Season Preview: Miami Heat

With the NBA season just a week away and the majority of player movement being done, I’m going to start previewing the teams. Based on my projected order of the standings, we’ll start at the bottom and work towards the top rotating between East and West. Past previews will be linked as well.

Atlanta Hawks | Brooklyn Nets | Charlotte Hornets | Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Dallas Mavericks | Detroit Pistons | Los Angeles Clippers | Memphis Grizzlies | Minnesota Timberwolves | New Orleans Pelicans | New York Knicks | Orlando Magic | Phoenix Suns | Portland Trailblazers | Sacramento Kings

Overview:

The Miami Heat did their spending last summer, locking up the core of their team for the foreseeable future. Dion Waiters returns from injury to add another body to an already crowded rotation, but no other moves were made. Eric Spolstra is one of the best coaches in the NBA and has done an excellent job of managing rotations and finding lineup combinations that work. The one dark cloud hanging over the franchise is the future of Hassan Whiteside, who has been unhappy with his role and has been vocal about wanting out. Whiteside is also blocking promising big man Bam Adebayo, and the Heat need to come to a resolution with Whiteside as soon as possible. With a potential Jimmy Butler trade looming, all could change very quickly in Miami but for now they are a very solid team playoff that is lacking a superstar (beside Dion Waiters of course). If the Heat want to return to champion contender status, changes have to be made.

Photo courtesy of basketballinsiders.com — by Sean Taira
Photo courtesy of basketballinsiders.com — by Sean Taira

17-18 Stats:

Offensive Rating 104.5 (20th)

Defensive Rating 104.0 (7th)

Net Rating 0.5 (17th)

True Shooting Percentage 55.1% (15th)

Assist Percentage 58.5% (16th)

Rebound Percentage 50.2% (15th)

Turnover Percentage 14.5% (19th)

Pace 97.75 (26th)

Record 44-38

Key Additions:

None

Key Subtractions:

None

Find a Center

The Miami Heat are have depth everywhere on the court, but the biggest juggling act might be at the center position. The Heat have four guys they can use at center, Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, and James Johnson. All of them have different strengths and weaknesses, and figuring out who can play together and what guys to surround them with is going to be a tough task for Eric Spolstra. Last season the Heat had a net rating of +7.4 when Olynyk was on the court, the only center to post a positive net rating. The three best lineups for the Heat (playing 50 minutes or more) had front courts of Johnson and Olynyk, Olynyk and Adebayo, and Johnson and Olynyk again. Notice that Hassan Whiteside who had a net rating of -2.5, was not a part of them.

What to do with Whiteside?

Hassan Whiteside voiced his displeasure with losing minutes last season, and expressed an interest in being traded. Whiteside is a tremendous individual talent but is basically a black hole on the court and hasn't shown signs of evolution. I understand that Whiteside is not a passer, but assist total of 54, 57, and 29 the past three seasons is simply unacceptable. If Whiteside gets the ball on the block, he's shooting. Whiteside is under contract for the next two years (the second being a player option) for just under 53 million. James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk do not have his talent, but are much more versatile and can stretch the floor, and Bam Adebayo is an emerging young player who needs minutes. Miami hasn't had luck finding a taker for Whiteside, and might have to take on a bad contact to move him.

Dwayne Wade and What's Best for the Team

Dwayne Wade might be the most iconic and beloved player of all time for the Heat franchise, and will certainly have a statue outside the arena one day, but currently he is not a very good player. Two years ago the Heat wisely let Dwayne Wade leave in free agency, refusing to pay him 25 million a year. Now he's back on a veterans minimum deal after a stint with the Bulls and Cavs. In the 21 games Wade played with the Heat last season, they had a net rating of -4.3 and a offensive rating of just 99.6. Wade is expected to be a starter again, but simply put the Heat weren't a very good team when he was on the court. With capable players Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, and Tyler Johnson needing minutes at the two, at some point Miami is going to have to do what's best for the team and sit Dwayne Wade.

Player to Watch: Justice Winslow

Photo courtesy of espn.com — by Sean Taira
Photo courtesy of espn.com — by Sean Taira

In 2015 the Miami Heat supposedly got the steal of the draft taking Justice Winslow who had "superstar potential" with the 10th overall pick. Three years later we still aren't sure what to make of him. Winslow has already suffered shoulder and knee injuries, missing valuable time the past two seasons. The big question mark around Winslow was his ability to shot, and he did manage to shoot the 3 at a 38.0% clip last season. Winslow continues to excel on the defensive end of the floor, and ranked 10th amongst small forwards last season with a 1.96 defensive real plus minus. Does Winslow have the ability to take his game to the next level and become an All-Star level player? Or is he just a three and d wing?

Starters:

PG: Goran Dragic

SG: Dwayne Wade

SF: Josh Richardson

PF: James Johnson

C: Hassan Whiteside

Reserves:

PG: Tyler Johnson

SG: Dion Waiters

SF: Justice Winslow

PF: Kelly Olynyk

C: Bam Adebayo

Westgate Projected Win Total: 41.5

Projected Record: 41-41 (7th in Eastern Conference)