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Bipolar first half of the season leads to a Miami Heat identity crisis

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Who expected such dramatic mood swings before the All-Star break?

Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Miami Heat got snowed under by a blizzard of injuries during the first half of the season. An unlikely call-up from the frigid terrain of Sioux Falls put the warmth to the Heat again. Which personality will the team exhibit after mid-season break ends?

What roster changes, if any, should Miami make before action resumes again? A limited sampling of each player's won-lost record, via NBA stats, reveals surprising results on who the winners and losers were on the team.

Okaro White 24 12 2 86% 13 30 30% 2.6
Dion Waiters 25 18 16 53% 7 16 30% 1.2
Wayne Ellington 29 19 18 51% 6 14 30% 0.3
Willie Reed 26 24 24 50% 1 8 11% 1.1
Goran Dragic 30 24 25 49% 1 7 13% -0.8
James Johnson 29 25 27 48% 0 5 0% 0.3
Luke Babbitt 27 23 25 48% 2 7 22% -0.5
Rodney McGruder 25 24 29 45% 1 3 25% -0.5
Hassan Whiteside 27 23 29 44% 2 3 40% -0.8
Tyler Johnson 24 20 29 41% 5 3 63% -1.3
Udonis Haslem 36 5 10 33% 20 22 48% -4.3
Josh McRoberts 29 6 16 27% 19 16 54% -3.3
Josh Richardson 23 7 21 25% 18 11 62% -2.6
Justise Winslow 20 4 14 22% 21 18 54% -0.3

Miami lost all 5 games when James Johnson was out, lost 8 of 9 games without Reed and 7 of 8 games without Dragic. With White, Waiters and Ellington on the court, Miami had winning records. When Winslow, Richardson and McRoberts played, the team won less than 30% of their games. Those results loosely track the +/- ratings for each player.

The numbers themselves don't account for schedule strength, playing while hurt, competing against starters or bench, etc. What the figures illustrate though is the importance of measuring the intangibles a player brings to the team as a whole. How does a player help the team win and make his teammates better? That's what Shane Battier will try to help the Heat find out in the future.

Who are the keepers, and who are expendables? They may not be the ones Miami imagined at the beginning of the season. Any changes will consider the Heat have a draft pick in this June, while giving the Phoenix Suns a possible top-5 pick in 2018, and likely cap relief from the Chris Bosh situation this year.

The new CBA raises the pay scale for the NBA Development League, so 18-year-old hoopers who are not top-tier prospects may decide to skip college ball and go pro to pay the bills. They would get paid for professional training, remain on the radar of Miami’s scouting system in the expanding (and soon to be named) G-League, and still be eligible for the draft when they turn 19.

The recent success of Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson has the Heat investing resources to find talent outside the traditional college draft system. Free agents also notice the possibility of Dion Waiters and James Johnson getting huge pay raises, and may want to take a chance with the Heat to cash in on their own careers in Miami.

The job of luring free agents using Pat Riley’s mystique could become more complicated with the hiring of “Magic” Johnson by the Los Angeles Lakers as reported by SBNation,

“We don’t know how Johnson will run the franchise, but there’s enough evidence to suggest that the decisive pursuit of stars will be the Lakers’ guiding philosophy again.”

Johnson himself hinted he’ll be very aggressive in catching “whales” for the Lakers,

“As we bring in the new general manager, both of us will go to school to learn the new CBA and understand the new CBA. But I'm a guy who loves to learn, I love to read, I love to educate myself on what's going on. That's why it's exciting to build the new Lakers.”

South Beach versus Hollywood: the battle for top talent may have gone up a notch this summer. But then we have these tweets by “Magic” Johnson. Will he become a Pat Riley or Phil Jackson?