The Miami Heat made ten playoff appearances in 11 seasons. They won three championships between 2004 and 2014.
The one season they didn’t make the playoffs? They put together an absolutely dreadful 15-67 record. And that record, as it turns out, is the worst in franchise history apart from their debut season.
But since it’d hardly be sporting of us to consider an expansion year in this feature, we’ll look elsewhere. Miami bottomed out big-time in 2008. On the bright side, however, it led to a franchise renaissance.
Let’s get right to it. This was weird.
The On-Court Record
What happens when all your stars get hurt in the same season?
Well, you start 4-15 and quickly figure out you should probably jockey for draft position, that’s what.
And the Heat tanked with aplomb.
They sat anyone who had so much as a hangnail. They lost 26 out of 27 games between Christmas Day and February 23. And the lone win was a 98-96 victory over an Indiana Pacers team the Heat would come to know later in the Eastern Conference Finals five years on.
Miami then put together another dreadful stretch to lock down what ended up being the second pick in the 2008 draft. They picked…Michael Beasley. Whoops. Then again, 2008 wasn’t exactly 2003 or 1996 in terms of talent. Derrick Rose went first, Russell Westbrook fourth, and Kevin Love fifth. But it’s not like those two UCLA guys looked like world-beaters coming out of college, and Miami couldn’t get Rose because Chicago got him first.
That dreadful stretch? How’s 3-21 sound? Before they won a meaningless game to close the season, that’s how Miami put together a mammoth tank job.
The Featured Players
How bad were the replacements? Well, if you’re a Celtics fan of a certain vintage who had to grow up on the Dark Ages version of the team, the names Mark Blount and Ricky Davis ought to look familiar.
That’s how bad Miami was. Davis led the team in minutes. When that happens, you probably stink.
Daequan Cook was sixth on the team in minutes and posted a 7.9 PER. Granted, PER ain’t worth much, but 7.9 is still telling. And if you guessed Cook had negative Win Shares, give yourself a cookie.
Smush Parker even played 183 minutes in nine games for this outfit. The Heat were that desperate for warm bodies. So lo and behold, Parker kept his career.
Wade only played in 51 games. He still managed to be top man in Win Shares and second overall in minutes. But he posted just .082 WS/48, a sore thumb in what was otherwise a stretch of six seasons over .200 in seven years. That .200 marks the Superstar Line. And if a team ran out nothing but .200 WS/48 guys, they’d be expected to go 82-0.
This is how you do “injury tanking” right. Sadly, Tim Duncan didn’t lurk at the end of the tunnel. San Antonio did the same thing in 1997. But the Spurs lucked out. And if you’re a Celtics fan, sorry for twisting the knife again.
There was one other silver lining to this 15-67 record. Pat Riley, who coached this team, took it as his sign from the Basketball Gods that it was time to kick himself upstairs and hire Erik Spoelstra for the 2008-09 season. In the 14 seasons since, Spo has proven one of the upper-tier coaches in NBA history, presiding over two titles and three other trips to the NBA Finals, including one without LeBron or D-Wade in 2020. As if that weren’t enough, he nearly notched another in 2022 before running into the Boston Celtics.
Riley, of course, is spared the indignity usually heaped on coaches here. He had two bad years, one in 2003 with a depleted post-90s roster, the other in 2008. But that ’03 team turned out to be a blessing when the Heat got Wade. And the ’08 team got its blessing in the form of Spoelstra.
Not only is Pat Riley one of the best coaches to show up in this series, the guy succeeded in life even when he failed. You gotta hand it to the guy.
Of course the Heat made the playoffs the very next year. Then they got LeBron James and Chris Bosh in 2010. And with those roster additions, Miami went to four straight NBA Finals and won two of them.
If you’re a fan of injury-plagued teams, take heart. The lost season just means you get to reload. Well, except for the whole “Beasley was a giant bust” thing. But still. They got Mario Chalmers in the second round…
NEXT: Milwaukee Bucks. Something about a young Greek kid, I think…stay tuned, and thanks for reading!