The NBA season is going to be an exciting one. From east to west, young teams, super teams, and those who will catch our attention every night like the New Orleans Pelicans with rookie sensation Zion Williamson.
The party tips off when the Pelicans visit the Toronto Raptors capped off by the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. Oh! By the way, I am picking the Clippers to come out of the Western Conference.
I am here for Heat Nation.
Miami Heat fans, the hype is real. I expect this Heat team to make the playoffs this season. But! Pending the health of the team, a fifth or sixth seed is fair, above that is shocking. A seventh and eighth seed are below expectations to enter the playoffs.
It begins with four-time all-star Jimmy Butler. I would be shocked if Butler plays a full season, 65 games played for a healthy Butler is needed for the Heat to set themselves up for a playoff run. Butler cost the Heat depth bags of money, the only thing for him to prove is winning, Heat Culture embracing him will take care of itself.
“Every year, I am excited to start the NBA season,” Butler said. “I am just happy to be able to hoop; we have a great group of guys, other than that we like being around each other, everybody laughing and smiling, it is going to be a long great year, everybody around here is looking forward to it.”
Butler will have to prove he is a different animal and the same beast. LeBron James is long gone, but when James was in Heat uniform, they made the NBA Finals from 2010-2014, but have only made it out of the first round once since the King’s departure.
Last season ended in a bit of disappointment, as they missed the playoffs by two games in Dwyane Wade’s farewell tour season. But headlined by Butler, this year’s team is reloaded with young pieces around the four-time All-Star with a roster I predict will return to the postseason.
Defensively the Heat played more zone than anyone last season and was able to add to the win column. There are three players on this current Heat roster who will help the engine run on nights Butler will need the support. Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Goran Dragic.
Adebayo will not be playing behind Hassan Whiteside this season. There is no ceiling for his potential this season; moreover, he has proven he is not scared of the opportunity. He improved his sophomore season, especially showing he was more skilled than Whiteside. He is physically gifted; expect Bam to grow as a defender, passer, and shooter.
Who does not like Tyler Herro? Pat Riley does, leading him to draft another Kentucky Wildcat in the first round. He can shoot; importantly, he can find his spot around defenses. The Heat will condition him, so he does not hit that wall a rookie in the long season leading him to hit shots in a critical moment when called.
It is Butler’s team; however, if Riley does not pull the trigger to trade Dragic, his veteran presence can be valuable in a starting role or coming off the bench. Dragic knows what is expected when Erik Spoelstra needs him to quarterback the offense. Dragic will look to pass first; it will only benefit Butler, who needs the ball.
The Heat aren’t on a crazy playoff drought, but they have missed the postseason in three of the last five seasons. That’s the worst five-season stretch since they joined the league in 1988 when they missed the playoffs in four of their first five seasons in the NBA.
Drum roll, please.
The Heat finished 39-43, ninth last season. I project the Heat to finish 49-33, positioning themselves in a fifth or sixth seed. Seven or eight seeds would be concerning going into a playoff run. Missing the playoffs again will have basketballs with flames attached to them falling out the sky. Wait.