The Miami Heat, which collapsed in the third quarter during last night’s game against the Orlando Magic, is an unmitigated disaster. The team is too prideful to tank for better draft lottery ping-pong balls and too star-deficient, overpaid, and unmotivated. This has so far made the 2018-19 Heat is the worst thing you can be in the NBA — stuck in the middle. With more than a quarter of the season in the books, it’s quite obvious this Heat team is going nowhere fast. Mass changes are needed and fast.
The Heat didn’t get to this sunken place overnight, of course. The last ten years of Miami Heat basketball can be summed up aptly by referring to them in two ways: Before LeBron James (BLJ) and After LeBron James (ALJ). Many self-inflicted wounds followed the departure of LeBron from Miami. Some harmful occurrences were unavoidable. Combined, it’s all taken a toll on the franchise.
The Heat have made a lot of moves since LeBron left in free agency in 2014. Many of them have turned out to be bad. Here, in our opinion, are the worst things to happen to the Miami Heat since LeBron left the ‘305’ for Cleveland.
A Broward interior design firm says Bosh and his wife Adrienne refuse to pay them.
Photo by George Martinez
1. Everything Chris Bosh. It feels like a decade since Chris Bosh had to retire due to multiple battles with blood clots. Just as the Heat acquired Goran Dragic — literally within a day or so — Bosh was lost. Losing a future Hall of Fame forward in the prime of his career sucks. Losing a future Hall of Fame forward to blood clots days after trading away two first-round picks for an elite point guard and months after losing LeBron James is next-level terrible.
The Heat would eventually get to use the twenty-plus million dollars a year in cap space they had earmarked for Bosh, but twice the money they were paying him couldn’t replace what he meant to the franchise and what he would have brought to the team following the departure of LeBron.
Photo by Keith Allison
2. Following an 11-30 start in 2016-17 with an improbable 30-11 finish. How can winning 30 of 41 games to finish a season be a bad thing? Impossible, right? Super possible. The Heat has proved this in 2016. The run not only did nothing for that season (the Heat finished 41-41 and missed the playoffs), but it was the Big Bang for what is now the universe the Heat lives in — overpaid veteran players who got big contracts for playing their asses off that one time.
James Johnson and Dion Waiters are the two glaring examples. That season’s finish “earned” them nearly $100 million from the Heat over the next four seasons. In reality, the entire team was a disaster because to this day the Heat is chasing the ghosts of 30-11 past. All of today’s bad contracts can be traced to this 41-game stretch either directly or indirectly. It’s one of the worst things to ever happen to the franchise.
The Heat has paid for that run and will still be paying for it in two years. That season should have been a rebuilding year following the loss of Bosh and LeBron. Instead, it’s become one of the worst things to ever happen to the franchise.
Photo by Wendel20 / Wikimedia Commons
3. Awarding Hassan Whiteside by giving him a max contract. The year after LeBron left for Cleveland the Heat was desperate for bodies. Late in the season, they brought up Hassan Whiteside from their D-League team. Soon after that, it became apparent they’d stumbled upon a seven-foot center who was capable of changing an entire game, something for which teams draft at the top of the lottery. Whiteside was instantly a big-minutes player for the Heat at a ridiculously good salary value.
Good news, right? Wrong. The Heat dated, then married a stripper in Hassan Whiteside. They’ve showered him with max-contract $100 million dollar gifts. The Heat paid top dollar for a ’90’s era center in 2018 because it was assumed by many he would be an instant trade chip. Dwyane Wade left in free agency in 2016 in large part because the Heat wanted him to wait out Whiteside’s payments to see what was left for him.
All Whiteside has been since the Heat rewarded him with a max-contract is a massive anchor on their salary cap. He is playing they more-times-than-not decide can best help them at the end of games by staying on the bench. (Witness last night’s loss to Orlando.) All this, of course, comes with the constant headache of having to babysit Whiteside in hopes he doesn’t bad mouth the coaching staff after a game in which he didn’t play enough for his liking. The Heat would have been better off if they never met Hassan Whiteside. Or, if they met him in 1996 instead.
Photo by George Martinez
4. Matching Tyler Johnson’s contract with the Nets in 2016. Four years and $50 million: That’s what the Miami Heat gave Tyler Johnson to stay in Miami in the summer of 2016. It was a panicky bad deal then, and it’s a catastrophically horrendous deal now. The Heat is paying Johnson star money this season. They’re paying him roughly what Kyrie Irving makes in Boston. And they’ll do it all over again next season.
None of this should have ever happened. Tyler Johnson has always been what he is again this season — a 20-some-minute-a-game player off the bench who will once-in-a-blue-moon score 20 points. He’s a forgettable player the Heat wouldn’t miss if he were traded and doesn’t miss when he’s hurt. And it all happened because the Heat panicked after Dwyane Wade left in free agency.
Pat Riley and the Heat will eat it one more season. Then they’ll have $20 million to spend again, this time on an actual difference maker.
Photo by George Martinez
5. Pat Riley has proven he’s unwilling to take one step back to take three forward. Throughout his time in Miami, Pat Riley has had a reputation for not being a big fan of young players. While there are certainly some huge exceptions to this (see: Dwyane Wade), overall it’s pretty clear the 73-year-old Heat show-runner doesn’t enjoy watching the grass grow. This thinking was fine when he was able to score trades for Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, and Shaq, or able to convince players like LeBron James to come to Miami in free agency. Since LeBron left Miami? Not so much. His drive to always win and win now has hurt the franchise more than it has helped.
It’s uncomfortable to talk about Riley hurting the franchise since LeBron left. And he’s earned the right to burn it all down five times over. The problem is that after LeBron left Miami, all Riley has done is burn it down. He’s burned up the salary cap for the hell of it. He’s traded away draft picks to be average. He’s pretty much done all he can to save face. All it’s got the Heat are Miami Dolphins-like .500 seasons and it’s fans nothing to be excited about.
Riley has earned the right to torpedo this franchise. Whether people like to talk about it or not, he’s done exactly that since LeBron left. Anyone else would be fired after this season.