Everyone remembers the perplexing story of the 2016-17 Miami Heat, as the team sputtered to an 11-30 start to the season, failing to adjust to the losses of franchise legends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh before going on a miraculous 30-11 run to end the season led by the heroics of Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside.
Pat Riley and Miami’s front office must’ve felt confident in that group, bringing back gritty veteran forward James Johnson, (four years, $60 million) up-and-coming wing Josh Richardson (four years, $42 million) and feel-good story Dion Waiters, (four years, $52 million) who exploded as one of Miami’s top players after he was signed with the team’s room exception after failing to secure a large contract in the 2016 offseason. In fact, the only notable players the Heat brought in prior to the start of the 2017-’18 season were Kelly Olynyk, who was signed away from the Boston Celtics on a four year, $50 million deal, and Bam Adebayo, who the team selected 13th in the 2017 NBA Draft.
The inconsistencies of the Miami Heat showed throughout the season, as the team followed up three straight above .500 months in November, December and January (finishing 8-7, 9-6, and 10-5, respectively) with a dud of a February (3-7) before finishing strong in March and April (12-9) and eventually clinching the Southeast Division with a win over the Toronto Raptors in their last game of the season.
However, these inconsistencies were not without justification, as the aforementioned Dion Waiters underwent season-ending ankle surgery in late January, losing out on key guard depth during their postseason run. Along with this, starting center Hassan Whiteside has had effort, energy and stamina issues throughout the season, bringing him from one of the greatest stories and brightest young centers in the league to an overall liability. However, amid the inconsistencies of this Heat team came a surprising move at the trade deadline – as the team traded for the franchise’s greatest player, Dwyane Wade, in a deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, bringing back the future Hall-of-Famer for what could’ve quite possibly been his last season in the NBA. Wade proved to be a key cog off Miami’s bench, showing he still had enough in the tank for one last playoff run.
Even with a division title to their name, the Heat only managed to secure the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, setting themselves up for a playoff series against the youthful Philadelphia 76ers. While the 4-1 series defeat doesn’t justify how competitive, the Miami Heat stayed for the majority of the series. The otherworldy playmaking and slashing skills of rookie sensation Ben Simmons and the polished inside-outside skillset of Joel Embiid proved to be too much for the Miami Heat, who boast a good-not-great player at nearly every spot in their rotation.
In the end, the Miami Heat were able to bounce back from an expected lottery appearance in the 2016-’17 season, but the question remains – how far can this current Heat roster go? The team doesn’t lack young talent, with Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow – who had an underrated season for the Heat. However, with massive contracts handed out to mid-tier veterans resulting in just a first round exit, it’s hard not to view these transactions as ill-advised when the ceiling of this roster looks to be a bottom-half playoff team for the next few seasons. Miami has one of the great coaches in the league with Erik Spoelstra – who obviously knows how to win – but as a coach who’s had plenty of superstar talent throughout his tenure, how much can he get out of this current roster that Pat Riley and company have put together.
The franchise also has to decide if Hassan Whiteside will be a part of the team’s future plans, as the big man was nearly unplayable in the team’s five-game playoff series. Whiteside hasn’t been shy about showing his displeasure with his minutes, most recently after the Heat were eliminated from the playoffs by Philadelphia. Whiteside is due over $50 million over the next two seasons, and after a down year, it will be harder than ever to move him, if that’s what the team decides to do. Lastly, the team must discuss the future of Dwyane Wade, and whether he plans on returning to the team or hangin’ em up after a legendary career in which he played 13 1/2 seasons for the Heat. Big decisions are on the horizon in South Beach, and this offseason could determine whether the Miami Heat stay a mediocre team, or if they take a major step back to contention – even if that means a rebuild.