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Thursday, May 28, 2015

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA End of Season Worst to First Countdown: 21. Miami HEAT

2014/2015 Projection: 50-32, first place Southeast Division, third place Eastern Conference

Actual Finish: 37-45, third place Southeast Division, tenth place Eastern Conference

2014/2015 Finish

Actual 2014/2015 Finish

Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 94.7 (24th)
  • Points Allowed: 97.3 (6th)
  • Team FG%: .456 (11th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .454 (19th)
  • Team FT%: .741 (22nd)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .335 (24th)
  • Rebounds per game: 39.1 (30th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.0 (2nd)
  • Turnovers per game: 13.9 (19th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.1 (11th)

Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Dwyane Wade (21.5)
  • Rebounds per game:  Hassan Whiteside (10.0)
  • Minutes per game: Chris Bosh (35.4)
  • Assists per game:  Dwyane Wade (4.1)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Hassan Whiteside (.628)
  • Free Throw Percentage:  James Ennis (.840)  
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Chris Bosh (.375)
  • Steals per game: Mario Chalmers (1.5)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Hassan Whiteside (2.6)

SDH’s Hero to Honor: +Hassan Whiteside

For Miami Heat fans, despite their team's sharp fall from grace, there was a small glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel as this has been the year of In-Hassan-ity.  Similar to the Cinderella story that captured the attention of the sporting world three years ago, Hassan Whiteside came from relative obscurity--drafted in the second round five years ago, he had spent his career bouncing from team to team in brief stint while spending the rest languishing in the D-League.  That all changed when Miami, out of sheer desperation, decided to take a chance on this young unknown journeyman to replace fallen star +Chris Bosh in the starting lineup and thus a legend was born!! Like Jeremy Lin before him, Hassan completely blindsided not only the NBA, but the sporting world as he wowed fans in the sporting world averaging 11 points, 10 boards, and three blocks in 48 games; however, unlike Lin, he did not nearly get as much attention, possibly because he was a seven foot black man instead of a 6'3" Chinese American.  Nonetheless, his performance will certainly garner the attention of numerous NBA teams and he will certainly gain a substantial pay raise from the 749$ thousand he received once he becomes a unrestricted free agent.  He may not have ascended to the meteoric rise as Lin did, which even he would say is not necessarily a bad thing considering what happened to him afterwards; however, his come out of nowhere performance should be considered one for the ages.   

SDH’s Face to Forget: +Dwyane Wade 

Years ago he was put up at the same pedestal as +Michael Jordan and +Kobe Bryant as one of the most dynamic and explosive superstars in the league; however, after years of injuries and being ravaged by father time, his superstar status has all but faded.  He can longer carry a team and upon closer dissection of his career it has become quite apparent that he was never able to do so either, even in his younger day.  Much of his most glorious moment came from riding the coat tails of either +Shaquille O'Neal  or +LeBron James and when he was left on his own, both him and his team were mediocre at best.  At 33 years old, he has all but exhausted his prime years and is headed towards the downturn of his career; yet, both he and +Chris Bosh--two players who were never able to carry a team father than being merely marginal at best--were expected to carry on the mantle and continue the legacy that Lebron had left behind.  Sadly, they both fell dreadfully short of expectations with Bosh falling to injury mid-season while Wade hobbled on the court trying his best not to fall apart leading the Heat as well as Miami fans crashing hard to reality.  Now that the dust has settle, it has become blatantly apparent that Wade is now a dinosaur--a relic from a past age--and is simply living off borrowed time while his decline acts as a anchor to any future ambitions.
The +LeBron James era has ended and it had brought the +Miami HEAT four straight NBA Finals appearances and two NBA Championship Titles, and now fans in South Florida now have to deal with the reality that not only have their championship aspirations have all but ended, but also that they will we the man who brought them such glory do that with another team. Nonetheless Heat President Pat Riley went out of his way to ensure that his team will not end up in the same state he left the +Cleveland Cavaliers when he took Lebron away in the first place so he went about filling that rather massive void immeadeatly in the off season.  He first started by re-signing the two other cornerstones of his championship dynasty +Dwyane Wade and +Chris Bosh, then he faced he his greatest challenge--to find a player to replace possibly one of the greatest to have ever played to the game--and he did so, by getting the next best thing.  +Loul Deng already had extensive experience guarding Lebron when he played with the +Chicago Bulls and has built quite a reputation for himself earning two All Star Selections and All Defensive Second Team Honors in 2012 thus making him an excellent substitute for a player in James--who will probably forever stay in the hearts and minds of Miami fans.  With the new addition of Deng plus the return of all the players of the past four years, the Heat looked as they can give Lebron and company a run for their money, possibly contend for the Eastern Conference title, or at worse win their Southeast Division.

Unfortunately, for both Riley and the Heat, it was quite evident that four straight NBA Finals appearances had really its toll on the team as Miami came out of the gates looking very sluggish, tired and worn down as they finished the first month of the season at 9-7; however, there were no real red flags waving and many believed that the HEAT,  with its experience and skill would improve its performance over time.  Unfortunately, that did not happen as the fatigue noticeably set and with each passing Miami slowly slipped lower in the standings and instead of leading leading pack, Miami found itself in a place where the players and fans had not been in quite some time--on the outside looking in and scrapping for survival.  Miami's season really came to a head in February when it was announced that Chris Bosh would sit out the rest of the season due to blood clots in his lungs (2/15/2015) leaving an aging and weary Dwyane Wade to shoulder the bulk of the scoring burden.   At 33 years old, not only was Wade in severe decline as his abilities and athleticism deteriorated with each game, but many Heat fans were probably also in denial thinking that he could still carry this team on his own; however, it proved to be a fantasy as he showed that he was completely unable to carry out such an undertaking.  Sure, he did have flashes of greatness, but his performances went up and down with each passing month plus it did not help either that he missed 20 games leaving his teammates to essentially fend for themselves, especially during late in the season when they needed him the most.

So with their two star players out for most of the season, Miami certainly had trouble finding someone to consistently put the ball into the hoop resulting in the Heat finishing the season near to last place in the league in scoring although they still managed to still shoot at a rather efficient clip at .456 from the field; however, despite its best efforts, the teams still remained two steps behind their opponents.  The fatigue from pushing themselves so hard certainly showed on the defensive end when they fell from being one of the top teams at forcing turnovers to falling to the middle of the pack at 11th, and even though they kept their opponents' scores low, it was not enough as they allowed them not only to shoot almost as well they did, but also allowed their opponents to out-rebound them as well.  Over the past four seasons, Miami's rather poor rebounding performance was mainly offset by the fact that the team not only shoot very well thanks to getting easy transition baskets thanks to forcing turnovers, but the fact that no opposing team was able to even set up its offensive sets because the Heat simply did not allow them to do it. Unfortunately, the Heat no longer possessed the same defensive intensity which made it so easy to force turnovers and get quick and easy baskets making their rather invisible presence on the boards more prevalent thus allowing opponents to push past them despite the team's best efforts to hold them back.  Plus, in addition of doing their best on the defensive end only to fall short at the end of most games and their rather poor performance on the glass, there was one major factor that essentially doomed the Miami Heat's season which the team had virtually no control over--primarily because he was now playing for the Cleveland Cavs.

It is almost shocking to see how much of an impact that missing Lebron had on that team because seeing the Heat play now compared to when they played with him in the lineup is almost like night and day because with Lebron, the team was almost unstoppable whereas now, it is almost as if the life got sucked out of the Heat leaving it a hollow husk.  And it was not just Lebron's intimidating presence which allowed him to push aside anyone that dared step in his way to score or tried in vain to box him out to grab rebounds, it was also his ability to push his teammates to get the best out of them by getting them involved, utilizing their strengths to their maximum potential, while at the same commanding their absolute respect.  Lebron was not just the team's leader in scoring, assists, rebounding and every other statistic, but also like a general on a court who not only executed the coach will from the sidelines, but also devised his own strategies while leading his soldiers to battle--similar to the great storied warriors of ancient times, Lebron is a legend by almost mythical proportions.  Once he had bid farewell to South Beach choosing to return to his kingdom in Cleveland, the magic went with him and the once great godlike titans that stood beside him as equals reverted to mere mortals reducing this once omnipotent and infallible force known as the Miami Heat into a shadow of its former self.  Fortunately for both the Heat players as well as its fans, they can hold solace in the fact that they did not suffer the same indignity and devastation those that those in Cleveland had suffered when he originally decided to cast off his shackles, break his ties with the state that he has called home his entire life, jump ship to the South, and in turn destroyed not only the emotional, but the socioeconomic fabric of the city and its people.

Although the team failed to retain its once revered status and remain a strong force in the league, at least the Miami Heat managed to do what the Cavs could not--survive the fallout of having possibly the greatest player that has ever put on their uniform and walk on their home court abandon it.  Although the Heat failed to make the playoffs, the team managed to remain somewhat respectable and unlike the Cavaliers who simply collapsed on itself, managed to stay strong, remain competitive and fight for a post season berth until the very end.  It is almost a certainty that the city Miami, its citizens and their NBA franchise will NEVER experience the grandeur and glory that they had enjoyed for the past four years, but at least they were able salvage the wreckage from the ruins and still be able to stand tall proud with their heads high.  Although many would consider this past season as a disappointment and failure because the Heat failed to maintain its stature as one of the league's elite teams, it should be also be considered quite a success because it still managed to remain one of the top defensive teams in the league while at the same time showing the world that they will never back down, even when the chips are down.  So expect the Heat to bounce back a far stronger and better team than they were last season as they still have the tools to remain successful in the NBA and quickly return as a perennial playoff contender.