Miami fans found themselves in a weird place at the American Airlines Arena this past Saturday. Obviously, they were thrilled to see the Heat spank the Milwaukee Bucks for their third win in a row. But many fans also had a little Pat Riley-shaped devil on their shoulder, whispering that what this team needs right now are losses — because tanking for a draft pick is about all the Heat has to work for this year.
Heat fans, you shouldn't be ashamed of listening to that devil. It's OK to root for Miami Heat losses.
The Heat have a 2 percent chance of making the playoffs even after the team's mini win streak. The young core players whom fans most wanted to see progress and grow throughout this season can't remain healthy enough to stay on the court together for more than a few games at a time.
Even worse, the Heat has very few players that another team would find attractive in trade, and even fewer draft picks at their disposal in the near future. They are a team full of spare parts. The 2016-17 season is a turnpike rest stop in the careers of half the players currently on the Heat roster.
Their 14-30 record is the second-worst in the entire NBA. There is no better time than the present to embrace the tank — especially after a counterproductive three-game winning streak highlighted by a 33-point game from soon-to-be-ex-Miami Heat player Dion Waiters. Don't be a hero. Think about your future.
Are you happier now with Justise Winslow on the roster than you would have been with six more wins two years ago, when the Heat ended up snagging him tenth overall in the draft? Of course you are. Does that make you a bad fan? Of course not. It makes you a forward-thinking fan, one who is capable of seeing the reality of the NBA landscape and knowing it will take a lot more than a few dollars to spend in free agency to form a team that can compete for a title next season.
Experts almost universally agree that this year's NBA draft will be among the best in recent memory. The Heat has a golden opportunity to add another key contributor at a bargain-basement price. We're at the point where the Heat's best chance to score the infamous "whale" that Riley constantly seeks is in draft, not in his preferred free agency.
It's time the Heat pulled the plug on this season, traded away any veterans with even minor value on the market, and committed to building the core of its team through the draft. Next year, they can supplement that core by spending dollars on players in free agency.
The Heat is not a year away. Hell, the Heat isn't two years away. But the team might be three years away if it adds a star in the draft this year and builds a team meant to peak alongside him in a few years when there might be a legitimate chance of dethroning LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Embrace the tank, Miami. Don't apologize for being smart, and don't ever feel the need to explain that you're not a bad fan because you can handle a few losses here and there for the betterment of the franchise for years to come.
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