The Miami Heat lasted only five games in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, and that result didn’t feel out of place. Erik Spoelstra’s team is well-coached and reasonably talented, leading to a season in which a playoff berth seemed relatively easy. After missing a year ago (despite an absurd stretch run), one could argue that Miami’s performance this year was an encouraging step forward. While that might be true simply from a progression standpoint, the team’s five-game exit at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers could also foreshadow significant issues for the future.
Because the Sixers had the two best players in the series and a raucous home-court atmosphere, there is, of course, no shame in Miami falling short of advancement. After all, Philadelphia is now seen as a legitimate candidate to reach the NBA Finals, and even if that felt impossible just a few months ago, the reality of their overall talent level is staggering. On the Heat side, though, no such upside appears to exist and that is a troubling reality.
The Heat needed a throwback Dwyane Wade performance in Game 2 to secure their only victory, and just weeks ago, Wade was in another uniform and not part of the plan in Miami. The actual plan, though, included sizable contracts to a large group of largely solid, yet unspectacular, players that allowed Pat Riley to avoid a rebuild that he has no interest in, while simultaneously placing an artificial cap on the team’s upside for the near future.