The Miami Heat's already uneven season is in for some more turbulence. Josh McRoberts, the versatile power forward who was supposed to emerge as the starting power forward for this team, will need surgery and may miss the rest of the season.
Josh McRoberts (right lateral meniscus tear) will be out indefinitely, possibly season ending.— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) December 15, 2014
Additionally, Chris Bosh will not travel with the Heat to Brooklyn to face the Nets tomorrow evening. ESPN's Michael Wallace said that the Heat's leading scorer and rebounder did nothing more than shoot free throws in Miami's practice Monday. Dwyane Wade will travel with the team for tomorrow's game, but may not play as he continues to battle an illness. And with Bosh out and Wade limited Sunday night against the Chicago Bulls, Miami only mustered 75 points.
Some Heat fans are calling for the team to tank the rest of the season. The Heat traded away its 2015 first-round pick in the 2010 LeBron James trade. It is top-10 protected, meaning that Miami will keep the pick if it falls within one of the top 10 picks in the 2015 NBA Draft. If the Heat manage to fall that far, Miami will have an intriguing young prospect in addition to loads of cap space to offer 2016 free agents, these people argue. After all, LeBron James returned to the Cavaliers after he saw the team collect Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson in his absence.
My suggestion? Don't tank. Don't panic.
In life and in basketball, it's never as bad as it seems and it's never as good as it seems. Yes, the Heat had high hopes for McRoberts. In what may be his final game of the season, McRoberts had 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, four rebounds and seven assists in 33 minutes against the Phoenix Suns -- exactly what the Heat envisioned. His passing added a nice wrinkle to a Heat offense that looked abysmal against the Bulls Sunday night. But McRoberts was never an established player this season, even during Miami's promising start. It's not as if Miami just lost an integral contributor.
In the short-term, the Heat can waive a player (probably Andre Dawkins) and apply for an injured-player exception for half of McRobert's salary, or about $2.65 million. This exception could give Miami an advantage over other teams seeking a big man that only have the veteran's minimum of about $1 million to offer. And with Miami's paper-thin frontline -- McRoberts, Bosh and even Justin Hamilton are all injured -- the Heat need more than Udonis Haslem, Shawne Williams and Hassan Whiteside.
Heat in position to apply for $2.65 million injured-player exception for McRoberts should he be out for season.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) December 15, 2014
Miami should compete in games for now and wait for Bosh to get healthy. As of Monday evening, only five teams in the East stood above .500. Five. It will be hard for the Heat to fall all the way to a top-10 pick after so many teams have had that objective since the start of the season. Moreover, only top-5 draft picks end up materializing into players that could impress star free agents. That would require even more futility.
For the last month, the Heat have been a bad NBA team. Miami has had far too many blowout losses to avoid questions about structural flaws with this team. Depending on the length of Bosh's absence, it may not get better for a while. But in the East, it's not hard to tread water. In the end, shifting course from attempting to garner a playoff seed to tanking would not yield the results its proponents seek.