If any other playoff team in the NBA started the year going 4-2, I am sure no one would care. However, the Miami Heat are no ordinary NBA team. Hands down the most analyzed and carefully studied the team in the league, the Heat are set for yet another wildly successful year ahead of them. Of course, for a team like Miami, success revolves around the postseason, in one way or another. Oddly enough, it’s because of the desire for post season success that I wouldn’t be shocked if the Heat finished in something besides first place. In fact, if they don’t win a few games that they really could of here or there, it is by design.
No, the Heat are not tanking for Andrew Wiggins.
Miami is arguably slightly less of a team than they were last year. They lost Mike Miller and are gambling on Greg Oden and Michael Beasley-at the same time. While all they really have to lose there are roster spots, Miami is still on thinner ice than they were last year. LeBron James has been suffering from back pain-not career ending, but perhaps a sign of the times. Dwyane Wade isn’t getting any younger either. Don’t be surprised if South Beach’s biggest stars sit a few games, and therefore bring about a loss.
Erik Spoelstra isn’t going to draw up bad plays for the sake of losing either, but if it comes down to a hollow triple overtime victory a couple nights before a much bigger game or rest for his guys, Spoelstra will take a loss. For most teams, their standing in their conference is everything, as it dictates their playoff matchup. But for a team as good as Miami, playing the seventh seed or the eighth seed isn’t worth risking injuries. Their skill level has brought them to a point in which the regular season is next to meaningless in comparison to the playoffs.
Naturally, once the regular season ends, we won’t see any more rest for anyone, or being even slightly more complacent with losses. But for now, if Miami loses a game they could have won at great risk, don’t worry about it. The Heat aren’t declining; when they play less than their usually-incredible game, they are fully aware of it.
That said, the top seeds in the Eastern Conference are going to be absolutely brutal, so don’t think every game the Heat lose, they meant to. In fact, even if Wade and James were to play as much as they have in the past, they still may not finish first. If the top teams for the East, such as the Brooklyn Nets and the undefeated Indiana Pacers play to their potential, Miami might not be able to pass them. The Heat did very little to get better in the off-season. The rest of the East did a whole lot.
Let’s not forget that at Miami’s best, they beat the Pacers in seven games. When the Heat meet them again, they are in for a much better Pacers team. Because of that, they may seem less threatening than they really are. Don’t be fooled, the Heat coming in second has nothing to do with how they will play when it matters.
But the regular season in South Beach doesn’t matter much at all. Nothing besides finishing outside the top 3 in the East is cause for concern. The Heat still have their eyes on the prize.