So What Does $128 Million Get You? A 7th Seed Tie

The three highest payrolls in the NBA are the Golden State Warriors ($137 mil), the Cleveland Cavaliers ($137 mil), and the Oklahoma City Thunder ($134 mil). There is no cogent argument to be made that the past two NBA champions should not have the highest payroll. The Thunder who have the reigning MVP get the benefit of the doubt. Then it gets dicey because the 4th highest payroll for 2017-18 is the Miami Heat.

The Heat are paying $128 million dollars in salary and don’t have one player who has been an All-Star and they haven’t gone past the first round of the playoffs since the Big Three era in 2014.

Regardless of how this season goes, the Heat are going to pay the luxury tax. But money aside, it is the product that counts.  Is the product worth it? Currently the Heat are two games over .500 and the 7th seed, tied with Washington ($125 mil) and Philadelphia ($99 mil). Their lottery pick  of 2015, Justise Winslow, is averaging 6.6 points and his career is known for above average defense, injuries, and catastrophic offense, so he has not developed within the window the Heat needed.

Let’s delve into who is making the money and what the stats say.

Hassan Whiteside is the highest paid Heat player at $23 million. He dominates the middle and makes it easier for wings who miss their assignments. He covers up for mistakes. He’s been bothered by a bone bruise in his knee and has only played 15 games this year. Bone bruises are very tricky. They can linger and linger or they can heal relatively quickly. His lower scoring and rebounding numbers are attributable to knee pain, more than likely.

Hassan Whiteside Points Rebounds Offensive Rating Defensive Rating
2017-18 14.9 12.7 115 97
2016-17 17.0 14.1 113 100

Goran Dragic is the second highest paid Heat player at $17 million. Dragic is injured too. He has an elbow injury and his status is uncertain, though he’s played in most of the Heat’s games. He has been underwhelming, not his last year numbers. The Heat need Dragic to be close to a 20 point scorer, since his defense is comatose.

Goran Dragic Points Assists Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Real-Plus Minus Rank(PG)
2017-18 16.6 4.4 105 109 38th
2016-17 20.3 5.8 112 109 19th

The Dwyane Wade hero replacement, Dion Waiters, is the Heat fourth highest paid player, making $11 million. Waiters had a career year and translated that into a payday but it is looking more and more likely that last year was just one of those magical Waiters things, not to be repeated. Everything is depressed this year and the Heat need absolutely the opposite from Waiters.  So far, the Heat’s backcourt has been boring.

Dion Waiters Points 3P% Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Real Plus-Minus Rank (SG)
2017-18 14.7 30.6% 94 110 81st
2016-17 15.8 39.5% 101 109 25th

In 2016-17, most of the Heat shortcomings were on the offensive side of the ball. The same this year.

Offensive Grades:

  • Field Goal%: C
  • 3-Point%: B
  • Assists: D
  • Free Throw Attempts: F
  • Points Scored: F

As for the rest of the team. James Johnson, the third highest paid player ($13.9 mil), is the best jump shooter the Heat have and the most efficient all around player, who can defend and score. Kelly Olynyk, the fourth highest paid player ($10 mil) provides more pick and pop and he learned defense under Brad Stevens. He efforts even as he has been accused of cheap shot fouls.

2017-18 Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Real Plus-Minus Rank Defensive Real Plus-Minus Rank
James Johnson 105 105 15th (PF) 26th (PF)
Kelly Olynyk 108 104 9th (C) 29th(C)

Defensive Grades:

  • Field Goal % Defense: A-
  • 3Pt: Defense: C
  • Steals: D
  • Offensive Rebounds: F
  • Defensive Rebounds: C
  • Blocks: A-

Last year, Spoelstra easily could have won  Coach of the Year but how long are the Heat going to be a solid defensive team with awful offense? You have to put the ball in the hole. This is the same team as last year except Dion Waiters isn’t having a career year and Goran Dragic has falling off somewhat. Spoelstra was depending on chemistry because he can’t count on superstardom. The Heat need shotmakers.

Spoelstra is brilliant coaching the NBA’s middle class, getting them to believe in themselves and compete. Riley tried to get stars but couldn’t. It is ride and die with Waiters, Whiteside, Johnson and Dragic.

That means the Heat are barely above .500 with Hassan Whiteside hurting and questionable. Not a good return on the investment, so far.

 

photo via llananba