Mailbag: Should this Heat season be considered a success with just a playoff appearance?

Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside watches from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Tuesday, March 21, 2017, in Miami. The Heat won 112-97. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Even after Thursday’s loss to the Raptors, the playoffs are well within reach for the Heat as hopes of a high draft pick have faded away.

Is this actually a good thing for the organization in the grand scheme of things?

We answered that question and more in this week’s installment of the Heat mailbag. If you weren’t able to ask a question this week, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

Peter: Is all of this winning actually a good thing for the Heat? Even if we make the playoffs, what do we actually accomplish with a first-round exit?

Anthony Chiang: First, winning is never a bad thing. Second, this Heat team has the potential to get past the first round of the playoffs if it is able to avoid the Cavaliers. Look, I understand that a high pick would have been a great asset to have, especially in this draft. And it looked like Miami was in line to have a top-five pick when it owned the NBA’s second-worst record at 11-30. At that point, it seemed like the objective was to get the highest draft pick possible, but the mindset has changed dramatically since then.

That’s not a bad thing. The Heat’s current 24-7 run has worked to brighten the organization’s image after a tough summer that included the departure of Dwyane Wade and a messy breakup with Chris Bosh. The job Miami’s coaching staff has done to maximize its roster and get the most out of NBA journeymen like James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington, and unproven players like Rodney McGruder and Willie Reed, has been impressive. And you better believe impending NBA free agents are impressed, too.

“Championship or bust” is not always the best mentality to have. A team can have a successful season without winning a title. That’s what the Heat can do by just advancing to the playoffs. Enjoy it.

@HeatSeason: Any chance Justise Winslow returns from injury at some point this season?

Anthony Chiang: The chances are very, very slim. When asked about Justise Winslow’s progress in his rehab from shoulder surgery, Erik Spoelstra revealed earlier this month that the 20-year-old is actually ahead of schedule. That’s encouraging. But just seconds after saying that, Erik added that Justise is “not coming back this season.” The Heat want to be patient with Justise, especially since he’s a young player at the start of his NBA career.

“We’re playing the long game with him,” Erik said of Justise. “We want to be very patient. He doesn’t need to try to fast track at all right now. It’s more important that he doesn’t skip any steps and not try to rush it.”

And why rush it when you’re playing well. The Heat are 24-7 over their past 31 games, all without Justise.

[Spo’s toughness as a college player helped spur Heat’s turnaround]

[Should the Heat apply for extra roster spot after Dion Waiters’ injury?]

[Goran Dragic posts video praising Erik Spoelstra. Spoelstra’s reaction? ‘That son of a gun’]

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