Miami Heat

Who earned the best grades on the Heat’s midseason report card? Hint: It wasn’t a starter

From left: Miami Heat Josh Richardson; Hassan Whiteside; Dion Waiters; and Luke Babbitt sit on the bench at the end of the fourth quarter of the Miami Heat vs Utah Jazz NBA game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016.
From left: Miami Heat Josh Richardson; Hassan Whiteside; Dion Waiters; and Luke Babbitt sit on the bench at the end of the fourth quarter of the Miami Heat vs Utah Jazz NBA game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. pportal@elnuevoherald.com

Pat Riley acknowledged before the season this was the beginning of a rebuild for the Miami Heat.

With Chris Bosh unable to play again because of health issues, Dwyane Wade and a handful of other veterans gone from last season's second round playoff team, and nine new faces on the roster, the players themselves acknowledged it wasn’t going to be an easy transition. But no one expected the Heat to waddle into the midway point this bad.

At 11-30 following Friday night’s loss in Milwaukee, this matches the 1990-91 season – the third ever for the franchise – as the fourth-worst first half of a season.

The other four seasons that started this poorly ended with Miami losing at least 58 games and securing a top five pick in the NBA lottery. That’s ultimately where Riley, 71, could make the most important draft choice of his tenure.

For now, though, only the Brooklyn Nets have played uglier basketball than this Heat team league-wide.

A lot of it can be blamed on injuries. No team has had more players miss games than the Heat, who not only haven’t had Bosh, but lost Justise Winslow for the season to a torn labrum and aren’t sure if or when Josh McRoberts (foot stress fracture) will return this season. Through it all, coach Erik Spoelstra has shuffled through an NBA-high 17 different starting lineups.

Still, there is an overall sense of underachievement at the midway point for a team expected to go through growing pains, but not quite like this.

Here’s the midseason report card:

THE STARTERS

 
Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic, drives past Bucks' guard Malcom Brogdon, in the fourth quarter of the Miami Heat vs Milwaukee Bucks, NBA game, at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thurs., Nov. 17, 2016. PEDRO PORTAL / pportal@miamiherald.com

▪ Goran Dragic: Although he’s missed eight games due to back, ankle and elbow injuries, the Heat’s 30-year-old starting point guard has had his best season for the Heat. He’s leading the team in scoring, shooting better than 40 percent from three-point range, and had a stellar month of December (21.1 points, 6.7 assists). If he’s not traded away before the deadline, Dragic has proven he can be a reliable leader moving forward. Grade: A-

 
Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) rebounds in the third quarter as the Miami Heat host the Los Angeles Clippers at the AmericanAirlines Arena on Fri., Dec. 16, 2016. AL DIAZ/ adiaz@miamiherald.com

▪ Hassan Whiteside: He’s leading the league in rebounds, ranks top five in blocks, has been the Heat’s second-leading scorer most of the season at over 17 points a game and posted three games of at least 20 points, 20 rebounds. But there have been a handful of nights where Spoelstra has questioned Whiteside’s effort. He’s also regressed at the free throw line. For the most part, he’s lived up to the $98 million contract. Just not every night. Grade: B+

 
Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters drives against Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier, 10, and forward Jeff Green the first quarter of an preseason NBA basketball game at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tues., Oct. 18, 2016, in Miami. DAVID SANTIAGO /dsantiago@miamiherald.com

▪ Dion Waiters: Before he missed 20 games with a small groin tear, Waiters was beginning to flourish. He averaged 18.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists in his final eight games before going out of the lineup on Nov. 28. He’s also defended well, holding opponents to 5.4 percent below normal shooting percentage, second-best on the team. Still, he’s struggled with his shooting, especially finishing at the rim. Grade: C

 
Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow watches the game from the bench during the second quarter of the Miami Heat and New York Knicks game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tues., Dec. 6, 2016. PEDRO PORTAL / pportal@miamiherald.com

▪ Justise Winslow: Outside of a career-high 23-point performance in a win over the Lakers, there weren’t many great nights for the Heat’s 2015 first round pick before he was lost for the season. He missed 16 games with a sore shooting wrist, shot 35.4 percent from the field and his defensive metrics were not good. He’s got a lot to prove when he returns next season. Grade: F

 
Miami Heat forward Luke Babbitt, looks to pass the ball against Philadelphia's forward Dario Saric in the first quarter of the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ERS preseason game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Fri., Oct. 21, 2016. PEDRO PORTAL/ pportal@miamiherald.com

▪ Luke Babbitt: Of the four ‘power forwards’ on the roster, Babbit has made the most starts. But it’s been a bad season by his standards from the three-point line (36 percent). He’s a one-trick pony who hasn’t performed his usual trick nearly well enough. Grade: D

THE BENCH

 
Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson drives against Indiana Pacers forward Paul George during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wed., Dec. 13, 2016. DAVID SANTIAGO / dsantiago@miamiherald.com

▪ Tyler Johnson: He would be a serious threat to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award if the Heat had a better record, but so far Johnson is showing signs it was worth it for Miami to match a back-loaded, four-year, $50 million deal this summer. He’s developed into one of the top three scorers in the league off the bench, a reliable late game weapon, a shot-swatter and he’s cleaned up his turnover prone ways of the past. Grade: A

 
Heat's James Johnson, center, hustles as he recovers the loose ball during the first half of the Heat vs Detroit game inside the American Airlines Arena on Sun., Jan. 1, 2017. CARL JUSTE / cjuste@miamiherald.com

▪ James Johnson: Signed to a one-year, $4 million deal this summer, the 29-year-old, 6-9, 250-pound forward has been the best of last summer’s off-season acquisitions. He’s having a career year and is not only the team’s best defensive player according to the metrics he’s also developed into a legitimate three-point threat. Together with Tyler Johnson, he’s formed one of the best tandems in the league off the bench. Grade: A

 
The Miami Heat's Rodney McGruder, right, drives to the basket through Piston's Marcus Morris during the Heat and Detroit Pistons game at the American Airlines Arena on Sun., Jan. 1, 2017. CARL JUSTE / cjuste@miamiherald.com

▪ Rodney McGruder: The final player to make the Heat’s 15-man roster coming out of camp has started the third-most games on the team. In an ideal situation, McGruder would be allowed to be more of what he is – a three-point shooter and solid defender off the bench. But he’s been asked to handle more than he should. Still, he’s been a decent surprise and should remain an inexpensive bench option next season. Grade: C+

 
The Miami Heat's Willie Reed goes to the basket against Philadelphia's Hollis Thompson and center Joel Embiid in the second quarter of the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ERS preseason game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Fri., Oct. 21, 2016. PEDRO PORTAL / pportal@miamiherald.com

▪ Willie Reed: He’s flashed with a couple of big statistical games when Whiteside was out for a week, but overall Reed remains the second-most seldom-used player on the roster because he’s a liability defensively. Like McGruder, Reed is another player being asked to do more than he should. Grade: C+

 
The Heat's Josh Richardson, left, takes the shot over Piston's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, right, during the first half of the Heat and Detroit Pistons game at the American Airlines Arena on Sun., Jan. 1, 2017. CARL JUSTE / cjuste@miamiherald.com

▪ Josh Richardson: A sprained MCL right before the start of camp got his season started off on the wrong foot and he hasn’t really recovered from it, sustaining ankle and foot injuries after that. There was a tiny stretch when Dragic was out that Richardson began to find his shooting stroke and did a good job leading. But like Winslow it’s been a little bit of a disappointing sophomore season in the league. Grade: C-

 
Miami Heat guard Wayne Ellington drives past Knicks' Brandon Jennings in the first quarter of the Miami Heat and New York Knicks game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tues., Dec. 6, 2016. PEDRO PORTAL / pportal@miamiherald.com

▪ Wayne Ellington: Normally pretty reliable health-wise, Ellington, 29, has missed 20 games because of a bruised thigh and a tight hamstring. He had a two-week stretch before the hamstring when he was becoming a pretty reliable scorer off catch-and-shoots. But overall his three-point percentage for the season is at a career-low 32 percent and he’s never been a good defender. Grade: D+

 
The Heat's Udonis Haslem, left, shoots over Piston's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, right, during the Heat and Detroit game at the American Airlines Arena on Sun., Jan. 1, 2017. CARL JUSTE / cjuste@miamiherald.com

▪ Udonis Haslem: Outside of being the locker room leader, it’s clear Haslem, who said last year he thought he could play another three seasons, isn’t an oncourt contributor anymore. He’s playing less than anybody else on the team. Although he came in and defended DeMarcus Cousins well late in the Heat’s win in Sacramento last week, he’s really nothing more than an extra assistant coach these days on a bad team. Grade: C

 
Miami Heat guard Josh McRoberts goes to the basket against Knicks' guard Justin Holiday (left) and forward Kristaps Porzingis in the fourth quarter of the Miami Heat and New York Knicks game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tues., Dec. 6, 2016. PEDRO PORTAL / pportal@miamiherald.com

▪ Josh McRoberts: He’s just never been able to stay healthy in a Heat uniform and although he was beginning to shoot better from three-point range (41.2 percent) and provided some help during his 14-game stint, he’s been one of the most disappointing signings all-time by Riley. Grade: F

 
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Domantas Sabonis looks to pass against the defense of Miami Heat forward Derrick Williams during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tues., Dec. 27, 2016. DAVID SANTIAGO / dsantiago@miamiherald.com

▪ Derrick Williams: The Heat signed the 2011 No. 2 overall pick to a one-year, $4.6 deal hoping it could bring out the best in him. He’s not playing most nights per coach’s decision and shooting a career-low 39 percent from the field. Grade: F

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