Passing The Torch: Why This Is One of The Most Exciting Heat Teams We’ve Seen In A Long Time

Commentary7 years ago6 min readGreg Sylvander

Over the last decade, throughout all of the deep playoff runs and NBA Championships, there has always been one element of what is so much fun about the NBA that’s been relatively missing in Miami.

Now, before I get crushed for sounding like the spoiled brat who didn’t get all of the toys he put on his wish list for Santa, allow me to be clear. I wouldn’t trade the last 10 years of Miami Heat basketball to live in the opposite end of the spectrum – at least at its most extreme. No way.

That’s because the most fun part about the NBA is winning, where the more you win, the easier it is to forget. Forgetting the little things many fan bases point to when sharing what’s most exciting about their favorite team.

The Future.

Let me be specific when I discuss “the future.” It’s a broad term no Heat fan has been losing sleep over as they’ve enjoyed five trips to the NBA Finals and three titles since 2006.

We know the future will be just fine, but that confidence stems from the trust that has been earned by those at the top of the Heat organization. We trust the vision, we trust the plan and we trust the process. Who wouldn’t trust an organization with this track record?

The most fun part about the NBA is winning, where the more you win, the easier it is to forget. Forgetting the little things many fan bases point to when sharing what’s most exciting about their favorite team.

But when I speak to the future, rarely has any of the aforementioned Heat rosters had multiple young players to legitimately get excited about the future. By excitement, I mean players that had the potential to not only be thrilling, but become part of the big picture. Some even capable of being the torchbearers of Heat culture, in word and deed.

Sure, some young players flashed potential. The likes of Dorell Wright, Daequan Cook, Norris Cole, Michael Beasley and even Heat fan favorite Mario Chalmers.

But whether it be due to being part of Heat teams that weren’t very good, to teams in transition years, to a player’s potential not fitting into the long-term vision, none of those players – aside from maybe Chalmers – gave Heat fans a reason to really get excited. Excited in the way I describe that passing of the torch.

Well, those days appear over.

By excitement, I mean players that had the potential to not only be thrilling, but become part of the big picture. Some even capable of being the torchbearers of Heat culture, in word and deed.

Whether it’s Justise Winslow, at 19 years old, blossoming into a truly elite perimeter defender. A player that the organization can trust to already play big minutes and defend top players. Winslow embodies Heat culture more than maybe any other rookie has in the history of the franchise.

Or watching the development of Tyler Johnson. The relentless energy, fearlessness and moxie he brings consistently to every game. Johnson has the makings of a player that in the future, can be the first combo guard off a championship bench.

Oh, and let’s not forget the fact the Heat seemed to trip, stumble and fall into a double-double machine, shot blocking extraordinaire in Hassan Whiteside, who also happens to be only 26 years old.

Rookie guard Josh Richardson, projected by scouts as a defensive specialist and underrated offensive player, has yet to get much of an opportunity to play. He too appears to be a player the Heat have in their long-term plans.

Arguably, not since the 2003-04 Miami Heat have we had any semblance of this.

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Eddie Jones #6, Lamar Odom #7, Dwyane Wade #3, Brian Grant #44 and Caron Butler #4 of the Miami Heat pose for a portrait during NBA Media Day on September 30, 2003 in Miami, Florida.

That was a roster featuring dynamic forward Lamar Odom and a mixture of first-and-second-year rising stars/key contributors Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Caron Butler. The Shaquille O’Neal trade changed the trajectory of that group together, but the potential was there. It was abundantly clear.

Now, in 2016, one of the unique aspects of this wave of young talent being added to the mix is its timing.

It comes in a year where the team has a veteran-laden group of players surrounding those young guys. Something similar to that of the 03-04 team who surrounded the young players with veterans Brian Grant, Eddie Jones and Bimbo Coles.

Winslow embodies Heat culture more than maybe any other rookie has in the history of the franchise.

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Udonis Haslem #40 and Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat pose for a portrait during 2014 Media Day at the America Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.

Only now, the veterans are Heat Lifers, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. Two-time Champion Chris Bosh. Savvy veterans Goran Dragic and Luol Deng. While none of these young players may ever be a Dwyane Wade or a Chris Bosh, the fact they get to spend every day with them bodes well for learning what it takes to be great.

Another difference now is the burden of expectations this year versus back in 2003-04. This team has, at the very least, Eastern Conference Finals aspirations. In 03-04, Heat fans and the team were all just having fun, happy to be on national TV again. Enjoying the emergence of that Dwyane Wade guy.

So all that being considered, the Heat’s track record tells us that this is rare.

Rare to potentially get the opportunity to enjoy watching multiple young players develop, providing a glimpse into the future, while also making a push towards being a contender now.

So cherish it. This doesn’t happen often for us.