5 Worst Decisions of Pat Riley's Miami Heat Era

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IMarch 1, 2013

5 Worst Decisions of Pat Riley's Miami Heat Era

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    Not even Pat Riley, the "gangster-pimp, don, godfather," is exempt from making a few miscues in his time as a head coach, Team President, or looming father figure for the Miami Heat.

    It's almost befuddling to the mind that one of the masterminds behind the formation of the "Big Three" would have a few red marks on their record. He got help from Dwyane Wade along the way, but flashing a few rings and possessing the aura of being an NBA legend as a coach and as a member of front-office personnel certainly did their part in convincing LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play in Miami.

    Outside of Phil Jackson, there wasn't a personnel member in the NBA that had the resume Riley could boast. He was a winner as a player as a member of the champion 1972 Los Angeles Lakers and as a coach for four Laker titles during the Magic Johnson era throughout the 1980's and a Heat title in 2006.

    There isn't much else that comes to mind when you think of Riley besides winning. Everything he has touched has turned to gold and nobody knew that more than Wade, James and Bosh. They instilled their trust into Riley by sacrificing money and individual statistical achievement and it's resulted in an NBA title and possibly another one on the way.

    Riley, however, is nowhere near perfect. Nobody is. Even Jackson ended his career succumbing to a sweep and even Riley was briefly a part of the Heat team that won 15 out of 82 regular season games.

    There have been several decisions over the course of Riley's tenure with the Miami Heat that have been deemed as questionable, especially when it comes to his drafting. In between Dwyane Wade being drafted in 2003 and Norris Cole in 2011, the Heat have held on to not one of their draft picks simply because they were not worth holding onto.

    That's not just because the Heat were selecting late. They have waved goodbye to former picks that range from the second to the 19th to the 20th.

    Just consider those failed picks as a silver lining. Because without those failed picks and poorly thought-out moves, the Heat probably wouldn't be in the position where they are as the Eastern Conference's current number one seed with a 41-14 record.

    Here's a look at Riley's five worst decisions in his time with the Miami Heat.

Trading Marcus Thornton

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    Remember that Marcus Thornton guy who just dropped 38 points and hit eight 3-pointers on the Miami Heat?

    Well, for a few moments he was a member of the Miami Heat. He was the Heat's 43rd pick in the 2009 draft before having his rights traded to the New Orleans Hornets. Although he was taken so late in the draft, NBA teams began to notice Thornton after taking home the SEC Player of the Year and showed out in a huge way in LSU's short run in the NCAA tournament.

    His debut in the tournament as a senior was a 30-point outing against Butler. He shot 10-of-15 that game, which carried over to LSU's second-round matchup with powerhouse North Carolina. Although Thornton's Tigers would succumb to the Tar Heels, it wasn't before the pure shooter dropped five 3-pointers and 25 points on the heavily favored number one seed.

    Thornton also had a 38-point game against Mississippi State in his junior season. He had spent his first two years in college at little-known Kilgore College. He transitioned to the Division I circuit well, topping off with averages of 21.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per on 47 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent shooting from deep.

    Marcus could very well have been the Heat's pure shooter that year, and still probably would be now, but was traded to the Hornets on draft night for two second-round picks. Jarvis Varnado was one of those picks and Jae Crowder, currently a rookie on the Dallas Mavericks, was the other.

    He ended up surprising many after averaging 14.5 points and shooting 37 percent from deep in his rookie season. The Hornets would trade him to Sacramento midway through the 2010-'11 season, where he is coming off the bench to score 12.2 points per game and shoot 37 percent from beyond the arc.

    Thornton has converted at least one 3-pointer per in each of his first four seasons.

    There have been plenty of difficulties in the draft selections of Riley and the Heat. Dwyane Wade and Norris Cole are the only draft picks since 2003 to still be on the team. A vast majority of the Heat's selections, such as Wayne Simien, are either out of the league or producing in a minor role elsewhere, such as Dorell Wright and Jason Smith.

    Thornton, however, will be known as the one that got away. Especially when he rained eight 3-pointers upon the team that drafted and traded him.

Standing Pat After the 2006 Championship

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    Did anybody happen to notice just how involved and active the Miami Heat were following their recent championship win? That's because Pat Riley had learned from his mistakes.

    He wised up after witnessing the disaster that was the 2006-'07 season and the campaign that followed after.

    Even Shaquille O'Neal ponders how exactly the Heat won the title in 2006 when he considers the wild amount of partying that was being consumed by Miami's more hedonistic players. They were destined to come up short, but that was before Dwyane Wade had arguably the greatest individual performance the NBA had ever witnessed in a Finals setting.

    Miami shouldn't have won, which explains why the celebration carried over into the beginning of the 2006-'07 season. A number of Heat players showed up to camp, and throughout the season, out-of-shape and the result was a 42-point drubbing at home on opening night. Miami had lost to a Chicago Bulls team they beat in six games in the postseason the year prior.

    The entire season was a disaster. Injuries played a heavy role in the seasons of Wade and O'Neal, while age and commitment began to play a factor among the role players who had provided so much the year before.

    The 2006-'07 squad came across as one that was content with only winning a single title. It explains why the team won only 44 games the next year and ended up getting swept in the first round of the playoffs.

    Riley, who was the coach of the 2006 squad, took an indefinite leave early in the year. He would return for the second half of the season.

    The Heat failed to make any significant moves during the 2006 offseason following the title victory. There wasn't a move for premier shooters such as what Riley and the Heat did in 2012. Instead, they made no moves, allowing the role players to implode and the star players to grow frustrated.

    Guys like Posey, Walker and Jason Williams were either out of the league or playing bit-roles shortly after winning the 2006 title.

    A year later and the Heat finished a league worst, while tying a franchise record for losses in a season, 15-67, which actually leads to the next poor move by Riley.

Michael Beasley

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    Because the Heat had performed so poorly in the 2007-'08 campaign, they were gifted with the highest chance to win the number one overall pick the next year.

    Alas, the 33-49 Chicago Bulls had the great fortune of having the lottery balls fall in their favor. With the first pick in the draft, they took Memphis point guard Derrick Rose. He wasn't the consensus number one pick, but was a solid choice by the Bulls, who are still heavily depending on the services of the 2011 MVP.

    Even though Rose was no more up for grabs, the Heat were still fortunate enough to have a high pick in a draft absolutely loaded with talent. Within the top-ten five picks alone, there are three All-Stars that have made an All-NBA team. Within the top 20, there were five All-Stars altogether.

    The Heat didn't choose a future All-Star. They went with Kansas State phenom Michael Beasley, fresh off an impressive freshman campaign where he averaged 26.2 points and 12.4 boards per while shooting 53 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep.

    Beasley was taken despite the Heat already having a starting power forward Udonis Haslem in tow. Miami would bench Haslem and start Beasley from day one. The thought was that Beasley was NBA-ready. He played huge at the college level and had the athletic and physical tools of a combo-forward that could either take any defender off the dribble or simply shoot it over whoever was up to the challenge.

    He averaged 13.9 points and 5.4 boards per his first year. A solid start, certainly not comparable to Derrick Rose's Rookie of the Year campaign, but a start that was merely believed to be Beasley just getting his feet wet.

    There wasn't much of an improvement seen over the offseason. Beasley still had trouble working off the ball, converted only 28 percent of his 104 3-point attempts, and would easily get lost on defense as well as on offense whenever the ball wasn't in his hands.

    Miami was left the choice of keeping him to play alongside the "Big Three," but he was scrapped for cap space and traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for cash and two second-round picks.

    What was frustrating about the situation wasn't Michael Beasley. It was who the Heat could have had instead of Michael Beasley. O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Danilo Gallinari and Eric Gordon were the next players taken respectively.

    Brook Lopez was drafted tenth and Roy Hibbert 17th. JaVale McGee went 18th, Ryan Anderson 21st, Serge Ibaka 24th, Nicolas Batum 25th, George Hill 26th and Nikola Pekovic 31st.

    Who would have thought that the Heat's second-round pick that year, Mario Chalmers, would end up being the player from that year's draft helping to win a title?

    It's understood that Beasley was a phenom coming out of college and was argued as being the number one pick. However, the Heat seemed to pick Beasley just so nobody else could have him. It was the sexy pick because of Beasley's freshman stats.

    That talent never seemed to transition over and Beasley is now looking for an identity on an abysmal Phoenix Suns team.

Mike Miller over Kyle Korver

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    In hindsight, Pat Riley deciding to give $6 million per year over five years to Mike Miller wasn't a terrible idea.

    Miller was coming off an excellent season with the Washington Wizards where he had just shot a career-high 48 percent from beyond the arc. Not only was he averaging 10.9 points per game, but he was also grabbing 6.6 boards and dishing out a career-high 4.5 assists per. Those intangibles may have ended up playing the largest factor in why Miller was selected over Utah Jazz sharpshooter Kyle Korver.

    Korver had just shot an NBA-best 54 percent from beyond the arc, but career averages of three boards and less than two assists per paled in comparison to what Miller provided outside of perimeter shooting.

    However, Miller did play in only 54 games that lone season with the Wizards because of a shoulder injury early on. These things happen, though, so the Heat issued a lucrative contract to Miller anyway. It was believed that he would be the primary recipient of the open three-pointers he would be receiving courtesy of the influence of the "Big Three."

    Plus, intangibles! So many intangibles!

    My, has so much changed in the span of three years. While Korver is currently leading the league in 3-point percentage at 46 percent, Miller has played in only 39 of the Heat's 55 games and is averaging career lows across the board. The Heat's former primary shooting threat is averaging 3.6 points and shooting 37 percent from the field this year.

    Meanwhile, Korver has only improved since being picked up by the Chicago Bulls in the 2010 offseason, at a cheaper cost nonetheless. He has since moved on to Atlanta.

    Miller's Heat tenure has been a disaster, with the lone exception being Game 5 of the NBA Finals, from the start. He's been dealing with injuries since hurting his thumb in a practice prior to the start of the 2010-'11 campaign, what was supposed to be his first campaign with the Heat.

    Out of 203 possible games he could have played in, Miller has only partaken in 119.

    Nowadays, Miller isn't receiving any playing time. He's so far down the ladder that Rashard Lewis, making the veterans minimum, is ahead of him on the depth chart. It wouldn't come as a surprise to anyone if he ends up being a casualty of the amnesty clause this summer.

    Injuries are something that cannot be predicted, not even by the mind of Pat Riley, which is why it's tough to call this a bad decision on his part. However, not picking up the guy that just had the greatest 3-point shooting percentage in NBA history could be tabbed as a miscue.

    While it appeared the right move at the start, Riley has spent the past two off-seasons looking for shooters who can provide what Miller never could on a consistent basis.

The 2012 NBA Draft

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    This Miami Heat team is purely about winning now, thus why there are only three players outside of LeBron James and Chris Bosh that are under the age of 30 on the roster.

    Savvy veterans and players with ice-cold veins get the significant minutes. Young players are usually sent to the end of the bench in hopes that Juwan Howard or Alonzo Mourning can talk the talent into them.

    Somehow this has yet to happen, leaving Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole as the lone players under the age of 28 with any sort of say in the Heat's always fluctuating rotation. 25-year-old Jarvis Varnado is the only other player that can relate to Chalmers and Cole, but won't be receiving any significant minutes in the near future.

    Dexter Pittman was recently traded. It's tough to speak for all of Miami, but the consensus most likely did not nor will not care.

    Nevertheless, the Heat were still given the opportunity to add on a young talent from a stacked 2012 NBA draft. Although Miami had the 27th pick in the draft, there were still plenty of options to go around, especially in terms of a big man. Noted that Pittman was still on the team then, but he was featured more in the D-League than on the Heat by that point in his career.

    While imposing big men like Festus Ezeli, Arnett Moultrie and Bernard James were available, as well as athletic wings in Jeffery Taylor, Perry Jones and Draymond Green, the Heat instead chose to trade their pick to the Philadelphia 76ers.

    The Heat traded down for the 45th pick, resulting in the selection of LSU center Justin Hamilton and a future first-round pick. 

    Nobody in the tri-county area of Palm Beach, Broward and Dade knew who he was then and nobody knows who he is now. Most likely nobody in the tri-county area, or anywhere else for that matter, will ever see him in a Heat uniform.

    That pick is capable of being used only if Philadelphia makes the playoffs, which doesn't appear to be happening.

    Rather than filling out a roster spot with an affordable young player who could end up providing something for the future, the Heat essentially wasted their pick. Miami filled up the final two spots with Terrel Harris and Josh Harrellson, both who would eventually be waived early in the year.

    Riley's track record with the Heat in the draft is dismal with the exception of Dwyane Wade. Even then, however, Riley nearly had the Heat convinced to take Chris Kaman, instead.


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