19. Miami Heat
Nowhere to go but down?
It’s miraculous how well the Heat have played thanks to Erik Spoelstra’s coaching, greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts roster construction, and perhaps the unseen effects of everlasting sunshine and ocean breeze. Miami is a perennial playoff team, something many franchises would give anything for.
But Pat Riley isn’t content with being O.K. every year. Neither are the many young players who have grown into their own with the Heat, or veterans like Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic. This team should be better.
The Hassan Whiteside contract hamstrung them in each of the last two summers, forcing the Heat to give top dollar to incumbent free agents (and Kelly Olynyk) rather than new talent. They struck out on Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin last summer. They sat out this year.
Instead of a drastic Dragic or Whiteside deal, Miami re-signed Wayne Ellington and will head into a weakened East last year potentially convinced they could make a deep playoff run. If the roster stays healthy and the likes of Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo continue to get better, it’s not completely crazy to imagine.
It’s also not completely crazy to think Riley has his next plan in mind already. The Heat will never be awful, and thus they’re always interesting.