New Era in Miami: What Can We Expect From the 2016-17 Heat?
The Miami Heat roster will look a lot different at the beginning of the 2016-17 season. It’s going to take a lot of time for Heat fanatics to come to terms with the departure of the best player in franchise history, Dwyane Wade. The losses of Wade, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson do not make up for the subpar acquisitions of Dion Waiters, Derrick Williams, Wayne Ellington and James Johnson. Miami took a major step back this offseason, but maybe Pat Riley knew it was time to start fresh after officially falling out of the title contending window.
Who’s Still on the Roster?
Miami actually still has a relatively talented roster. Goran Dragic is an above average court general who can thrive under the right circumstances. Josh Richardson is a three-and-D specialist who has the opportunity to develop into much more than that. Tyler Johnson can put the ball in the basket with ease and is very underrated on the defensive side of the ball.
Even though he is just 27 years old, Hassan Whiteside is one of the most physically gifted players in the league. His defense is astounding and his offense has come a long way since officially sticking in the NBA a few seasons ago. Armed with a new 4 year, $98 million maximum contract, Whiteside has to prove why Miami made him their new cornerstone.
Justise Winslow is already a top notch defender and has the potential to develop into something truly special if he can become a consistent shooter. Fellow Duke Blue Devil Josh McRoberts has consistently shown the ability to be a top 10 player in the league.
The biggest question mark (outside of Chris Bosh’s health) on the roster is definitely Dion Waiters. He comes across as very arrogant and cocky, but I’ve always been a distant fan of his style of play. As seen in the playoffs with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Waiters can put up points in bunches and has a somewhat unexplainable confidence and swagger about him that tends to intrigue me.
At the end of the day, everyone that dominates the NBA landscape has a certain confidence about them that helps to elevate their game. I’m not saying that he will even make one All-Star game during his career, but he could provide a nice and much-needed scoring spark off the bench for a defensive minded team like the Heat.
Obviously Bosh’s health will make or break the basketball season in South Beach. If Bosh is cleared to play, Miami will boast a quality starting five of Dragic, Richardson, Winslow, Bosh and Whiteside. This doesn’t compare to the upper echelon of starting fives around the league. However, this is definitely a playoff caliber starting lineup, which is all contingent on Bosh’s availability.
What the Experts Think:
My opinion toward the Heat may be a bit biased, so I wanted to check out a few credible sources to see where they think the team will end up. The season is still approximately two months away so not too many of the major websites have made their yearly predictions yet, but here’s what I found:
There are not a wide variety of expectations for the Heat this season. No one is considering Miami a top four team in the East like they’ve been for the past six years, let alone a playoff team.
The ESPN forecast panel projects that Miami will finish with a 36-46 record, only ahead of Orlando, Philadelphia and Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference. Miami went 48-34 last season and finished third in the East, so these panelists think that the losses of Wade, Deng and Johnson will turn them into an extremely below average team. However, they aren’t completely down about Miami.
“But our panel isn’t totally crushing the Heat, because a youth movement built on Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, and Josh Richardson could keep Miami in the hunt.”
Jared Johnson of Todaysfastbreak.com also predicts that Miami will end with a 36-46 record. However, he did clarify that they would be competing for a playoff spot if Bosh was healthy.
Major Factors of Success:
The success of the season in Miami really depends on two things: the health of Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra’s ability to utilize his pieces and maximize the talent on the roster.
This is the first season in a long time in which Miami’s status is up in the air. They could be an above average team that wins 43-48 games and makes the playoffs, or they could falter because of their youth and win under 40 games.
Miami’s coaching staff has always seemed to find hidden talent, but they have also always had veterans to assist these youngsters. Now, with only a few true veterans around and a core full of under 27’s, the Miami coaching staff, especially Spoelstra, has its hands full.
There are minimal coaches around the Association who always maximize the talent on their roster. Only a few names come to mind: Gregg Popovich (San Antonio), Steve Kerr (Golden State), Rick Carlisle (Dallas), Doc Rivers (Los Angeles) and Brad Stevens (Boston).
If Spoelstra can maximize this talent like he’s showed multiple times in the past, Miami will still be competing for a playoff spot next season.
Spoelstra must use this youth to his advantage by playing a lot of run and gun on offense and applying nonstop pressure on defense. They must create turnovers and push the ball in transition for easy buckets.
There are multiple combinations Spo can use to get the most out of his guys.
He can use Whiteside as the only big and have Winslow playing the four. He could also go very big with Richardson and Waiters in the backcourt and Whiteside, Bosh (if available) and James Johnson rounding out that lineup.
Also, imagine an extremely defensive-oriented lineup of Richardson, Weber (absolute defensive stud), Winslow, Johnson and Whiteside. That could debatably be the best defensive unit in the league.
Brad Stevens is arguably the best coach at utilizing his versatility and toying around with his lineups to make the most efficient group possible. We’ve never really had to see Spoelstra come up with different lineup combinations because of the incredibly talented players gifted into his lap. This season is going to distinguish how good of a coach Spoelstra can be with limited talent.
Everyone looks at Bosh as the big X-factor for this season, and I couldn’t agree more. When healthy, he’s still undoubtedly an All-Star talent. Pairing him and Dragic with Miami’s young core could keep basketball relevant in South Beach for years to come. However, this blood clot issue has cost him his past two seasons, and Miami doctors have an obvious reason for not clearing him to play.
It’s very unfortunate to see a leader like Bosh dealing with this type of situation on the back end of his career. After the recent outburst of optimism regarding his status this season, it seems more likely that we will see Bosh on the court for Miami during the 2016-17 season.
Expectations for the Heat are the lowest they’ve been since the pre-LeBron era. I do not expect Miami to be toward the upper half of the lottery, but I would not be surprised if they ended up with the 14th or so pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. With Bosh’s status entirely up in the air, Miami’s season is very hard to predict.Without Bosh, Miami will go 38-44 and miss the playoffs by five games.With Bosh, they will go 45-37 and obtain the 6th seed in the East.