Kia Season Preview 2016-17
2016-17 Season Preview: Miami Heat
Remember all the drama and headaches Erik Spoelstra had to deal with when the Heat’s Big 3 of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh first got together? That’s nothing compared to the challenges that lie ahead for Spoelstra and the Heat now, with none of the Big 3 left to work with in Miami. There aren’t enough experienced, quality pieces on the roster right now to justify the mention of a Big 3. Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson are making Big 3 money without the career accomplishments to justify the hype. Spoelstra remains one of the league’s best coaches, but the Heat don’t have the human resources to compete a the level they’ve grown accustomed to recently.
The Dwyane Wade era in Miami ended with a thud. The greatest player in franchise history couldn’t find common ground with the franchise in free agency and Wade departed for Chicago. … Bosh’s situation was not resolved until the eve of training camp, when he failed a physical and then Pat Riley announced that Bosh’s Heat career was “probably over,” after blood clots cut short each of the past two seasons for the 11-time All-Star. … Bosh is still under contract (three years, $76 million remaining), but there doesn’t appear to be a path for him to return to the Heat’s active roster. … The Heat did break the bank to keep Hassan Whiteside in free agency, signing him to a max deal worth $98 million over four years. … The Heat matched the four-year, $50 million offer sheet Tyler Johnson signed with Brooklyn, keeping their young guard in the fold during what turned out to be a transformative summer for the franchise. … Perhaps more crucial than any of the player movement that went on for the Heat this summer was the departure of longtime assistant David Fizdale, who left for a head coaching opportunity with the Memphis Grizzlies. His work on the Heat’s player development component, not to mention Spoelstra’s top assistant, leaves a huge void in the program. … Joe Johnson and Luol Deng, starters for the Heat during their run to the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, left for Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers, respectively, in free agency.
Goran Dragic wants to play faster and should get his opportunity now that Wade has moved on. Dragic is at his best when the tempo is cranked up and that’s likely the best option for this Heat team the way it’s constructed now.
Injury issues have bothered Whiteside before and he dealt with lingering knee soreness during training camp. But he’ll have to find a way to play through whatever issues arise now that he’s a franchise cornerstone. The gamble the Heat made (Whiteside now as opposed to another year or two with Wade) could come back to bite them in the short-term.
The Heat have big plans for second-year guard Josh Richardson, who is sidelined to start this season after suffering a knee injury during offseason workouts. Wade’s departure opened up a starting spot that he’ll fill when healthy.
MAN ON THE SPOT
Hassan Whiteside. Even though Dragic has to be the leader of this team if they have a chance of making any noise in the playoff hunt this season, the spotlight now and until further notice is on the big man. White side made plenty of noise about what he felt he was capable of before cashing in with that $98 million deal. Now he has to live up to his own hype and he doesn’t have Wade or Bosh around as buffers. The pressure is on and Whiteside has to be a dominant force on both ends of the floor. It’s non-negotiable.
Goran Dragic | 14.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 5.8 apg
It’s his show now that Wade and Bosh are not in the mix.
Josh Richardson | 6.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.4 apg
Partially torn MCL during a summer workout will cost him the start of the season.
Hassan Whiteside | 14.2 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 3.7 bpg
Spoelstra needs Whiteside to learn how to dominate the paint on both ends consistently.
Josh McRoberts | 3.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.9 apg
The absence of presses veteran big man into a starting role, provided he can stay healthy.
Justise Winslow | 6.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.5 apg
Improved as his rookie season went on and is ready for bigger role in sophomore season.
Tyler Johnson | 8.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.2 apg
Talented backup to Dragic who has to accelerate his development this season.
Dion Waiters | 9.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.0 apg
Head strong scorer who might start the season as a starter due to Josh Richardson injury.
Wayne Ellington | 7.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.1 apg
Career 37 percent 3-point shooter provides quality backcourt depth.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The outlook for the Heat changed dramatically the day Dwyane Wade decided he was done with the Heat. There was no guarantee Bosh was going to return anyway, but that was another wicked blow for a team that would have been in the top four mix in the playoff chase. Now they’ll have to develop chemistry on the fly and hope they are healthy enough to stay in the playoff mix early. A more realistic expectation is that the youngsters overachieve and they battle for one of those final playoff spots.
Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.
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