As another NBA chapter nears, it’s time for our season previews. Can the Heat pick up where they left off?
Expected Conference Ranking: 5th
Best Move of the Offseason: Keeping the band together. A team that goes 30-11 over any stretch of a season deserves to be brought back. There is virtually no chance that this team ever wins a championship or even a playoff series. It is cannon fodder for the Cavs and Celtics.
This is the rare example of a middle ground between contention and tanking actually making sense. The Heat are so depleted of future assets that a proper tank would be difficult to pull it off. So they’re going to wait out the outgoing draft capital and try to do this properly when Pat Riley retires in a few years. Until then, this team will be entertaining for a few years. There are worse fates. And if the team accidentally develops another star as it did Hassan Whiteside, maybe they’ll stumble into something better.
Worst Move of the Offseason: Keeping the band together. Everything above is fun and all, but the ultimate goal is to win the championship. And the Heat are about as far away from that as a team can be right now. It will take them five years just to get back to neutral. They can’t even begin a tank until they have their own picks, which they won’t in perpetuity until after the 2021 draft.
If the Heat really wanted to push it, they could have cleared the decks from a salary perspective, tanked away the 2018 season and tried a quickie rebuild with one great rookie and the cap space to bring in a veteran star. But Riley didn’t want to tank and Miami enjoyed its 41-41 season last year. So sure, why not run it back? It’ll only cost the team relevance.
Their Offense: Kelly Olynyk can shoot. That’s a neat trick. It might actually help unleash Justise Winslow’s defense now that he can play in passable offensive lineups with enough shooting to cover him.
Dion Waiters can shoot too. And after a slow start, he is free to shoot as much as he’d like. This is going to be fun. Kobe Bryant’s 50 shots in a game record is officially on the table. An NBA team is actually willing to build much of its offense around Waiters for the first time, and by golly is he gonna enjoy it.
Their Defense: The Heat always cobble together a good defense. They have the horses for it. Hassan Whiteside is an All-Defense caliber player. James Johnson had a career year. Plus, he and Winslow present a switching menace top opponents. Miami will have to find balance with offense as it always does, but these players are all plus defenders who can mesh with almost anyone defensively. Throw Tyler Johnson into the mix and the Heat could field a pretty solid all-defense lineup if they needed to.
Their Bench: The key to the season for Miami will be their rotations. They have a bunch of great defensive players and a bunch of good offensive players. How do those pieces mix? Do Whiteside and Olynyk ever share the floor? Can Winslow play with James Johnson? Does Tyler Johnson have to be tethered to both Waiters and Dragić? And if so, which one of them is coming off of the bench? The Heat will figure it out because they always do, but it will be a very interesting mishmash of players during the process.
Best Case Scenario: They get hot again and manage to win a playoff series.
Worst Case Scenario: They are closer to the 11-30 team of the first half last season rather than the 30-11 team of the second half. Only now, that’s their roster for the foreseeable future.