but carries a very high reward considering he is a 7’2” player who shot 52% from past the arc in college. Either Miami did not want to take the risk with the Oregon center, or they just needed another future second-round pick to complete the trade with Indiana.
Heat fans should not be disappointed with the team’s future though. Next season will be a year of development for the Heat. Derrick Jones Jr. is an explosive forward that will likely participate in the dunk contest this session. Josh Richardson is the team’s leading scorer and was a candidate for Most Improved Player last year. Justise Winslow has developed his shooting and had the team’s second highest 3P% last season. Bam Adebayo became the Heat’s starting center late last year and was the only player on the team to play every single game. Miami’s rookies, Tyler Herro and KZ Okpala, along with the Heat’s two-way players from last year—most notably Duncan Robison and Yante Maten—are expected to refine their skill set to prove they are ready to get minutes on the team’s rotation.
The Heat are a team with a lot of young potential, but they are stuck with some bad contracts and not a lot of draft picks. Next year will be a season where the team’s young guys will hopefully get a chance to lead the team, refine their skills, and exceed expectations.
Dwayne Wade and Udonis Haslem will not be there, but it will still be fun to watch the Heat next season. If you are a sports fan in Miami, you know it will still be better than watching the Dolphins and the Marlins. Unless you’re actually a fan of the Marlins; then I’m sorry for you.