If anything, the Miami Heat are known for their shrewd operating behind the scenes. Over the years, general manager Pat Riley has managed to bring hordes of talent to the shores of South-East Florida, negotiating with skill that many people in his position wish they had.
As a coach, Riley masterminded an unbelievable title run in 2006 by recruiting some of the best veterans around. After taking a step back into the management side of things, he pulled off another masterstroke by bringing both LeBron James and Chris Bosh in to join Dwyane Wade a few years later. The former Lakers coach formed the best ‘big 3’ the NBA has ever seen and saw two NBA Championships come to Miami for it.
The Godfather, as he is known, Riley certainly knows how to build a team. Yet his methods do show signs of trial and error, as has been brought to light by some poor signings over the years. As great as he is at spotting talent and melding it all together, Riley does have the odd foible every now and again.
In this list, we take a look at eight of the greatest players to come into the Heat’s side since the year 2000, as well as seven of the worst.
15 Best: Dwyane Wade
Easily the best servant Miami has ever had, Dwyane Wade now plies his trade in his hometown of Chicago. The self-proclaimed 'Heat-Lifer' could not come to an agreement with the organization over prolonging his career in South Beach and decided that a move to the Bulls would best suit his ambitions.
Wade joined the Heat in 2003, coming in as the fifth pick in the draft after playing his college ball at Marquette University. He helped lead the team to their first ever NBA title three years after getting drafted and would see them to two more before moving on.
Wade should go down as the greatest player in the team’s history and is a nailed-on certainty for the Hall of Fame. It’s just sad that he wasn’t able to see out his career with the club.
14 Worst: Greg Oden
Forget the Miami Heat for a moment here. Greg Oden is one of the biggest disappointments in the entire NBA and a sad reminder of how easily injuries can ruin a career.
Oden was rather unfortunate to become a bust, as it wasn’t even his fault that he couldn’t reach the heights he was expected to. The former center had everything it takes to get to the top, except for healthy knees.
Drafted as the first overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2007, Oden would have surgery on his right knee before his first season even started, missing the campaign in its entirety. His career just went downhill from there, with various other knee issues hampering his progress, until he was let go.
The Heat signed him to a one-year deal in 2013, giving him a lifeline after he showed great signs of recovery. However, the comeback wasn’t to be and the player was seldom used, making just six starts in 23 games for the team before the end of his contract.
13 Best: Shaquille O’Neal
The former center was another huge reason Miami won an NBA Championship in 2006. Teaming up with Wade and co. a year prior, Diesel promised the team a championship ring during his unveiling. He didn’t take long to deliver on his promise, forming a potent partnership with Wade to make Miami the most feared side in the Eastern Conference.
O’Neal had experienced victory on three occasions with the Los Angeles Lakers, but left the team under acrimonious circumstances stemming from a feud with Kobe Bryant. The transition, however, was a seamless one, as Shaq would find an able complement in Wade, with younger legs than Bryant, but with the same hunger.
The big man left Miami for Phoenix in 2008 and would go on to play for two other teams before calling it quits in 2011.
12 Worst: Michael Beasley
Just how Michael Beasley did not succeed in Miami is still a mystery. This player possessed bags of talent and Pat Riley has so much faith in his ability that he's signed him three times. The Heat made Beasley the second overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft, with the player having garnered a reputation of being one of the best college ball players since 2000.
Beasley did put up good numbers and impressed quite a bit during his first two seasons, as he averaged 13.9 and 14.8 points per game in his first two seasons with the team, but it was his discipline and an addiction to marijuana that proved his downfall. The player was traded to the Timberwolves in 2010 in order to clear cap space so the team could re-sign Dwyane Wade, as well as sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
He would return to the Heat in 2013, but his impact wasn’t as expected and he departed after a year, to return for a third time, but this time on two 10-day contracts.
The 28-year-old forward is now playing his basketball with the Milwaukee Bucks, having played out two stints in China, as well as spending some time in Houston with the Rockets.
11 Best: LeBron James
LeBron James is the NBA’s heartbreak kid, but he’s still a legend in Miami despite what fans might think about him. The Ohio native incurred the wrath of Cleveland’s fans when he decided to take his talent to South Beach in 2011, but ensured that all was forgiven upon his return three years ago. In returning home, he made enemies with the fans he had in Miami, but with another ring in the bag, he won’t care about that too much.
The free-scoring forward formed an unbelievable trident with Wade and Chris Bosh, helping take the Heat to four NBA Finals, two of which they won. And who knows what might have happened if he didn’t cramp up due to ventilation problems in that series against San Antonio.
Since returning to Cleveland, LeBron has been to the Finals another two times and is currently fighting to defend his Championship this season. Some fans, though, are still hoping that he will come play for the Heat again someday.
10 Worst: Jermaine O’Neal
Unfortunately for Miami, not all varieties of O’Neal are the same. They found that out after one-and-a-half seasons with Jermaine O’Neal, who had been one of the most impressive forwards in the NBA before signing for the team.
That isn’t to say that the South Carolina native was terrible as a Heat player, as he really wasn’t. O’Neal averaged 13.3 points per game during his time in Miami, decent numbers, but he wasn’t the force they had expected in the paint and wasn’t the type of leader they had imagined.
Joining the side in 2009 as part of a trade between the Toronto Raptors and the Heat, he would leave for Boston the following year. It would be a tad unfair to refer to him as one of their worst-ever players, but he was certainly one of their most disappointing.
9 Best: Chris Bosh
Say what you will about Wade and LeBron, but the Heat would have never won those two Championships without the input of forward Chris Bosh. His current situation is rather unfortunate, with the 32-year-old still unable to return to the hardwood due to suffering from blood clots.
If he never makes that comeback, Bosh could still look back and feel satisfied with his contribution to the game. His performances, albeit sometimes questionable, were undoubtedly crucial to Miami’s charge. And despite being considered the weakest link in the ‘Big 3’, Bosh put up great numbers and played a vital role in all of the team’s endeavors.
The 11-time All-Star is still on the Heat’s books as things stand, but it’s doubtful he’ll ever play for them again.
8 Worst: Dexter Pittman
Dexter Pittman was the 32nd overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft by the Heat, but much was still expected from him, despite his ranking.
Pittman averaged 10.2 points per game in his last two seasons with the University of Texas and the Heat’s top Brass believed that he could provide them with a huge presence in the paint. Instead, he turned out to be a disappointment and was signed to the team’s NBDL side Sioux Sky Force months into his first season.
The center was recalled to the Heat again a few months later, but still found himself back playing in the NBDL in less than one month. He was assigned to the Sky Force several more times, but in 2012, he won his first and only ring after the Heat decimated the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In his three seasons in Miami, Pittman only played 44 games for the Heat. Now there’s a player you may not know had an NBA ring.
7 Best: Ray Allen
Ray Allen’s memorable clutch three against the San Antonio Spurs in game six of the 2013 Finals may go down as one of the most valuable shots in Heat history, as the team would have never won their last ring without it. If Allen hit no other shots in his Heat career, he would still be on this list due to the importance it bears to this day. So much would have gone down differently had he missed.
Allen joined the team during his twilight years, leaving the Boston Celtics to make that one last attempt at winning an NBA title. And win an NBA title he did, hitting big threes en route to his first and only ring.
Now retired, Allen holds several records. But he is most known for being the player who hit the most career threes in the history of the game, with 2973 to his name.
6 Worst: Eddy Curry
Most Heat fans probably don’t even remember that Eddy Curry spent a season in Miami, but that’s because he only played 14 games for the side and averaged just under six minutes per game.
Curry, drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 2001, didn’t have that great a first season. His second term, however, saw the center lead the league in field goal percentage with 58.5%. That made him the first Bulls man since Michael Jordan to lead the NBA in any sort of notable statistical category. From there, the player would battle with weight problems, as well as heart issues, during a career which took him from Chicago to New York, then to Minnesota (where he didn’t play a single game), before joining the Heat.
He made little impact after signing for the team in December of 2011, despite being slimmer than before. Curry was part of the Heat’s championship-winning side in 2012, but did not play any games in the post season, albeit an active squad member.
5 Best: Hassan Whiteside
Hassan Whiteside has one of the most interesting stories in the NBA today. Originally drafted back the Sacramento Kings back in 2010, Whiteside flopped with the team and was out of the league after only two years. He went overseas, playing in Lebanon and China, increased his value and came back to the NBA to sign with the Heat in late 2014. From there, Whiteside took the league by complete surprise. He turned out to be an incredible value for Pat Riley, averaging a double/double (11.8 points and 10.0 rebounds per game) in his first season for the team.
He's been so good for the team that he was actually awarded a max contract by the Heat lsat summer and he hasn't disappointed at all. While the Heat have struggled, Whiteside hasn't, leading the league in rebounding with 14 rebounds per game.
4 Worst: Mark Blount
Certainly one of the most forgettable figures to ever grace the NBA, Mark Blount now spends his free time baking pretzels. Well, not really, he just partnered up with the Auntie Anne's pretzel company after leaving basketball.
The center joined the Heat from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2007, as part of a trade which saw Antoine Walker, Michael Doleac and Wayne Simien go the other way, while teammate Ricky Davis joined up with him in Miami.
He really was less than inspiring, averaging 8.4 points per game in his first season, along with a disappointing 3.8 rebounds per game. His second season saw him average just 4 points per game and a still disappointing 2.1 rebounds per game, although - in his defence - he was playing less minutes.
The Heat traded Blount back to the Timberwolves in 2009 for Quentin Richardson and he was later waived by the team, leaving him to call it a wrap on his career.
3 Best: Tim Hardaway
Point guard Tim Hardaway only played one year in Miami after 2000, but his name has every right to be on this list, as he was one of the Heat’s best-ever performers.
Hardaway joined the side as part of a midseason trade from the Golden State Warriors in 1996. His impact was immediate and he posted 17.2 points per game, along with 10 assists, for the rest of that season. The Heat made it to the playoffs, but were swept by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, who had won a then-record 72 regular season games.
The guard’s first full campaign saw the team win a record 62 games leading up to the playoffs, with him averaging 20.3 points and 8.6 assists per game. This time around, the Heat made it to the Conference Finals, but were again stopped by the rampant Bulls.
Hardaway, a five-time All-Star, never got to win a ring at Miami, or anywhere else for that matter, but is one of the finest talents to ever grace their home floor. His son, Tim Jr., now plays as a shooting guard for the Atlanta Hawks.
Maybe he will have better luck.
2 Worst: Mike Bibby
One of the most exciting point guards of the early 2000s, the now-retired Mike Bibby certainly lit things up in Sacramento. Bibby was drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1998 as the second overall pick and spent three seasons with the team before being traded to the Kings in 2001.
In his seven seasons there, the guard gained fame for his clutch performances, most notably in the 2002 Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, whom they forced all the way to a game seven.
Bibby would play for the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards before joining the Heat in March of 2011. He played just 22 regular season games, starting 12 of those and averaging 7.3 points per game. He played a further 20 games in the playoffs, averaging 3.7 points and going to the Finals for the first time in his career, but the Dallas Mavericks would be too much for a Heat side boasting the ‘big 3’.
The guard simply could not get it going in the Finals, as his career was all but done by then. He played a season with the New York Knicks before retiring in 2012.
1 Best: Alonzo Mourning
Seven-time All-Star Alonzo Mourning had two stints with the Heat, joining them from the Charlotte Hornets in 1995 then leaving in 2002 because of a kidney issue, only to return to the team in 2005 before leaving in 2008.
The power forward/center is one of the biggest pieces in Heat history. He helped them win an NBA Championship in 2006 and despite Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal being the go-to guys in the team, it was his defensive performance in game six of the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks that ensured that Miami emerged champions.
The big man protected the rim with determined tenacity late on, making several big blocks to keep the Mavericks at bay and see Miami win their first ever Final.
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