The NBA season ended for the Miami Heat last season when the Philadelphia 76ers eliminated the Heat in the opening round of the playoffs.
The beat went on as the Golden State Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals ending the NBA season on June 8th. In the next 129 days that followed there were some headline moves in the association.
Warriors added DeMarcus Cousins, Camelo Anthony joined the Houston Rockets, Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors from the San Antonio Spurs for DeMar DeRozan in return, the one that remains seismic is LeBron James becoming a Los Angeles Laker. Miami Heat’s catch for that whale became an empty net. The reality of it all the Heat did not have the resources to make a large off-season move really.
Pending the possibility that Jimmy Butler takes his talents to the Miami Heat, this team begins and ends with the decision making of head coach Erik Spoelstra this season. He remains an elite NBA coach. This season he will have the challenge of implementing minutes for Dwyane Wade and if given a chance Udonis Haslem who both announced this is their final season. The buzz will be good for the team; Wade and Haslem in the locker room will bring leadership to tough-minded guys.
Health will be vital for Wade to dance all season. I don’t expect him to play the full 82-game regular season, but he compliments the depth of the team this season. The versatility and depth of this team starts with Wade. Spoelstra will need to manage players at all five positions. Moreover, players who will be trade value to land an NBA star.
Dion Waiters coming back from ankle surgery can complicate the rotation in terms of minutes, but that’s never hurt, and Spoelstra finds a way to get guys on the court. Waiters will add an element of offensive creation that other guys don’t have.
Father time is undefeated; though on decline Goran Dragic remains among the top point guards in the Eastern Conference. Justise Winslow’s defense demands respect. Miami gave Winslow a three year, 39 million dollar extension. He is who he is offensively; he’ll always be a solid role player, making more shots from the outside would give the Heat another dimension.
James Johnson is an athletic forward who can put it on the floor and make plays defensively. He bought into their culture and fitness emphasis, and it’s benefited him the most of any player on the team.
The Heat always look good when Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk are on the floor. They both help with ball movement offensively and there is no lack of effort on the defensive end. Adebayo deserves to be a starting center, and he showed enough last year to where growth was evident and he gives you consistent effort.
The big whale for the Heat is Hassan Whiteside. He hasn’t been the same and hasn’t shown the same hunger since he signed his big deal in 2016. Heat fans have illustrated frustration also. He’s getting paid like a big-time player and doesn’t consistently make a winning impact even when he puts up numbers. Spoelstra will have his hands full. Whiteside has to get back to where he was three years ago and gain that respect back.
The month of February is when the identity of the team will be revealed. Deep in the heart of the Wade and Haslem tour it begins with a visit from Russell Westbrook and Paul George, then quickly features a six-game road trip that starts in Portland, ends in Philadelphia and includes stops in Oakland and Denver. Oh, and the Heat plays their second game against the Warriors in February, with the team’s only trip to Houston wrapping up the month.
They have a bunch of good players but don’t have a superstar who’s going to push them over the top. That star is needed to get them into the next tier of teams in the Eastern Conference. On the defensive end, they have been a top seven squad two years in a row. The Heat will finish 1st in the Southeast Division, 6th in the Eastern Conference with 44 wins.