Miami won the Atlantic Division in their 10th season, going 55-27 to lock down the Eastern Conference second seed in the playoffs. Despite the home court advantage and a demonstrably better roster, they dropped a best-of-five series in the opening round of the postseason to the New York Knicks.
10 Tim Hardaway 1329.3
Hardaway earned his second First Star in a row, and his third overall in his third season with the Heat in 1997-98. He tied for second on the team with 81 regular season appearances, and led the club with 3,031 minutes played. He made 558-of-1296 field goals (.431) and 155-of-442 three-pointers (.351), ranking fifth in makes and second in attempts. He also made 257-of-329 free throws (.781). He led the team with an NBA-sixth 672 assists and with 136 steals, ranking fourth with 299 rebounds (48 offensive) and adding 16 blocked shots.
The 31-year-old Hardaway led Miami with 37.4 minutes per game, putting up averages of 8.3 helpers, 3.7 boards, and 1.7 steals, playing his way to a second-team All-NBA selection, his fourth selection overall. He placed sixth on the MVP Award vote, and played in his fifth all-star game. His 5.1 plus/minus average placed him third in the NBA, and he was sixth with 7.9 offensive win shares.
Hardaway totaled 35 double-doubles for the season, scoring 20 or more points 40 times. On November 19th, in a 122-113 win over the woeful Los Angeles Clippers, he scored 33 points on 13-of-20 shooting, with 11 assists and three steals. On December 12th, he scored 28 points with 10 helpers and five steals in a 104-89 victory against the Indiana Pacers. On December 20th, he scored 18 points with 13 assists and six rebounds in a 99-92 win over the Atlanta Hawks, picking the Hawks' pockets an incredible eight times.
Hardaway averaged 44.4 minutes per game against the Knicks in the playoffs, totaling 130 points to lead everyone on either team. He dished out 33 assists, but couldn't will the Heat past the surprising New York squad. It would turn out the Knicks that season were not quite a "team of destiny," as they lost in the next round to the Indiana Pacers in five games of a best-of-seven. But, you know, Starks vs. Miller blah blah blah. Go Heat.
33 Alonzo Mourning 909.1
Mourning was another player in his third season with the Heat, and like Hardaway, made the Five Stars for the third time. Injuries held him back from competing with Hardaway for top overall honors - he only appeared in 58 games, starting 56 times at center. Still, his per-game contributions were comparable to Hardaway's. He averaged 33.4 minutes per game, leading the team with 19.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and an NBA-ninth 2.2 blocks.
Mourning shot an NBA-third .551 from the field, making 403-of-732 shots. His free throw shooting was improved from seasons past, and would see him make nearly two out of every three attempts (.665), sinking 309-of-465 overall. He placed second overall in total rebounds, grabbing 558 (193 offensive), while still managing to lead the team in blocks, with 130. He also had 52 assists and 40 steals to go with his 1,115 points in 1,939 minutes.
Mourning had 24 double-doubles for the season, ranking sixth in the NBA with a 22.4 Player Efficiency Rating. He scored 20 or more points 31 times, and blocked three or more shots on 23 occasions. On February 13th, in a 100-86 win against the Detroit Pistons, he scored a season-high 39 points on 13-of-18 shooting, with 15 rebounds and seven rejections in 37 minutes. On March 20th, he scored 25 points with 13 rebounds and five blocked shots in a 93-87 win against the Golden State Warriors. A week later, in a 102-77 win against the Milwaukee Bucks, he helped Miami to their 50th win of the season by scoring 34 points on 13-of-18 shooting with 11 rebounds.
Mourning played in four-of-five games against the Knicks in the playoffs, scoring 77 points with 34 rebounds and 10 blocks in 138 minutes. Of course, the Knicks won, but went on to lose to the Pacers, four-games-to-one in the next round. And Charlie Ward Heisman Trophy vs. Mark Jackson juggernaut point guards blah blah blah. Go Heat.
21 Voshon Lenard 714.8
Lenard made the Five Stars for the second year in a row in his third season with the Heat, with his highest placing to date after earning the Fourth Star in 1996-97. He was sixth in the NBA in three-pointers made (153) while placing ninth with 378 attempts for a team-best .405 shooting percentage. Lenard was second on the team with 2,621 minutes played, and made 363-of-854 shots overall (.425) while sinking 141-of-179 free throws (.788).
Lenard tied with Hardaway for second on the team with 81 appearances through the regular season, starting every time at shooting guard. He was fifth on the team with 292 rebounds (72 offensive), third with 180 assists, and fifth with 58 steals. His 12.6 points per game was good for fifth on the club as well.
On January 21st, Lenard scored 26 points with three assists in a 92-87 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. Lenard scored 20 or more points 11 times, but only once managed to turn a double-double, on February 10th in a 91-81 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, when he had 15 points and 10 rebounds. His highest GameScore of the season, 25.6, was earned on February 17th in a 110-84 triumph against the Minnesota Timberwolves, when he shot 10-of-13 from the field, including four-of-five from outside to total 26 points and four rebounds in 36 minutes.
Lenard played all five games against the Knicks in the playoffs, ranking third to Hardaway and PJ Brown with 37.2 minutes average on the floor. His 14.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals per effort didn't impact the overall success of the Heat enough to effect a series win, but at least Patrick Ewing and Company didn't get much further, not sure if you heard. They ran into juggernaut 7'4" praying-mantisesque shot-blocker Rik Smits and the rest of the Indiana Pacers. Go Heat.
Lenard played two more seasons for the Heat, but never again impacted the team's larger goals in a way that would rank him in the top five for either season. He later went on to play for the Denver Nuggets (151 games), the Toronto Raptors (63 games), the Nuggets again (76 games) and the Portland Trail Blazers (14 games) before retiring after the 2005-06 campaign.
42 PJ Brown 713.8
Downtown PJ Brown appeared in his second Five Stars in 1997-98 with Miami, playing in and starting 74 games for the Heat at power forward. He was third on the team with 2,362 minutes on the floor, and made 278-of-590 shots (.471) from the field. He sunk 151-of-197 from the stripe (.766) and led Miami with 200 offensive and 635 total rebounds. His 98 blocks were second on the team, and he also pitched in with 103 assists and a club-fourth 66 steals. I know I called him "downtown" earlier in this paragraph, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Brown totaled exactly zero three-point shot attempts through the season, and went 8-for-47 over his career prior to the then-current season. As a footnote, he would make 0-of-12 through the rest of his playing career over the next 10 seasons. So, yeah. Called him "downtown," didn't really mean it, let's move on....
Brown made the all-NBA defensive second team in the season prior to and the season after 1997-98. That's not to say that he wasn't an efficient defensive player in that season. Also, for the first time in his career, he rated out as NBA "average," with a 15.0 Player Efficiency Rating. (15.0 is the standard rating for smack dab in the middle). Brown averaged 9.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 blocks while playing in 31.9 minutes per game.
Brown had 21 double-doubles for Miami that year, with five games of 15 or more rebounds. On November 8th, he scored 19 points and collected seven rebounds from each side of the floor, along with three blocks in a victory against the Washington
Bullets Wizards, 114-106. On February 22nd, he scored 20 points for the Heat with 14 rebounds (seven offensive), four assists and two steals for a season-high 22.8 GameScore in a 90-82 win over Golden State. On March 1st, he made eight-of-11 from the field for 20 points in 35 minutes, with 11 rebounds and three assists in an 85-84 win over the (still) New Jersey Nets.
Brown averaged nine points and nine rebounds in the five-game series loss to the Knicks, playing 38.0 minutes per game. But, Grandmama and the rest of the Knicks withered and died on the vine in their next series, four-games-to-one against the unstoppable Indiana Pacers. Go Heat.
24 Jamal Mashburn 487.4
Mashburn, a 6'8", 240 lb. small forward from New York, New York, was born on November 29th, 1972. After attending Cardinal Hayes in the Bronx for his high school ball, he played three seasons of college ball with the Kentucky Wildcats. After earning All-American honors in his Junior season, he declared for the draft and was selected in the first round by the Dallas Mavericks, with the fourth overall pick of the 1993 NBA Entry Draft.
Mashburn played three and a half seasons with the Mavs, and averaged 19.9 points in 214 contests, but somehow never made the all-star team. On Valentine's Day, 1997, the Mavs traded him to Miami for Sasha Danilovic, Martin Muursepp, and Kurt Thomas. He scored 13.4 points per game for the Heat after the trade, with 5.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game, with 32 appearances.
1997-98 would see "Monster Mash" miss a large portion of the season with injuries which limited him to just 48 games, all starts at small forward. He made 251-of-577 shots from the field (.435) and 37-of-122 from outside (.303) while sinking 184-of-231 (.797) from the foul line. He ranked third on the Heat with 15.2 points per game, adding a team-fourth 4.9 rerbounds along with a team-second 2.8 assists per game.
Mashburn totaled 723 points over his 48 games, which placed him fourth on Miami's cumulative scoring leaderboard. He had 236 rebounds, 132 assists, 43 steals, and 14 blocked shots. He scored 20 or more points 10 times through the season, but only managed one double-double, on February 1st, in an 89-83 loss to the Knicks. Mashburn played all 48 minutes in that game, with 22 points, 11 rebounds, four helpers and two steals. His best game of the season (by GameScore) was on November 5th, when he racked up 32 points with nine rebounds in a 90-74 win over the Boston Celtics.
In the postseason, Mashburn started three games against the Knicks (Dan Majerle started twice) at small forward, and scored just 31 points through the series. Sure, the Knicks made a meal of the Heat somehow, but they were no match for the unstoppable Indiana Pacers in round two. I guess Allan Houston just had no answer for Chris Mullin, Jalen Rose, and the rest of the invincible cast from Basketball's adopted birthplace.
5 Eric Murdock 470.0
9 Dan Majerle 460.4
8 Isaac Austin 450.7
30 Mark Strickland 292.3
6 Terry Mills 112.4
40 Marty Conlon 69.8
2 Keith Askins 68.3
31 Duane Causwell 60.2
17 Brent Barry 55.5
23 Rex Walters 30.0
11 Todd Day 19.8
22 Antonio Lang 8.7
3 Charles Smith -0.1