The Miami Heat finished this season at 41-41, in the 9th spot in the Eastern Conference, one seed below the playoffs, after a 30-11 second half. At first glance, this seems like a good thing. No team had gotten back to .500 after being 13 under before Miami, and they did it after being 19 under. It was a strong finish to negate their abysmal start. But long term, this huge swing is detrimental to the franchise.
No reasonable fan would argue with the statement that teams exist in order to win championships, and this finish runs directly counter to those aims. Especially in the NBA, where individuals have a larger impact than in any other sport, elite talent is necessary to win titles. In all likelihood, if you’re getting said talent, you’re doing so through the draft. One look at the Heat’s roster tells you that this team is not even close to being a championship contender. Not a single player under contract is good enough to be even a #2 on a title team.
This short term winning, despite the excitement it brings now as a fan, prevented the team from having a high draft pick to have a chance at a Markelle Fultz or a Lonzo Ball, who could develop into the sort of generational talents necessary to win titles. With the Phoenix Suns owning our pick next year if it’s outside of the top 7, and the next year if the 2018 pick doesn’t go to the desert, this may have been our only chance in the near future at a game changer, outside of a massive coup in free agency.
Admittedly, the 41-41 record looks better to prospective free agent targets, but realistically, Kevin Durant is not leaving the Warriors for Miami, and any high-level target below him is going to make the Heat too good to have a lottery pick, and too bad to challenge LeBron’s Cavaliers. This state of purgatory is far and away the worst possible spot for a franchise to be, and teams like the Hawks and Grizzlies can attest to that fact. No matter what you think of Sam Hinkie, the Sixers have a real chance of having two top 4 picks this season, along with Joel Embiid, a real #1 for a title team, and Ben Simmons. It can work. It’s the best bet in the bottom bit of the league.