5-on-5: #TankSZN, Trade Rumors, HEAT Better Than Their Record?
We’ve reached the midway point of the season. Our expert staff at Miami Heat Beat is here to tell you how to think! Exciting right? We’re borrowing on ESPN’s 5-on-5 idea where we take five of our staff writers (against their will)—sometimes a special guest columnist—asking them all the same questions to hear their differentiating opinions (hot takes) on what’s going on with the HEAT. So without further ado, let’s get started.
1. Steve Kerr said the HEAT are better than their record … are they?
Amber Wilson: Who am I to argue with Steve Kerr? However, it’s hard to argue a team is better than its record unless the team has lost in fluke fashion numerous times, and the HEAT are not in that situation. (Sorry Kerr, I just know more about basketball than you, that’s all). The HEAT has played most of its games tough and close, and the fight that these guys play with may surprise opposing teams who focus on the number of losses. Also, the HEAT’s record has been greatly affected by injuries. It’s easy to argue that without the injuries, the HEAT’s record would be better. However, this team isn’t coughing up losses on purpose (ahem, yet) and has, unfortunately, earned them.
Christian Hernandez: The HEAT currently have the second-worst record in the NBA (11-29) but only have the seventh-worst point differential (-4.4). When you take into account the number of injuries the team has faced to key players—coupled with the fact that the team is eighth in opponent points per game—it’s pretty easy to state that the HEAT are better than their record shows.
Brian Goins: The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals after winning 73 wins. How come they weren’t better than their record?
Nekias Duncan: Sure, they are. Injuries hit everyone, so you can’t use that as an end-all, be-all excuse. But literally, every player on Miami’s roster has missed at least one game. The lineup we’ve all wanted to see—Goran Dragic, Tyler “Eat it, Gianni” Johnson, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside—played roughly 17 seconds together this year. There has been absolutely no continuity. Combining that with the overall lack of shot creation, and this is what you get. At full strength, maybe Miami is “only” three or four games under .500 at this point.
Alf: I have no idea because I don’t know what team is going to take the floor from night to night. Sure, they play hard, but does that make them any good? I’m sure if you put me out there, I’d try super hard but I’d still be a six feet tall, out of shape dude with glasses who couldn’t cross halfcourt without wheezing. Now, the team that was SUPPOSED to take the floor this year is much better than this record. But that team, like a McBob 3-pointer, feels like a distant memory. What we have now are significant Luke Babbitt minutes, trade talk and draft analysis.
2. Are the HEAT better off pursuing a whale or draft picks through trade?
Amber: Riley is a whale kind of guy and likes to win sooner rather than later, but I’m not sure the NBA landscape is ripe for landing a whale that changes this franchise at the moment. The HEAT has announced every player is on the table (though, there are conflicting reports about whether that includes Hassan Whiteside), and Riley has said he wants to trade for more picks at some point this season.
Thus, you will see the HEAT focus on the draft. (I said “thus.” I’m smart. You should listen to me.) This may require more patience than HEAT fans are accustomed to, but I’m not sure Miami has much of a choice at the moment, frankly.
Christian: Given how the new CBA has radically changed the atmosphere of free agency, the HEAT should focus on getting the best possible collections of picks/young talent. The front office has shown the capability of scouting young talent, and I think it’s time Riley focused on that approach instead of swinging for whales.
Brian: I’m all in on the Markelle Fultz (Martelle Flutz?) hype train. But as Riley told David Aldridge of NBA.com, he has “intentions, if it’s possible, to try and get another pick.” We’re less than 41 days away from the NBA Trade Deadline (Feb. 23). I would expect to hear a lot more trade noise once we get closer to the All-Star Break as teams begin deciding whether they should invest their first-rounders into making a playoff push or win-now mandates are demanded from ownership.
I would imagine everyone on this HEAT team is available for the right price. And as of the latest report coming out today from Zack Lowe of ESPN, the Orlando Magic have expressed interest in acquiring Goran Dragic. The HEAT asking price is said to be “too high to encourage any serious trade discussions,” according to Marc Stein of ESPN. Whether that means Riley is trying to recoup two first-round picks and break even from the Phoneix Suns trade in 2015 is unknown.
However, the Magic currently do hold the ninth-worst record in the league, thus a lottery pick in a deep draft class could be enough to sway the Slovenian point guard off Miami’s back. Plus, he wouldn’t be too far away from his newly acquired home in Bay Point. I would keep an eye out on Orlando’s situation. Oh, and Harry Giles of Duke University would be my draft choice if the HEAT were able to net another top-ten pick.
Nekias: With the new CBA, it makes more sense to try to strike gold in the draft, especially this year. Related: It’s time to stop coming up with NBA Trade Machine deals involving Hassan Whiteside. Him plus pieces probably isn’t enough to pry DeMarcus Cousins out of Sacramento. If it was, they’d surely get outbid by the Denver Nuggets or the Boston Celtics. Flipping Whiteside for a pick—think the Brooklyn Nets first rounder from Boston or Dallas’s first on draft night—sounds good in theory, until you realize there isn’t an elite big man prospect in this draft, nor is there a game-changer in free agency.
Alf: It all depends on how the trade market bares out, but if I had my druthers … I want a whale. Call me old-fashioned, but I like proven commodities. You’re not gonna get me excited with YouTube highlights of an 18-year-old dunking over future accountants in a gym that seats 9,000. Give me a guy who’s proven that he can consistently produce over the course of 82 games, hopefully, some playoff experience and who’s really tired of losing. I want Anthony Davis, Boogie Cousins, Blake Griffin, John Wall, etc … I want real excitement and real results. Give me a crazy Riley deadline deal where he packages McBob, Ellington and McGruder for Jimmy Butler. I don’t want to wait three years to find out the next Beasley is … well … the next Beasley.
3. Who would be a realistic option for the HEAT with their cap space this summer?
Amber: A realistic option? That’s a good question. (Pauses. Focuses on the word “realistic.” Moves on.)
Christian: Obviously, the situation around Chris Bosh is still relatively fluid and will impact how Miami goes about spending money in the next few years. If they’re going to spend big, it needs to be only players that fit this new core’s window. Throwing money at a restricted free agent like Otto Porter may be attractive, but if we’re talking realistic, the HEAT’s top priority should be retaining James Johnson as the new (and very much improved) Udonis Haslem.
Brian: Based off the algorithms of NBA 2K17’s MyGM mode, this is how the HEAT’s 2017 offseason will likely transpire:
• Re-sign: James Johnson, Udonis Haslem and Willie Reed.
• Acquire: Andre Iguodala, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jarnell Stokes, Briante Weber and Boris Diaw.
Nekias: I like Danilo Gallinari if it’s two-three years at less-than-max money.
Alf: The market is terrible, and the new CBA isn’t doing the HEAT any favors. Players are going to be real hesitant to leave their teams with the kind of money that will be on the table. And unless the HEAT makes a move for an established star or hits the jackpot in the draft, they aren’t the most attractive franchise in the league right now. I could see them make a play for a guy like Gordon Hayward, because unless you’re Karl Malone, who the hell wants to stay in Utah?
4. What were you MOST wrong about so far this season?
Amber: I was most wrong about the development of Justise Winslow this season. I was excited to see what the HEAT could get out of him, and although he’s young and I’m not done with him by any means, watching his shot this season was cringe-worthy far too often. Couple that with the disappointing sudden end to his season, and my excitement was a tad amiss.
Christian: Well I had the HEAT as an above .500 playoff team, so where do I start? There is no way to predict the number of injuries this team has incurred. Not having any consistent rotations will always cause continuity problems, especially with a young team. I somewhat predicted JRich’s regression, but definitely, my biggest mistake was expecting Justise to take a major leap. Between his play and his injuries, very little surfaced in the way of team altering play
Brian: I’ll just answer for Giancarlo Navas: “Tyler Johnson.”
Nekias: I thought Miami could be a top-12ish offense and top-ten defense. The latter was true until the injuries REALLY piled up, but it’s fair to say I overestimated Dragic’s ability to carry an offense. He’s been very good, but he just hasn’t been bend-the-entire-defense good, and that’s what Miami needed to overcome their other issues offensively.
Alf: Well, I predicted the HEAT would win 48 games. That would be the easy one. But beyond that, I predicted that Derrick Williams would be awesome and James Johnson would be a disappointment. I mean … that’s worse than my prediction that Greg Oden would turn the 2014 HEAT into a juggernaut. Williams has been a downright disaster. He was also once the 2nd overall pick in an NBA Draft. So, be careful what you wish for.
5.What’s the best case scenario for the second half of the season?
Amber: Best case scenario: lose, and lose often, which is going splendidly thus far. Don’t try to lose, but lose. Fight. Fight like hell. Get better individually, but fail as a team. That way you have a few good pieces with more experience, and the type of record that allows you to draft a once-in-a-decade type talent. (This is my plan. If Riley wants to give me a call for some pointers, I’d be happy to share.)
Christian: EMBRACE. THE. TANK. There are some serious generational talents available at guard in the upcoming draft and the HEAT are already well positioned for a top-three pick. Mysterious injuries, unexpected personal issues, maybe even a trade of veteran presence? It doesn’t matter to me, just fail forward. Miami needs a game-breaking talent to build around and I do not believe Whiteside is capable of being the best player on a contender.
Brian: Riley pulls the greatest trick and trades for DeMarcus Cousins either on the NBA Trading Deadline or on draft night, as well as another top-ten lottery pick without giving up Justise Winslow. The HEAT goes on to win the NBA Draft lottery and secure the rights to the No. 1 overall pick. Miami selects Markelle Fultz and Harry Giles. Bill Simmons goes on a loathing rant via Twitter. #HeatTwitter rejoices.
Nekias: The best case is a full bill of health for Johnson, Richardson, Whiteside, Dragic, and McGruder while the losses pile up. That way, the youngins can get valuable reps, while Dragic (and to a lesser extent, Whiteside for reasons stated in answer #2) can build trade value.
Alf: I would like to see Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson further establish themselves as bona fide building blocks for the future. TJ has already come a long way, but J-Rich still has a lot to prove. If you can trade Dragic or Whiteside for either another high draft pick or a superstar, along with an established young core, the HEAT now becomes an attractive option. Also, if Riley can somehow get another team to pick up Josh McRoberts and his shattered foot, this season will ultimately be a rousing success.
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