Miami Heat Preview

This post is Behind the Arc’s contribution for CelticsBlog’s 2016 NBA Blogger Previews! I chose to write an in depth preview of the Heat as my contribution to this project, but I’ll be back to preview the rest of the NBA soon.

Team Name: Miami Heat

Last Year’s Record: 48–34

Key Losses: Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Joe Johnson, Gerald Green

Key Additions: Dion Waiters, Derrick Williams, Wayne Ellington, James Johnson

1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?

The Miami Heat will be a totally new-look team this offseason. Obviously a big hole is left not only on the Heat’s roster, but in the organization as a whole, with the departure of Dwyane Wade to the Chicago Bulls, and I’ll talk a little more about Wade later on. The Heat also lost major contributors from last year’s playoff run Luol Deng and Joe Johnson to the Lakers and Jazz respectively, and Gerald Green moved on to the Celtics.

The Heat’s offseason was not all about loss however, as they were able to retain some of their key free agents and add some new faces as well. Miami was able to bring back Hassan Whiteside on a 4-year, $98 million contract and matched Brooklyn’s 4-year $50 million offer to Tyler Johnson to keep him in a Heat uniform. Miami also brought in Dion Waiters from the Thunder, Derrick Williams from the Knicks, James Johnson from the Raptors, and Wayne Ellington from the Nets.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

Youth, athleticism, and defense. With the departure of veterans Wade, Deng, and Joe Johnson, and with Chris Bosh likely not playing (more on that later as well), The Heat is all of a sudden a super young team. Goran Dragic will most likely be the Heat’s oldest true rotation player at 30 years of age, and the Heat have lots of promising young versatile talent, like Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, and Tyler Johnson.

With Wade gone, the Heat will turn over much of the ball handling duties to Dragic, so the Heat’s best bet might be to play a more up-tempo style than they have in recent years to try to capitalize on their roster’s strengths. Dragic had his best years in Phoenix when he was given the keys to an up-tempo, fast breaking, pick-and-roll offense, and maybe he can recapture some of that magic now that he no longer has to share the ball with D-Wade.

For the Heat to win this season, they will have to be a top-tier defensive squad. The pieces are there for this to happen, with a dominant rim protector like Hassan Whiteside patrolling the paint and versatile defenders like Winslow and Richardson on the wing. The Heat have to hope that they can get their young, athletic players to buy in to a defensive identity .

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

The Miami Heat’s biggest weakness this season has to be the lack of dynamic scoring options. The now-departed trio of Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, and Joe Johnson accounted for 48% of the Heat’s scoring in the playoffs. With all those players gone, who will Miami look to when it needs a tough bucket late in a game?

I expect Dragic to have a better year offensively this year than his first 2 as a member of the Heat, and Miami picked up some capable offensive players through free agency, like Dion Waiters and Derrick Williams, but I don’t know that the Heat’s roster as currently constructed is capable of yielding an offense that draws Miami close to playoff contention.

4. What are the goals for this team?

This year, the Miami Heat appear to be in that weird mid-tier level of mediocrity in the NBA that no team really wants to be in. The Heat isn’t bad enough to completely tank and go for a top pick in next year’s draft, but they aren’t exactly playoff contenders either.

The goals for the Heat this year should be primarily development based. Miami has a good young core of guards and wings, and they should only continue to get better in the coming years. The Heat would love to make a push for the playoffs, but this season’s success will be measured in how much improvement is shown by players such as Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson. Speaking of…

5. How will Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson improve in year 2?

One of the most compelling storylines surrounding this year’s Heat team is the development of last year’s dynamic duo of rookies, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson. They both excelled at times in their somewhat limited roles as rookies, but now, with Wade, Deng, and Joe Johnson all gone, the two are set to get dramatically increased playing time in 2016–17.

Winslow already showed his brilliant defense as a rookie, but he will need to improve his offensive game to develop into the All-Star the Heat believe he can be. He should get plenty of opportunities to do just that on this Heat team.

Dwyane Wade has moved on from the Miami Heat Photo: Mark Runyon |BasketballSchedule.net)

6. How will Dwyane Wade’s departure affect Heat Nation?

Wade was undoubtedly the most important player in Miami Heat history, as he was a major reason Miami was able to win its three titles. As a Heat fan, the sting I felt when I learned D-Wade would be signing with Chicago was much worse than when LeBron decided to take his talents from South Beach. LeBron, at the time of his departure, was the best basketball player on the planet and still in his prime, but he never was “face of the franchise” like Wade was. Everyone thought Dwyane Wade was a “Heat Lifer,” and I wish he could have stayed in Miami to finish out his career. It already feels wrong to watch him in a Chicago Bulls uniform during the preseason. It’s safe to say that Miami-Wade county will never be the same without him.

7. How will the Chris Bosh situation play out?

C.B. is another player that will certainly be missed by the Heat (and the NBA as a whole if he doesn’t play again). After Bosh recently failed his preseason physical because of his recurring problem with blood clots, Pat Riley said that Bosh’s “Heat career is probably over.” The Heat will most likely have to keep him on the roster for the time being. Miami can look to trade him for another player, or they can keep him around until February 9, the one-year anniversary of Bosh’s last game, when the Heat will become eligible for salary cap relief if he is declared “medically unable to play.”

Obviously Bosh’s situation is a no-win for all parties involved. Bosh wants to play, but Miami is afraid to let him because of the health risks. If Bosh’s medical situation renders him unable to ever step foot on the court again, the NBA will sorely miss such a great player and even better person.

Conclusion and Prediction

This season will surely be a year of transition for the Miami Heat. Now, with the “big three” all departed, a new era of Heat basketball is set to begin.

Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, along with some younger talent like Justise Winslow, are now the core of the new-look Heat. But will this roster be able to propel Miami into playoff contention? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. There is some promising young talent, but I fear that Miami will have a lot of trouble scoring enough to keep pace with some of the upper echelon Eastern Conference teams.

I’ll say Miami gets 38 wins, just misses out on the playoffs, and heads into free agency 2017 with the hope that Pat Riley can land a superstar to pair with his exciting young core.

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