The Miami Heat are known as a team that refuses to tank. After starting the 2016-17 season at 11-30, Miami flipped the script and went 30-11 to finish the season — only to miss the playoffs by one game. (The Heat drafted Bam Adebayo with the 14th pick that year, though.)
But after Miami beat the Indiana Pacers Monday night and and avoided a 3-6 matchup against the Boston Celtics, Heat players and staff found themselves in a strange place. Losing their final two seeding games against teams with similar records — the Oklahoma City Thunder and Pacers — could improve the Heat’s draft position by as many as six spots.
With playoff spot locked in, Heat can improve draft position by as many as six spots by losing final two games. (Remember, ties broken by random draw for draft, not playoff tiebreakers.)— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) August 12, 2020
And that’s exactly what happened. The Heat rested many key players for the second half of the Thunder game and the entirety of the Pacers game — and lost both games. As a result, the Heat will pick 20th in the upcoming NBA Draft. And since Miami has already traded their 2021 and 2023 first-round draft picks, this year’s pick is even more valuable.
Probably the best argument that the Heat tanked came in the final seconds of the Thunder game. The Heat held a two-point lead, and Meyers Leonard left Mike Muscala to help on a drive into the paint. Of course, Muscala then hit the game-winning 3-pointer.
i .. uh .. do not see a reason for the paint collapse on this drive.— Karens In Paris (@NekiasNBA) August 13, 2020
the worst case scenario there is a two-pointer.
it just doesn't make sense. pic.twitter.com/aPqXDWkmgq
Now, many will point out that the Heat also had some bad luck in those final two games. Jae Crowder banged knees with Lu Dort in the first quarter of the game against Oklahoma City. He didn’t return to play after that injury, but he appears to be OK for the playoffs. And Derrick Jones Jr. suffered a neck sprain yesterday. Some have already done Monday morning quarterbacking, asking why Erik Spoelstra even played them at all.
The Heat did what every team that has their playoff matchup locked up does — they rested their best players. It’s hard to rest every single rotation player. No team can deliberately try to lose — even when Doc Rivers rested his best players in a game last weekend against the Portland Trail-Blazers, former Heat player Rodney McGruder made the game-winning 3.
Did the Heat tank? I don’t know, but moving up to 20th in the NBA Draft is a net positive for the Heat.