2016/17 Record: 41-41 (9th in the Eastern Conference)
2017/18 Salaries: $102,851,379 (Over The Cap Team) – full MIA salary cap situation – here.
Incoming Draft Picks: Nil.
Outgoing Draft Picks: PHX ’18 1st (8-30), MEM/HOU ’18 2nd (MEM receives two most favourable between MEM/CHA/MIA), MIN ’19 2nd, BOS ’20 2nd, PHX ’21 1st, POR ’21 2nd, DAL ’23 2nd.
Miami was the most bipolar team in the league last season. After beginning the season 11-30 and looking headed for a high lottery pick in a loaded draft, the Heat pivoted and went on a remarkable run. Miami reeled off 13 straight wins on the way to a completely reversed 30-11 run to end the regular season. The Heat ended the season at .500 and missed the playoffs due to losing a tiebreaker with the Bulls, a heartbreaking way to go out after scrambling out of such a huge hole and being the most injured team in the league. All in all, The Frayed Ends of Sanity were certainly tested for Heat fans last season.
Heading into the offseason, the goal was simple. Full court press for Gordon Hayward, and if that fails, do your best to bring back the incumbents. The Heat drew The Shortest Straw on Hayward despite a reportedly impressive pitch, and rallied back to some of the key pieces behind the second half surge: Dion Waiters, James Johnson and Wayne Ellington. Kelly Olynyk became the collateral damage of Boston’s successful Hayward bid, so the Heat nabbed a new stretch big to give them additional lineup flexibility and range shooting, albeit at a reasonably steep price. Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder though, and here’s hoping Olynyk is repping the Man Bun in the humid South Beach weather. He also needs to work on that tan, as he’s looking like a guy who has spent the past four years in the Boston snow.
The biggest question mark for Miami coming into season 17/18 definitively lies with the forgotten man: Justise Winslow. Earmarked for a large role last season, and determined to prove himself the new face of the franchise, Winslow’s season ended after just 18 games due to a torn right labrum, his non-shooting shoulder. He also missed 16 straight games earlier in the season due to a lingering wrist injury. This injury has been the predominant reason blamed behind Winslow’s historically poor shooting performance last year, an unbelievably bad 35.6% from the floor. Whether it was finishing in the paint or taking wide open jumpers, Winslow just flat out struggled adjusting to his increased offensive responsibilities.
Many Heat fans point to Winslow as the predominant reason behind the Heat’s slow start; they won just four of the eighteen games he played in and his Offensive Rating of 88 is, well, pretty damn offensive. The big second half run without him further fuels the flames on the theory the Heat are better off utilising Winslow as a defensive specialist only, and giving his ball handling responsibilities to Dragic, Waiters and Johnson.
However, Pat Riley and the Heat hierarchy appear steadfast in the belief that Winslow can become an all-around menace in the modern NBA – capable of playing any position between One through Five (yes, he played Center in the 2016 NBA Playoffs). Winslow’s game appears better suited for the Draymond Green or Ron Artest comparisons…just without the crazy.
These are players not necessarily measured on their FG% (Green shot 41.8%fg this season, Artest a career 41.4%fg) or three point proficiency (1.1 and 0.9 three’s per game respectively), but on their ability to impact the game in so many different ways. Their physical profiles are remarkably similar, and all are known for their defensive acumen, chiseled frames and versatile offensive skill-sets. Miami will be hoping Winslow’s break-out game vs the Lakers was a sign of things to come, and his work with shooting coach Rob Fodor pays dividends in the coming season.
Winslow’s efficiency left a lot to be desired, but his overall season averages of 10.9ppg, 5.2rpg, 3.7apg and 1.4spg show flashes of unique potential needing a bit of polish. It was not unusual to see Winslow at the top of the key, making reads on the pick and roll, or finding a shooter coming off the curl. It appears the Heat are attempting to unlock Winslow primarily as a playmaker (19.8% Usage) in order to maximise his possibilities on this Heat roster, as well as helping him become a force in transition for easy buckets. This playmaker development and improved offensive efficiency will be crucial in Winslow’s role on the ‘new’ Miami Heat. This is a very different team to the one he left behind; not necessarily in personnel, but certainly in play style.
Evidence? The differentials and NBA rank between the Heat’s first 41 games compared to the last 41:
First 41: 11 wins – 30 losses (29th), 98.3ppg (29th), 8.6 3pm (23rd), 33.8% 3pt (27th), 100.6 OFFrtg (29th), 104.9 DEFrtg (12th), -4.4 NETrtg, 97.1 Pace (22nd).
Next 41: 30 wins – 11 losses (2nd), 108.0ppg (9th), 11.1 3pm (6th), 39.0% 3pt (3rd), 109.7 OFFrtg (8th), 103.3 DEFrtg (3rd), 6.4 NETrtg (2nd), 98.09 Pace (16th).
The Heat Blackened some scorched earth in the second half of the 2017 season through a heavy reliance and proficiency in the 3pt shot, and putting the ball in the hands of Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and James Johnson as their lead playmakers. Each of these three have an elite ability to create off the dribble and get into the heart of a defense, drawing defenders and finding an open player at the 3pt line for a high percentage look. They also tightened the screws defensively, a long held Heat trademark, to become one of the best defensive units in the league.
Miami is locked into long term deals for Hassan Whiteside, Dragic, Waiters, Johnson (& Johnson) and Olynyk, and owes two first round picks to Phoenix as part of the Goran Dragic deal. This means the Heat must hit on the young talent that they have in Winslow, Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo to grow as an Eastern power. Winslow is still just 21 years old, and has played only 96 career NBA Regular Season games. In many ways, he is the wildcard that determines the Heat’s future, and his development this season will go a long way in whether the Heat can contend in the East – or continue the slide into mediocrity.
Simply put, for the Heat to take the next step towards contending in the Eastern Conference, they must have good health, continued chemistry….And Justice For All.
Projected Starting Five:
Projected Depth Chart:
Overall Offseason Grade: B
2017/18 Prediction: 46-36
Given the amount of talent that has moved West, the Heat appear poised to return to the postseason. It’s difficult to ascertain which Heat team was ‘the real one’ last season, and the truth may lie somewhere in the middle. They’ll have to rely on a ‘by committee’ approach given their lack of a true star, however the depth and cohesiveness carried over from season 16/17 should hold them in good stead for a potential 5-6 seed.
Player To Watch: Josh Richardson
Richardson had an up and down sophomore season after missing all of training camp due to a partially torn MCL. He struggled to find his shooting stroke that was so effective in his rookie campaign, but ended the season strong. Richardson’s last 6 games of 15.0ppg, 3.2rpg, 3.0apg, 1.5bpg, 2.5spg, 46.4%fg, 2.8 3pg on 53.1% showed his two-way potential, and he will be a key cog in the bench unit again this season. He is eligible for a contract extension of 4 years and up to $41 million dollars, or can enter Restricted Free Agency in the 2018 offseason.
Four Key Questions:
1. Will the Heat finally have an All-Star?
The Heat do not have a player who has made the All-Star team currently on their roster, but with a bunch of stars heading West – there may be some roster spots opening. Will Whiteside get to Snapchat his first All-Star jersey? Or could Goran Dragic squeeze in if the Heat outperform expectations?
2. Who gets the start at Power Forward?
James Johnson was terrific down the stretch last season. Starting the last 5 games of the year, Johnson put up 18.2ppg, 7.0rpg, 5.6apg, 1.2spg, 0.8bpg in 36mpg and was one of the Heat’s primary go to offensive weapons – whether as a playmaker or finisher. Kelly Olynyk though presents the Heat with a legitimate stretch 4, and had that one big game. How does Coach Spo sort out these Spo-tations?
3. Will Dion Waiters and James Johnson live up to their contracts?
The Heat went with a money-ball approach last season on Waiters ($2.9m) and Johnson ($4.0m) that paid off. After buying into the culture and getting into the best shape of their lives, the Heat committed big money and big years to two players who continue to have a lot to prove. Dion bet on himself and doubled down, but was this past season a fluke? Will they both stay hungry after getting their payday?
4. Will we get a Wade reunion?
The chatter began as soon as Wade opted in on his player option. Since then, his BFF Jimmy Butler has been dealt to Minnesota and the rebuild was set in motion. If a buyout occurs, does D-Wade return to the scene of his greatest accomplishments? Or team up with fellow Banana-boat crew in Cleveland/Houston/New York? Dion and Dwyane have already been flirting, lets hope there’s a Heat franchise reconciliation on the cards. Hassan wants it, hell, who wouldn’t want a #FlashBack?