Since Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal were named All-Stars in 2004-05, the Miami Heat have had at least one representative at the All-Star game every season - except last season. In fact, since Pat Riley took over as President of the Heat in 1995, Miami has had at least one All-Star each year except in 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2017. In that 20 year period from 1996 to 2016, the Heat had 33 All-Star selections. But, 32 of them are made up of just 6 names: Wade, O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Tim Hardaway; basically, most of Miami’s Mount Rushmore. The late Anthony Mason is the only other Heat player to represent Miami at an All-Star game. During his only season in Miami (2000-01), Mason made his lone career All-Star appearance as an injury replacement for Alonzo Mourning. The Heat have had a lot of All-Star selections in that 20 year period but not that many All-Stars.
Miami's 2017-18 roster has at least two players who look like legitimate potential All-Stars, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside. This is based on two things: recent stats and talent. The Heat also have a third player who might be in the conversation and that is Dion Waiters. Waiters will also have to rely on very recent production and his talent to get in despite the fact that the legend and popularity of Waiters does seem to be growing outside of South Florida. It is very possible that for now and the near future, those three names will be the only ones brought up when discussing possible Heat All-Stars.
The typical NBA fan votes for All-Stars based partly on talent, part popularity, part past resume and usually a big part recent stats or "what have you done lately?". If Russell Westbrook only existed in 2016-17, he'd still be an All-Star for the next 4 or 5 seasons based on what he did lately. The resume part can get some veterans in when they probably don't deserve it over some of the younger stars. For example, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Steve Nash may or may not have deserved some of their late-career selections. The MVPs, rings and past performances, though, nudged them in past some younger deserving candidates. Sometimes popularity alone gets a player in such as Yao Ming in 2011 when he was voted in as a starter despite not playing a single game in 2009-10 and only five games in 2010-11. Another example is Allen Iverson in 2010, who was voted in as a starter despite sub-par production on the court. He started the season coming off the bench for the Grizzlies and then retired after only three appearances in six games. He came out of retirement to play for the Sixers, got his spot on the East’s All-Star team and would actually retire again a few days after the All-Star game (which he did not play in).
Factors like these can reduce the odds for some players and probably did for Dragic and Whiteside last season. Outside of South Florida and the fantasy community, they lack big name recognition and much of a resume when compared to other players. The win-loss record at the time was likely the biggest factor but HEAT Nation could have and should have made a bigger dent in those polls especially on Dragic's behalf. Can we, Heat fans, change the odds?
Maybe the question isn’t “will the Heat have any All-Stars?” Maybe it should be “will Heat fans vote for the 2018 All-Star game?” Can HEAT Nation rally together to spam the 2018 NBA All-Star vote and get our deserving players into the All-Star game? Who knows, but it certainly can be done. Two years ago, Kansas City Royals fans tried exactly that and attempted to not only get their deserving players into the 2015 MLB All-Star game, but the entire Royals starting lineup. It almost worked, too. Voting for the 2015 MLB All-Star game began on April 23 and the game was scheduled for July 14. By June, Royals fans managed to make 8 Royals the leading vote-getters at their positions out of the 9 starting positions for the AL team. Even Omar Infante was leading all second basemen despite being one of the worst hitters in the big leagues at the time. Major League Baseball’s powers that be ended up investigating and cancelling tens of millions of those votes as "fraudulent". Four deserving Royals position players still started in that year's All-Star game and another two of their pitchers were selected though, so it was still a success. Any of those position players could have been snubbed from the team altogether. This is something HEAT Nation needs to think about the next time we are wondering why no Heat players are All-Stars.
Last season, Hassan Whiteside was 11th in voting among Eastern Conference frontcourt players with 169,746. That might not seem bad until you look at the top East frontcourt vote-getters who had close to a million votes each and the top two, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo who had 1.8 million and 1.6 million respectively. Whiteside clearly deserved to be at least a reserve last season regardless if a center had to be picked or not. His numbers should have spoken for themselves.
Goran Dragic was 17th among Eastern Conference backcourt players with only 26,834. He certainly wasn’t the 17th best guard in the East, though. Among the players ahead of him in voting were J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver and Jeremy Lin. No, none of those players made the All-Star team last season but it does make one wonder if he had more votes, would he have been chosen as a reserve? It also points to something Heat fans might not want to hear: Cleveland Cavaliers fans (and maybe some Hawks fans for Korver) got out and voted. Heat fans did not. Smith had 94,403 votes and both Korver and Shumpert topped 50,000. Even Bucks PG and former Cav Matthew Dellavedova had 24,701 votes to which Bob Barker would say is a difference of 2,133 to Dragic. Dragic’s vote total is only about 6,000 to 7,000 more than the AmericanAirlines Arena capacity. It is even worse when you realize that each fan can vote several times. Like Yao Ming and his fans in China, we should be rallying fans from Slovenia and all over Europe to get Dragic into the All-Star game next February. His MVP performance in the FIBA Eurobasket tournament might help that cause a bit, too.
Right now, there is a little bit of hype surrounding the Heat based on the 30-11 finish last season and the fact that most of the core of that team is back with arguably a few upgrades. This team is expected to be far more successful than last season's team was expected to be in the preseason. A lot of non-Heat fans are intrigued by what this team did and what they might be able to do in what is being viewed as an even weaker, even more top-heavy East than in previous seasons. Miami should do well in the first half of the season this time, provided they resolve their inconsistency and put together more quality wins such as Wednesday’s huge victory against the Celtics. Winning is a big part of whether or not players get All-Star selections. It is part of that "what have you done lately" mentality of this highly competitive league.
Even if Miami is still at just a .500 pace before the break, that should be good enough to be in playoff contention and give the Heat’s All-Star candidates a bump in the polls. Even if Waiters, Dragic and Whiteside don't improve much and put up almost identical production as last season, that should be enough to get them in the conversation. Dragic and Whiteside were both already listed as part of the "pool" of potential Eastern Conference stars in an SB Nation 2018 NBA All-Star game mock draft based on the new All-Star game rules. But, neither Dragic nor Whiteside were selected by either squad to participate in this mock. It is up to HEAT Nation to get their votes in this time to move these deserving players to the top of a crowded and very talented pack in the eyes of other fans.
Voting starts sometime in December. The 2018 NBA All-Star game is in February. Let’s start hyping up our guys now, though. Be shameless about it. In a world where things like view counts, subscribers, likes and shares matter, Heat fans can’t just sit back and hope Dragic, Whiteside and Waiters “go viral” as the kids say. Make up some hash tags like #HEATallstarspamvote or something easier to read. Get on Snapchat, Youtube, Instagram, Reddit, Facebook and, [shudders] if you dare, 4Chan and try to get trolls involved. Half the KC vote in 2015 were probably trolls, who really knows. Even though the players and media are a big part of the vote (50%) to try to prevent what I’m trying to foment here, this is one of the few things fans can control besides trying to make opposing free throw shooters miss with large foam objects and noise. We might not be able to beat Cleveland or Boston in the standings but we can try to beat them in this.