Miami Heat Round Table: Taking inventory of the win streak

How does the Miami Heat’s recent winning streak impact how they will go about rebuilding? The All U Can Heat staff weighs in.

Feb 1, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters (11) reacts after teammate Heat forward Willie Reed (rear) dunks the ball against the Atlanta Hawks during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Miami Heat won 116-93. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 1, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters (11) reacts after teammate Heat forward Willie Reed (rear) dunks the ball against the Atlanta Hawks during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Miami Heat won 116-93. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to another Miami Heat round table. On today’s agenda, the All U Can Heat staff takes a look at if the Heat’s win streak is a good or bad thing in the longterm, if Dion Waiters is a building block and how the team should go about rebuilding.

Is this win streak: (A.) a miracle or (B.) a curse?

Allana Tachauer (@AllanaTachauer): It’s (c) destiny. Look, this is Miami Heat basketball we’re talking about. Heat Nation should have never given up hope in the first place. Yes, it was rough adjusting to having lost Dwyane Wade and knowing Chris Bosh would never return. And sure, the team had a plethora of injuries to deal with. But the potential was always there. Now, their real talent is just finally shining through.

Frank Urbina (@frankurbina_): B. The Heat went from a 55 percent chance of landing a top three pick in the draft a few weeks ago, to a 4 percent chance as of today (via Tankathon). The winning streak has been fun, but could ultimately prove costly. Unless, that is, Pat Riley wants to build the future of the franchise around Dion Waiters and a 31-year old Goran Dragic. I would feel better about the win streak if Justise Winslow and/or Josh Richardson had a hand in it. Sadly, neither has played in weeks.

Ivan Mora (@moraivan): I have to agree with Allana. I wouldn’t call it a miracle or a curse. I have always felt that Miami was never a team whose strategy was to tank. They’re better than that. They have the talent, they just needed to adjust and overcome all these injuries. I think Miami is and always has been a playoff contender. They just needed to adjust and overcome these injuries. Riley has a talent for finding and building role players and if this win streak is any testament to that, we are in for a run ride.

Simon Smith (@SimonABenedict): Neither. The team was clearly underperforming with an 11-30 record. But this has obviously been a very pleasant surprise. It appears that after such an upheaval of the roster over the offseason, the players have familiarized themselves with each other, and are bearing the fruits for their persistence.

Rich Nurse (@followthepen): The winning streak is both a miracle and a curse. Let’s face it, no one would have ever imagined that the fourth worst scoring team in the league would suddenly go on a run where they averaged 107 points per game–up from their normal 99.9. The curse comes in because the streak leaves the Heat in no man’s land, possibly not good enough to make the playoffs–in the end–but too good to capitalize with a top pick.

Malcolm Haynes(@realMGHaynes): It’s (a) a miracle. At 11-30, the Heat should have lost easily to the Warriors, Rockets, and Hawks. The Heat now own one of the longest win streaks by a sub .500 team ever. Nine consecutive wins is the third best winning streak this season in the NBA. It will end eventually, but for now, we ought to revel in the miracle.

Michael Brock (@mbrock03): Neither. It’s a curse to anyone envisioning Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz in a Heat uniform next year. But frankly, the Heat roster isn’t that bad. At least not 11-30 bad. They are also not nine game streak good either, but the strong play shows that the many new acquisitions are finally gelling. It also displays the culture that Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra have built in Miami that shouldn’t be overlooked by free agents.

Feb 1, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters (C) is pressured by Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (L) and Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (R) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 1, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters (C) is pressured by Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (L) and Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (R) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Is Dion Waiters a keeper?

Tachauer: Um, absolutely. Mario Chalmers comparisons be gone. It’s clear Waiters has finally found a system that works for him. He’s taking in everything head coach Erik Spoelstra is saying, trusting his teammates, and continuing to believe in himself above all. Will he have 30-point games on a nightly basis? No. Will he always have the best looks? No. But this guy is special, nevertheless. Plus, who else will yell “AND 1” after literally every shot he takes? I don’t know about you, but I would miss that.

Urbina: As fun as Waiters has been recently, I’m going to need something longer than a nine-game sample size to call him a keeper. If he can somehow maintain the numbers he has posted during the streak (21.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists on 50 percent shooting, 49 percent from three) for the rest of the season, then I’ll change my tune. But do I think he actually has the ability to keep his current run of form going through the end of the year? No.

Mora: Absolutely. Nevermind that he is killing it statistically, he has finally found a great match with Goran. Along with Dragic, they are 5th in the NBA as the best backcourt duo averaging 45 points per game. He never had a chance in Cleveland playing behind Lebron and more in OKC playing behind both Durant and Westbrook. Waiters has always wanted to be the man and in Miami he can be just that. He has also looked amazing defensively especially last night’s game in Atlanta. If they can keep this chemistry after the All Star break, expect Dion to get a huge contract this summer

Smith: Right now it’s hard to say no. Sure the sample size is small, but players of his clear talent level don’t grow on trees. Pat Riley stated upon his arrival he was clearly not a mid-exception salary player. Therefore, it will be interesting to see what value he will place on Waiters at season’s end. But for now, his value his rising by the day.

Nurse: To the naked eye Waiters is definitely playing like a keeper, in his contract year, averaging 20.7 points, 4.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game his the last 10 games. But a closer look at his last four shows a player who has not been showing up after halftime–shooting a combined total of 7-for-33 in the third and fourth quarters.

However everything about his play, on the surface, says that he is in for a raise in the offseason that the Heat should probably avoid. So why not sell while his stock is high before losing him for nothing or overpaying for a man who may regress back to his usual?

Haynes: I’m reminded of Miles Plumlee who just got traded. He had a great 30 game stretch in a contract year, got paid, and promptly returned to normal. Players don’t magically change. In the long run, Dion will mostly be the player he’s always been – a volume shooter who can get his own shot, create for others, and plays good defense. Sounds like exactly what the Heat need. Not to mention, Dion is just entering his prime. It’s a no brainer. Keep Dion Waiters.

Brock: Absolutely. He’s shooting and defending well, has cut back on careless plays, and is getting his teammates involved. Call it fluky, but this may just be finally-grow-up, 25-year-old Dion Waiters. His fit with Dragic is undeniable, and the likeliness of the duo remaining intact increases. I’d keep Waiters, but it comes down to if he gets offered more elsewhere, because Riley will have a price limit.

Feb 1, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra calls out a play during the first half of go game action against the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Arena. Miami Heat won 116-93. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 1, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra calls out a play during the first half of go game action against the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Arena. Miami Heat won 116-93. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Who is the biggest winner of this streak?

Tachauer: You mean besides me, finally being able to shut out all the supporters of tanking? Probably Goran Dragic. He’s finally being looked at as the elite point guard he has always been. Seriously, Dragic is playing out of his mind. And beyond that, he’s making the rest of his teammates better too. Which goes to show he’s beyond just a sharp shooter; he’s also a stud of a playmaker. But I want to give a shoutout to James Johnson as well. He’s been tremendously overlooked since the Chicago Bulls drafted him in 2009. What a goon (in the best way possible).

Urbina: The fans, I guess? At least half of them, since the other half would have preferred to take the tanking route anyways. I suppose Waiters has actually been the biggest winner. Dragic already got his huge deal a few summers ago, and isn’t due for another contract until 2020, so this isn’t as important for him. Waiters took a gamble on himself and turned down more money to sign a short deal in Miami. He wanted to prove that he’s a better player than he had previously shown, and no longer the immature kid demanding LeBron James pass him the ball. For the first half of the season, when he battled injuries and inconsistent play, it looked like he had made a huge mistake. Now, I think the opposite is true. He’s going to get a huge contract this offseason barring a regression in his play. Good for you, Dion.

Mora: I honestly want to say Spoelstra. He never gets any credit. Not a lot of coaches can weather the storm and find a way to get a winning streak together after losing two of the Big 3 and key role players to injuries. He has overcome that and done it with stride. After so many lineup rotations, he finally found the perfect one that has meshed so well together and has brought out the best in every player. As a coach, I think his back was against a wall and instead of going the relatively easy route of tanking, he kept his head high and said We can make this work! and as a hardcore fan, I respect that.

Smith: It’d have to be Waiters. Whiteside and Dragic are already under long-term contracts, whilst James Johnson has impressed all season, not just during the recent streak. Waiters has shown in the past he can produce numbers. Even this season alone he had a stretch of eight games averaging 18.8 points per game before being sidelined by injury. The downside was it came at a 41.8 percent clip from the field.

But this recent stretch of production COMBINED with efficiency has been outstanding. If this continues, Waiters is going to get paid big-time this offseason.

Nurse: The biggest winner in this streak is Dion Waiters’ bank account. His game has been thriving as a whole and despite the shortcomings he has been getting praised more than Erik Spoelstra and Goran Dragic combined. In the end it all equals a bigger payday than the $3 million player option he was due next season.

Haynes: The Miami Heat. After the way Wade left, some questioned if the Heat would still be a free agent destination. But, after rejuvenating the careers of Dion Waiters and James Johnson, that question is answered. Good players willing to bet on themselves will flock to the Heat. Oh, and Hassan Whiteside is learning that winning > stats.

Brock: James Johnson. That man’s going to get paid. And Spoelstra, who continues to be one of the most underrated coaches in the league. Outside of Popovich, who would definitively be getting more out of this team? The man’s a genius.

Feb 1, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward Willie Reed (L) Heat guard Goran Dragic (C) Heat forward James Johnson (third from left) and  Heat forward Okaro White (R) laugh on the bench during the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Arena. Miami Heat won 116-93. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 1, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward Willie Reed (L) Heat guard Goran Dragic (C) Heat forward James Johnson (third from left) and Heat forward Okaro White (R) laugh on the bench during the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Arena. Miami Heat won 116-93. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Have you changed your mind about how the Heat should rebuild?

Tachauer: Nope. Like I’ve been saying all along, they should absolutely keep trying to win games, and rely on trades and free agency to work their way back up to the top. They should definitely also hang on to Dragic. Forever. Forever ever. Forever ever.

Urbina: No. The draft should have been the way to go. I just don’t believe long-term success can come from building around Whiteside, Dragic, and Waiters. Two of those guys already got massive deals, and it seems like Waiters will be next. Riley has been very successful in Miami (obviously), but I believe what he’s doing is short-sighted. Further, it would have been so much easier to take the tanking route when they were 11-30. Now, after nine wins in a row, if they do decide to move Dragic, Waiters, or Johnson (either one), in an attempt to get a higher draft pick, Heat fans would revolt. We are currently stuck in quite the pickle, and I’m genuinely excited to see what Riley does at the trade deadline.

Mora: Not at all. We always argue tanking versus free agency, but I always choose trades and free agency. With the draft, it’s never a sure thing. It can go both ways, so I have never been a fan to completely give up on a whole season and rely on tanking especially with the NBA lottery. I have endured two losing Miami seasons and it has been horrible. I never want to go through that again. Winning is the Miami way.

Smith: It doesn’t change the big picture in terms of acquiring a superstar calibre player. Therefore with no all-stars on the roster, the Heat will need to decide on who they wish to retain moving forward before exploring the trade market and free-agency.

Nurse: I still feel like the Heat should build through a combination of trades and the draft. Regardless of if their pick is at the top of the lottery or near the end, Pat Riley and his team have to find a player who can give a solid contribution next year. And since the new collective bargaining agreement will keep many free agents from changing addresses, Miami should look to trade Chris Bosh’s impending cap space (in the summer) for a star or pieces that can impact winning the following season.

Haynes: No. The Heat have always used the draft as a supplement to trades and free agency. This year is no different. Frankly, I’m not sure any single player in this year’s draft will change the destiny of a franchise. So, Riley will have to find a way to get an existing superstar to come to South Beach if he wants another championship run.

Brock: Not really. Riley was always going to build through trades and free agency. It would have been nice to have a high pick in this year’s draft, but it’s not in Riley’s DNA to stay there for long. He will determine the assets to keep, and try and move some combination of the rest. The new CBA makes it harder to land a star through free agency or trades, but Riley has proven he can make moves in tight spaces.

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