clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The results of Pat Riley's unorthodox experiments with reclamation projects

New, comments

Pat Riley has redeemed multiple players over the course of his career, and this season is no different. We take a look at the success of Riley's "redemption" stories from this season.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This current iteration of the Miami Heat is not your typical NBA team.

Since July's departure of LeBron James, Heat president Pat Riley and the Heat organization have scrambled to create a competitive basketball team, and while injuries have limited Miami's success they've been ultimately successful in creating something interesting, albeit it being an ongoing process. A lot of this comes from RIley's willingness to sign veteran talent over unproven rookies, even if those veterans are considered "washed-up".

With that, it's interesting to see where Miami has succeeded and failed with their so-called "redemption experiments" this season.

Shannon Brown

Where were they?

Shannon Brown's case is perplexing. I was initially happy with his signing, but his lack of success is puzzling. Brown came into Miami following two forgettable stints in 2013-2014 in both San Antonio and New York. Prior to the 29 games played in 2013-2014, Brown was one of the main personalities on the Phoenix Suns where he had two solid seasons averaging about 10.5 points per game.

What happened in Miami?

Brown's role in Miami was clear from the start. He was to be Wade's backup if Dwyane needed rest or befell injury. Well, Wade did encounter the injury bug in November where he hurt his hamstring, and Brown didn't end up panning out. In the five games he played for the Heat he averaged four points, in 17 minutes per game. Perhaps his poor play was a result of low minutes, however every time he did play he looked lost in the system. Whatever the case, him being waived by the Heat opened up the roster spot that became Hassan Whiteside, so in the long run, I think things worked out. Still, I wish we could have seen a few posters with Brown in black and red.

Grade: C

Shannon Brown didn't really have any impact on the Heat during his brief time with the organization. With that said his departure did open up the spot for Whiteside so with that considered he earns a passing grade.

Danny Granger

Where were they?

Danny Granger depresses me. Mostly because I remember when he was having his breakout season, and being compared to both Kobe Bryant and LeBron.

Following the 2008-2009 season Granger befell a series of injuries, the most major being patellar tendinosis that would keep him out of all but 5 games in the 2012-2013 season. Over this time Paul George would become the "man" in Indiana, so despite the standing ovation he received from the Bankers Life Fieldhouse when he finally returned in December 2013, he was on his way out of Indiana.

I was extremely surprised with Indiana shipped him out to Philly, mostly because he was thriving in his role on the team and finally regaining his rhythm. Of course, Granger wouldn't play a game in Philadelphia and instead signed with the Los Angeles Clippers where he would encounter trouble with his hamstring, and play in only a handful of games before their playoff exit. Regardless, in the games he did play he played well enough to showcase that he was still capable at playing at a high level.

What happened in Miami?

I'm was initially surprised the Heat signed Granger during the offseason, especially after choosing not to pursue him when he was available post-Indiana. At the time, there seemed to be some lingering animosity after the way things were handled during the 2012 playoffs and it seemed counter-intuitive to a team trying to keep LeBron James.

After all he was quite vocal about Granger last season according to the Miami Herald:

Heat players would clearly prefer Butler; he and Dwyane Wade are close from their days as Heat teammates, and Granger irritated the Heat’s stars by getting in their faces after fouls in the 2012 playoffs. At the time, LeBron James called Granger’s conduct "stupid."

Granger encountered some challenges with the Heat. Firstly, he was injured when he got to the Miami, and didn't end up in the rotation for a while. However, when he did breach the rotation he was in a strange predicament. The season had already started, and Miami seemed to have a good thing going, this led to him starting some games and finding himself glued to the bench in others.

Granger did have a few good moments in Miami. On Christmas he delivered in the clutch and that led to a string of games where he appeared to regain his confidence. This led to him finding himself as a solid member of Miami's rotation and a series of speculative fantasy adds.

Unfortunately, Granger was unable to maintain his success and though he played solid defense was mostly ineffective down the stretch.

Grade: B

I like Danny Granger, and I know if LeBron was still with the Heat he would be a great asset in the rotation. He plays solid defense, and when his shot is falling he's an extreme threat. Granger seemed to be affected mentally more than anything this season, when shots didn't fall early he grew frustrated, and he also struggled with his jump shot lift (a result of injury). I hope Danny finds success in the future, be it with Phoenix or another team.

Shawne Williams

Where were they?

Shawne Williams is the definition of a journeyman at this point in his basketball career. He's played for nine different NBA clubs and one international team. Prior to joining the Heat, Williams was part of the depleted Los Angeles Lakers team who were known for signing anybody to replace their injured players. Given this situation, WIlliams found himself bounced between the Lakers and the D-League and once the season came to a close. Williams kept moving forward, and worked extremely hard in the D-League, and many believe that's what saved his career. SB Nation's Tim Casey does an eloquent job walking us through his journey. Despite his woes, Riley elected to sign Williams and at the beginning of the season he was a much needed presence.

What happened in Miami?

Josh McRoberts' injury woes made Williams a starter, and he actually performed quite well as a member of the starting line-up - at least for a little while. In November, Williams was averaging 10.5 points, 5.1 rebounds all while shooting 50% from beyond the arc. Obviously injuries led to his inflated minutes (28.8) and the return of those players impacted them again in reverse, but theres no denying how effective Williams was early.

Ultimately, Williams found himself out of the rotation in the new year, and that led to him becoming expendable. Since the trade, one can find Williams head-butting other players, and starting unnecessary beef.

Grade: B

Williams last days in Miami may have not been pretty, but there's no denying his effectiveness earlier in the season. Hopefully he finds success down the line.

Hassan Whiteside

Where were they?

Before Whiteside landed in Miami he was largely known as a bust whose attitude and immaturity would be the end of his NBA career. Though he had immense physical gifts, him being "put on blast" by his teammates had more views than any tape of his highlights.

Obviously at this point in the season, Whiteside's journey is relatively well known, but for those who don't know, his path has been relatively simple if not a real-life version of NBA 2K15's career mode. Hassan was passed up by the majority of NBA teams and even spent time playing internationally. Despite other teams' reluctance to sign him, Miami remained interested. Unfortunately, they were too late when Memphis elected to sign him earlier in the year. Luckily for Miami they assigned him to the D-League where the Heat grabbed him immediately. If you request a more in depth look at his story I recommend Kirk Goldsberry's article on Grantland.

What happened in Miami?

Hassan has been nothing short of fantastic for Miami. Since becoming a main part of the rotation, Hassan has broken franchise records, and can put of 15, 10 and 10 effortlessly.

He's become a fan favorite as well, especially after his NBA 2K comments following a great game against Chicago. Recently, Hassan has displayed something of a short fuse, getting in scuffles with big men, Alex Len and Kelly Olynik. Obviously after the Larry Sanders debacle this becomes a worry, however Whiteside is in the best position to succeed as he's surrounded by great mentors in the Heat organization.

Grade: A+

This has been the NBA's greatest redemption story (this season) and could very well be Riley's greatest work. If Whiteside continues to play at a high level, he will have legitimate All-Star potential. I can't wait to see what the future holds for him.

Bill Henry Walker

Where were they?

Before his days with the Heat, the former Bill Walker was known best for his short fuse as well as success with the New York Knicks. His journey is chronicled well by fellow SB Nation scribe Keith Schlosser, however his path is quite unique. After being waived by the Knicks, Walker found himself in the D-League where his personal issues caused his actual ability to take a back seat. With that being said after a stint internationally with the Alaska Aces, Walker returned to the Sioux Falls Skyforce with a renewed attitude -- a possible consequence of Phil Weber (Walker's assistant coach in NY) joining the coaching staff. Whatever the case, he performed well enough in the D-League to warrant a call-up to the Heat.

What happened in Miami?

Walker has been decent for the Heat, earning himself a guaranteed contact for the remainder of the season. Though I only have a small sample size to work with there are notable things about Walker that I'm sure encouraged Miami to keep him on the team. Walker is tireless, he's constantly moving at his fastest and while this works sometimes, it also causes him to lose control. Additionally, Walker isn't scared to shoot, and that's as bad as it is good. Walker misses a lot of shots, but tends to hit big shots even when he appears cold.

Grade: C

Walker is as much a liability as he is a threat. Although Walker is an extremely hard worker and fits Miami's system in that regard, his shoot first mentality and high volume of shots are a huge issue. I'm glad he's found a place on the Heat this season, but I don't see him sticking around when Bosh returns next year.

Michael Beasley

Where were they?

Miami obviously has a soft spot for their former #2 overall draft pick. After letting him go during the offseason, Beasley went on to play in China (where he was elected All-Star game MVP).

However, before his adventures in the CBA, Beasley had been a solid contributor for the Heat prior to the LeBron era. When James arrived Beasley was shipped off where he would spend time in both Minnesota and Phoenix (who were still paying him as late as last season). Last season, the Heat signed him for the veteran's minimum and he found himself in and out of the rotation. Miami's initial problems with Beasley were that of his juvenile demeanor and terrible attitude. It's sad to see someone who was once considered a "sure thing" struggle to find a place in the league.

What happened in Miami?

Since rejoining the Heat, all of these issues that hindered Beasley in the past have seemed to vanish. Beasley explains a lot of his newfound maturity is a consequence of his time alone in China, where he came to grips with his situation as basketball player and a father. In an interview with the Herald he revealed:

"I'm still the same guy, but it's desperation for me," Beasley said. "This is my last chance, my last shot. It's either play or sit down and I'm not ready to play at `The Y', not ready for open gyms. I'm playing to eat right now, and I got kids. It adds that much more."

Whatever the case he's been very productive as a member of the Heat displaying flashes of greatness and earning his contract for the rest of the season.

Grade: A

I too have a soft spot for Beasley, and really do feel as if his presence is helping Miami's playoff push. He knows the system well, and knows when to shoulder the load.

There's no denying his talent and I really do hope he reaches his full potential one day in a Heat uniform.