Halfway through the 2016-17 NBA season, the Miami Heat stand 11-30 and sit two games back of last place in the entire NBA.
Let that soak in for a moment. This franchise is not even 3 seasons removed from a NBA Finals appearance, and now sits next to the bottom. It’s been a rough start to the season.
Everything began to go downhill when the news broke just before training camp that Chris Bosh had failed his physical and that the Miami Heat were not actively working towards his return. Still, optimism arouse from within the organization and fanbase that the season was salvageable.
But it has not proved to be so — at least while the injury bug continues to plague this team moving forward. Already sat behind $23 million of salary cap unable to play with Chris Bosh, the Heat had to muster the rest of their roster healthy to be a competitive team.
That hasn’t been the case. Josh McRoberts has found himself out again for a lengthy amount of time. Wayne Ellington missed the first 16 games of the season, Dion Waiters missed 17 games, Josh Richardson has battled through injuries, and even Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic have missed games due to injuries.
On top of all of that, the Heat announced the Justise Winslow will miss the rest of the season due to a torn labrum (shoulder) that will require surgery. Miami is hurting.
And what was a decent team has turned into a bad team because there is no consistency in the lineup and now there are a lack of actual bodies on a nightly basis. This is all part of the reason the Heat sit at the bottom of the league.
Tyler Johnson is proving why he got such a large contract. He isn’t a star, but he is consistently in double figures off the bench. He’s showing he is capable of being a good scorer and always battles on defense.
James Johnson has shown to be a quality contributor and creator with the ball. He has been very good for this team.
Hassan Whiteside puts up monster rebounding numbers and he consistently scoring 17 PPG. Although he isn’t producing these things into wins, he is showing he belongs in the center and deserves his minutes.
But with all of that said, there are more important things to talk about. Here’s the 3 KEYS for the Miami Heat for the second half of the season.
KEY #1 — Develop the young talent
The Heat clearly are not making the playoffs. If you want to debate this, please just stop. They are headed for the NBA draft lottery, and so the rest of this season needs to continue to be about finding out what they really have. That means more minutes, opportunities and chances for Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Willie Reed, and Rodney McGruder. It also means less of all of that for Luke Babbitt and even Udonois Haslem.
The Heat should use this time to decide what pieces that are moving forward with. Dion Waiters, James Johnson, and Derrick Williams are all free agents this off-season. They are not the priority.
KEY #2 — Develop good habits
Steve Kerr said after the Heat lost to the Warriors that Miami made them work for everything. Erik Spoelstra and his staff are doing a great job motivating these guys in the midst of a hard season. They are playing hard. Often it is ugly, but the question of heart and effort are not the issue.
The Heat need to develop quality, defensive, and team-oriented habits in these guys if they want to move forward with them. This is a great chance to do that. As Joel Embiid says, “just trust the process.”
KEY #3 — Just keep losing
That’s hard to say, but it really is what is best for this organization right now. Spoelstra and the team are going to try and win each game out there. That’s what competitors do. But the Heat need to lose.
Like I said, this is not a playoff team. They are 9.5 GB of the 8th seed with 41 games to go. They would have to go on an absolute tear to get there. That’s not happening. What is happening is them making the lottery. And the more they lose, the better a chance they have at landing a top-4 pick. In a draft that is deep with potential talent. This could literally change the future of this franchise.
Just keep losing.
MID-SEASON GRADE: D
Sorry guys, that’s what 11-30 and no chance of a post-season will get you halfway through.