The Case For Breaking Up The Heatles

The Case For Breaking Up The Heatles

The younger Heat players are ready to break out
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This past week, the 2017-2018 season concluded for the Miami Heat, with them falling four games to one at the hands of the upstart Philadelphia 76ers. The series never looked particularly close, with Miami in their lone win needing a vintage Dwyane Wade game (28 points, 11/16 shooting) in order to escape a sweep.

In many ways, the 76ers are the anti-Heat. Philadelphia's "Trust the Process" mantra is well-known (which, as a basketball nerd, is cool to hear it has filtered its way into non-basketball fan's lexicon) and resulted in the most blatant tanking in NBA history. Following a fruitless playoff run in which Philly knocked off the Derrick Rose-less Bulls, the 76ers underwent three straight sub-.200 seasons.

However, the Process paid off, and it showed within the series. Through the high draft picks the 76ers acquired by losing, they were able to land many of their foundational pieces (Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Dario Saric chief among them) that enabled the young 76ers to blow Miami out of the water. Given their rookie-scale contracts, the 76ers are also in prime position to add a high-salary star via free agency or trade (LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, anyone?)

Miami decided to take an opposite approach. Following the exodus of LeBron back to Cleveland, the Heat had two of the big three left. One more competitive season later, and an extra year of deterioration for Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh was diagnosed with blood clots and was forced to leave basketball. What has followed has been some semi-competitive teams led by players that are good but not great, leaving Miami in the dreaded mediocrity cycle.

Look, I agree, making the playoffs is nothing to scoff at. It's exciting, it puts butts in seats so a franchise can have a healthy bottom line, and people can maintain their jobs. However, a team can only suffer so many first-round exits before that seven seed just isn't worth it. I believe that Miami has reached that point.

Goran Dragic, the lone All-Star for Miami, was a replacement for the midseason classic following an injury to Cavaliers forward Kevin Love. Dragic is a fine player (averaged 17 PPG, 4 RPG, and nearly 5 APG), with a great feel for the game as well as a fiery passion for winning. However, if he is your team's best player, your team cannot hope for too much. He is 31 and is likely to be getting worse soon, not better.

Miami's highest paid player is arguably the biggest problem with this team. Center Hassan Whiteside (2017-2018 salary: $23,775,506, according to ESPN) fits the Old NBA model of ground-bound physical big men. Whiteside's stats have cratered (down to 1.7 blocks per game) despite him gaining the reputation as one who chases blocks. In a video that has gone viral in the NBA world, all-time great Shaquille O'Neal rips Whiteside's positioning, energy level, and overall demeanor. Whiteside's salary compared to his output is unbalanced, creating a huge burden to the roster construction of the rest of the team.

The Heat is at a crossroads, but if they act quickly, there is a way off their mediocrity treadmill. Behind their high-priced nominal old-ball starters (Dragic, Whiteside, Wade, and forward James Johnson), the Heat have a highly productive and --most importantly-- young bench. A lineup of Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, Wayne Ellington, Josh Richardson, and Justice Winslow produced (albeit in a limited sample size of 144 minutes) a staggering 19 point net rating, which would easily pace the league. That lineup has an average age of 24.6 years and a paltry average salary of $4,708,790.

The story behind the numbers makes sense as well. Adebayo faired surprisingly well as a rookie, establishing himself as a young building block as a rim-running, rim-protecting center that has head coach Erik Spoelstra's trust. Olynyk is slow-footed but is a perfect complement for Adebayo that spaces the floor with his range and possesses solid defensive instincts.

In many ways, he makes Whiteside look like a dinosaur of NBA yesteryear. Ellington spent the season shooting the cover off the ball (39.2% on 7.5 three-point attempts a game) and bringing a veteran edge. Richardson is easily this team's best two-way player, as he routinely covered the opposing team's best player while shooting well enough to be a true "3 and D" threat.

Lastly, Winslow is the biggest wild card of the group. Coming out of Duke, he was often praised for his motor, relentlessness, and leadership while possessing a struggling but fixable shot. Three years in, his weaknesses have shown more than his strengths. However, this year he showed real progress (38% from three) and is still only 22 years old.

The past few years have shown that this Heat lineup simply doesn't work. Getting valuable assets in return for Dragic (package him for Kawhi?) and anything for Whiteside (his negative attitude needs a check) would expedite this inevitable rebuild process. The Heat have young players that are ready for bigger roles, and one year of tanking could bring a true superstar similar to the way the 76ers acquired their best players. This Heat team is making the playoffs, but it's high time to break the band up. Long live the Heatles.


Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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A Thank You Letter To The Best Teammate I've Ever Had

There's no "I" in team.
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We all have those amazing memories when it comes to sports. Sometimes it is from winning tough games, but most of the amazing memories that we have come from the teammates that we shared those wins with. Teammates are the people who you spend so much time with that you eventually become a family. Teammates do more than help just win a game; they can be there through everything. There's always that one teammate that stands out from the rest, and this letter is for you.

Thank you for being selfless.

Looking back, I remember a lot of teammates. Some were great and some were not that great. I've had teammates who have only cared about their playing time. I've had teammates that have only cared about if they score more goals or more points than anyone else. You did not care about that. If the coach told you to play a position that you did not want to play, you still played it without a complaint. If I was tired at a certain position and wanted to switch you, you did it. You never complained about where you were playing or how many goals you had; you just wanted the team to win.

Thank you for having my back.

The best kinds of teammates are the ones that support you no matter what you do. I got a red card? That referee is stupid. I got into a fist fight during a game? You were the first one next to me swinging. Some girl makes fun of me on social media for messing up in a game? You were roasting her in her mentions. Even if I was right or wrong, you always supported me no matter what I did.

Thank you for seeing me at my worst and building me back up.

There are always times in an athlete's life where we run to the point to where we need to throw up. There are times where we go through games and miss too many shots. There are times where we get a little too mad at our coaches and feel as if we cannot deal with it anymore. You were the one that got me through it. When I was in the middle of a run and my lungs were burning, you stayed right next to me and reminded me that there wasn't much longer to go, even if there was. You always reminded me how capable I was by yelling at me and telling me to go score. You've seen me tired, sweaty, crying, screaming and throwing up. After all that, you still went out of your way to build me back up and I cannot thank you enough for that.

Thank you for making me love the game.

Without people like you, I would have had a very rough ride through my sports career. I have had teammates that have made me go home crying because they were so mean and rude. I have had teammates who have only cared about themselves. Without you, I would've forgotten what a good teammate is. Looking back, all I remember is the celebrations, the screaming random songs in cars and us hating each other's exes automatically... Then talking about all these things at practice. Thanks for being a leader with me. Without you and the rest of the team, I would not have loved the sport that I played.

Cover Image Credit: Cheap Seats Photography

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The Excitement Of The NBA Playoffs Without Lebron James

The NBA playoffs are among us and it is my favorite time of the year. The time for the NBA to shine is the playoffs, but this year's rating has seen a bit of decline.

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The NBA playoffs are a very exciting time for the typical NBA fan and I sure love nothing more than to kick back and watch the action. The excitement and the number of games on are unreal and they start one after another so every game can be watched without another one interfering with the other. The games have so much more than typical basketball and people are disappointed this year because Lebron James missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005. The last 14 years he has been dominating the NBA playoffs and this year was different so the ratings are plummeting.

The series are a best of 7 making it a long fun series of games with so much on the line. I have watched many of the games and highlights and have truly appreciated the greatness I am watching. The lower seeded teams have been doing well against the best teams and are giving them a run for the money. We have had a few fun blowout games that are interesting because you are seeing a team dominate the entire game and hit many great shots and make big plays. The good teams are still winning most of the games, but at least we have some close games that come down to the buzzer to make for great competition.

We then have young stars like Damian Lillard and Ben Simmons who have been giving us some amazing stat lines and leading their team to big first-round wins and both making huge highlights so far. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and James Harden have been the big stars having great games and contributing heavily to both their teams and the ratings to make the playoffs fun. Even without Lebron, these guys are still showing us how fun basketball is to watch and play.

The style of team basketball many of these guys are playing with is amazing to watch. I am all about teamwork and there is a new player doing something spectacular and having a standout game every night with the help of their team. The Los Angeles Clippers rallied for the biggest playoff comeback in NBA history by coming back from 31 down against the defending champions the Golden State Warriors. It is nice to see teams like the Clippers, Magic, and Pacers who do not have a standout star play great team basketball. These teams are losing most of their games, but they do not have the talent these other teams have. They are going out and playing well as a team every single night and working to make sure everyone is contributing on offense and defense to have a chance to win.

Damian Lillard even hit a buzzer beater to win the series over the Thunder the other night and it shows us how much of an impact one player can have on the whole game. The excitement of the upcoming free agency period is vastly hyped, but the current teams are so well set up for success that the next 2 rounds of the playoffs will be the ultimate tests for all teams to see who will play each other for the championship.

Everyone thinks the Warriors will once again host the NBA Larry O'Brien Trophy and be the top team in the league for the next year, but there are a few teams that have been quite impressive all season and have the momentum in their favor just as much as the defending champions. There will be plenty of big games to come and I am positive the players will put on a huge showing to make these playoffs memorable for all true NBA fans. Lebron is my favorite player of all time and I love watching him play especially in the finals for the title, but the ratings should still be high due to the great competitive game of basketball and the amazing moments we get to enjoy all throughout the playoffs. I encourage any basketball fan to tune in for these games and I promise you will not be disappointed with any of the games.

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