The Heat have missed the playoffs just four times in Pat Riley’s 22-year tenure.
They won a championship within four years of their first three lottery trips.
The fourth foray into losing came two years ago, and Miami is on track for another lottery season this year.
So, what now?
“We’re dealing with that word that you hate to use — that we have to rebuild,” Riley told WQAM’s Joe Rose on his radio show Wednesday morning. “But we will rebuild quick. I’m not going to hang around here for three or four years selling this kind of song to people in Miami. We have great, great fans. They’re frustrated. They’ve been used to something great over the last 10 years and so right now we’re taking a hit. I think we can turn this thing around. … You can use that word rebuild. But we’re going to do it fast.”
Does he mean tanking? I don’t know that’s what he meant, but it sure sounds as if he’s warning fans about tanking.
That would make sense. Miami has its own first-round pick in what projects to be a loaded draft, and this might be the Heat’s last chance to pick high for a while. They owe the Suns two future first round picks (one top-seven protected in 2018 or unprotected in 2019, the other unprotected in 2021).
Higher max salaries under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will make it harder for the Heat to add multiple stars, though. Put another way: It’s even more important for Miami to add talent through the draft.
After his first losing season with Miami, Riley drafted Dwyane Wade and bought low on a Shaquille O’Neal who demanded a trade from the Lakers. The next off year was followed by signing Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Is Riley uniquely adept at building winners quickly, or did luck play a large role in those incredible turnarounds? That long-standing debate will add another chapter over the next year or two.