Heat awards: We agree Dragic is the MVP, but who’s been the biggest surprise? Which Wade moment will you remember most?

Heat guard Goran Dragic drives to the basket against Pelicans guard Ian Clark during a game this season in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Veronica Dominach)

MIAMI – Another Heat regular season is in the books and unlike last season, Miami will begin preparation on Thursday for the playoffs.

And while the Heat have known for more than a week that they would be in the postseason, their opponent will not be determined until tonight’s results are final.

The regular season was a roller coaster due to a team that was, for the most part, inconsistent. So, before we hit the playoffs, our Heat beat writers – Tom D’Angelo and Anthony Chiang – bring you our end-of-the-season awards.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Tom: Goran Dragic

Dragic has become Mr. Steady. The Heat’s lone All-Star and tri-captain had another solid season and he was rewarded and recognized for it by being named an All-Star for the first time in his 10-year career. Dragic plays hard every game and has become a true leader, both vocally and by example. He will conclude the regular season as the team leader in points and assists and with a career-best in rebounding. He is averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds entering tonight’s regular-season finale.

Anthony: Goran Dragic

On a team that lacks stars and has struggled with inconsistency at times, the 31-year-od Dragic has been the Heat’s most reliable player this season. That alone makes Dragic the easy choice for this award. Not only did he earn his first appearance in the All-Star game this season, but he’s also been able to stay healthy after a busy summer that included gold in the EuroBasket tournament. This has been another quality season for Dragic.

MOST IMPROVED

Tom: Josh Richardson

Richardson had a breakout year after two seasons of battling injuries. Depending on Wednesday, he will have played in all but one game (Richardson could sit out the regular-season finale after bumping knees during Monday’s loss to OKC although he said he was fine following the game) after seeing action in 52 and 53 games his first two seasons. His averages and shooting percentages are up across the board. The biggest jumps are scoring where he is at 13.0 points per game compared to 10.2 last season and field goal percentage, .454 compared to .394 last season. And Richardson has been the team’s best defender, prompting coach Erik Spoelstra to tout him for the league’s All-Defensive team.  Spoelstra cited how Richardson guards the league’s highest scoring wings. The next step: Consistency. Richardson was the Heat’s best player through the first three months but tailed off some the last three.

Anthony: Wayne Ellington

Ellington is having the best season of his NBA career. He enters Wednesday’s contest averaging career-highs in points (10.9) and made 3-pointers per game (2.9). Ellington is also having a historic year. He’s already established an NBA record for 3-pointers made off the bench in a single season, as he’s hit 219. Ellington is seven 3-pointers away from breaking Damon Jones’ team record for threes made by an individual in a season of 225 set in 2004-05. If those numbers aren’t enough to convince you of Ellington’s worth, just look at his plus-minus. He’s posted the second-best plus-minus on the team this season with a plus-109, behind just Kelly Olynyk. Now, the question is: Will the Heat be able to retain Ellington this offseason when he becomes a free agent?

MOST DISAPPOINTING

Tom: Hassan Whiteside

If we are going to single out a player, Whiteside took a step back in his development this season and continued to show pockets of immaturity. Part of the reason for his diminished stats (14.0 points, 11.4 rebounds, .546 shooting entering tonight, all his lowest in three seasons) was injuries. Whiteside missed a career-high 28 games – 18 from two separate bruises on his left knee and nine because of a hip injury. His impact was lessened by his reduced role in the fourth quarter, which led to a disappointing profanity-laced outburst late in the season that drew an undisclosed fine from the organization.

Anthony: Bad losses 

The Heat have had some impressive wins this season, but they’ve also had some terrible losses. Miami has lost 12 games this season to teams at least 10 games below .500. That list includes two losses to the Kings, two losses to the Magic and three losses to the Nets. Where would the Heat be this season if they had won just six of those 12 games? Miami would be competing for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. And the Heat would be going for their 50th win of the season on Wednesday. While these unexpected losses didn’t prevent Miami from making the playoffs, it has become a disappointing trend that has followed this team.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Tom: Kelly Olynyk 

The 7-foot Olynyk was part of Plan B last summer, coming to Miami after the Heat lost out on Gordon Hayward. But he has been the best of the three major offseason signings. Olynyk’s deal came at the same time Miami re-signed James Johnson and Dion Waiters. Olynyk set his career highs in points, rebounds and assists and he leads the Heat in plus-minus. He has been a key addition to the Heat’s space game, stretching the floor, knocking down threes and showing his versatility as one of the better passing big men in the game. Olynyk’s emergence could allow the Heat to trade Whiteside this summerand go with a center combination of Olynyk and Bam Adebayo.

Anthony: Bam Adebayo 

Before the season, Spoelstra brought up the possibility of moving Adebayo to the G League in order to get consistent playing time. But as it turns out, Adebayo carved out a consistent role for himself in the NBA for most of his rookie season. The 20-year-old big man has played in 68 games with the help of Whiteside’s injury issues, averaging 19.9 minutes. Adebayo has been effective, too, flashing signs of tremendous potential to become a front court player who fits today’s small ball style with his athleticism and defensive versatility. Want a game that represents Adebayo’s upside? A win over the Raptors on Jan. 9, when he finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. Adebayo still has plenty of room to improve, especially on the offensive end. But the Heat have been encouraged and surprised with how much he’s helped them right away.

BIGGEST NON-DWYANE WADE MOMENT

Tom:  Dragic being named an All-Star

Dragic was passed over twice for the All-Star team, once when the coaches selected the seven reserves from each conference and again when Detroit’s Andre Drummond was picked as the replacement for Washington’s John Wall. But finally, after Cleveland’s Kevin Love was injured, he was rewarded by being named to his first All-Star game in his 10-year career. And the selection brought about one of the coolest moments of the season. The Heat were on the team bus headed to a practice in Philadelphia when Spoelstra learned that Dragic was selected. Spoelstra wanted it to be a surprise for Dragic and the team. So after a short meeting, he made the announcement and everyone stood and mobbed their captain.

Anthony: Beating LeBron James and Cavaliers in Miami

It’s not just that the Heat beat the Cavaliers on March 27. It’s how they beat Cleveland that made it such a special night. The Heat routed the Cavaliers 98-79 on national television. AmericanAirlines Arena loved it, as James Johnson outplayed LeBron James on both ends of the court. LeBron struggled with an inefficient 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting. Dwyane Wade even blocked LeBron’s shot twice in the game. It was the perfect night for the Heat for all of those reasons and more.

BIGGEST WADE MOMENT

Tom: Support for Parkland victims

Wade has been among the biggest supporters of  the Parkland community in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in which 14 students and three adults were killed. Wade was the winner of the NBA’s  ‘Community Assist Award’  for March, which is presented to the player who best reflects the passion that the league and its players share for giving back to their communities. And he is a finalist for the 2017-18 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, presented to a player, coach or athletic trainer who demonstrates outstanding service and dedication to the community. Wade made a surprise visit to Douglas on March 7; he and his wife, Gabrielle Union, donated $200,000 to help students from his hometown of Chicago join the “March for our Lives” rallies held March 24; and he helped turn an empty warehouse in the Wynwood district of Miami into a tribute to honor the victims of the shooting. Additionally, Wade dedicated the remainder of the season to Joaquin Oliver — one of the Douglas shooting victims who was buried in Wade’s jersey — and invited Joaquin’s mom, dad and sister to a Heat game.

Anthony: First game back

Feb. 9, 2018. That’s a day Heat fans will remember for a long time. That’s the day that Wade played his first game in a Heat uniform since leaving the organization in the summer of 2016. Just 24 hours after acquiring Wade from the Cavaliers in a trade that blindsided the NBA world on Feb. 8, the greatest player in franchise history was back in AmericanAirlines Arena playing for the Heat. It was surreal, and a moment that will definitely be part of the video montage played at the end of Wade’s career. He finished with just three points on 1-of-6 shooting, but that didn’t matter. The Heat defeated the Bucks and Wade made his return.

[What to know about tonight’s matchup: Heat face Raptors on final day of regular season with playoff positioning on the line]

[Cavaliers eliminated as possible first-round opponent for Heat but Miami still in play for sixth-eighth seeds]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

Reader Comments 0

0 comments