This may be the most high variance team in the NBA.
I’ve heard the Heat pegged as everything from the team in the Eastern Conference with the best chance to knock off Cleveland to a team that could miss the playoffs entirely for the second year in a row if they run into health issues or a serious Hassan Whiteside regression. And, as with all things, the reality is likely somewhere in between.
Chris Bosh was an absolute show-stopper last year before his season was ended by some incredibly scary bloodclots in his lungs. This happened to occur pretty much on the same exact day as when the Heat acquired Goran Dragic for two waayyy future first-round picks, so we never got a chance to see the Heat make that spirited run at the 7th or 8th seed we were fantasizing over when the trade with Phoenix happened. Dwayne Wade basically alternated between days spent riding the bench/doing the 20 minutes per game disappearing act and days when he decided to be a top 10 player again and absolutely torched the league with his hurky-jurky old-man drive to the rack game. And lastly, this team benefited from the league’s best contract in the Whiteside coming out party.
The Heat also did a serious effort in revamping the fringes of their roster, signing Amare Stoudemire and Gerald Green to play key offensive roles off the bench and getting Josh McRoberts back from injury after missing all but 17 games last year. This is all huge for a squad that was dangerously thin last year. This team needed big minutes from people like Michael Beasley, Shawne Williams (?), and Henry Walker (???) to even keep 15 people on the roster last year, none of whom are going to be there now. And, most importantly for an organization that doesn’t have a single eligible first rounder until the year 2020, this team was somehow able to come away with the steal of the draft in Justise Winslow at pick #10. Really, it’s just another example of the Miami Mafia (was looking for a Jalen Rose quote, but this is pretty cool as well) at work with one of the most winning franchises of the last twenty years being able to keep doing exactly that. It’s why they were able to get Lebron, why they were able to get Dragic, and why they’re likely going to be right there in the conversation for Durant next summer. And also why I hate them oh so much.
The Winslow thing is an absolute coup. Sure, he’s not going to play a ton next year, but that may be almost better for him in the long run. As one of the most athletic, physical defenders in the draft without a proven jump shot, Winslow could’ve fallen into a situation like Denver or Philly where he would have been called upon to pound the ball, take on a good deal of the scoring load, and just generally develop a lot of bad habits within a high-volume, low-efficiency offense. Instead, he gets to back up two of the league’s most consumate professionals in Dwayne Wade and Luol Deng, benefit from one the NBA’s most underrated coaches, and learn what it means to be part of a winning, disciplined organization. Oh yeah, and get to make millions of dollars living in Miami. Lucky dog.
However, even with all of this excellence and talent, I don’t think Miami is going to be crazy fun to watch during the regular season. Bosh is one of the most versatile big men in the game, but Luol Deng is essentially the NBA version of a blue-collar, lunch pail, steel mill worker (Not an African selling counterfeit shit behind his store!!) without a ton of flair to his game, and you can pretty much guarantee Dwayne Wade will miss at least 15/20 games. Plus the Heat played at the league’s second slowest pace last year (although I guess they didn’t have Dragic for a good stretch of that) and will have some serious spacing issues as Wade is somehow a career 28% 3-point shooter with Deng not all that much better at 33. Miami finished 27th in the league in scoring last year and 22nd in three pointers made. They’re built to crawl, not to run.
All of that stuff is going to improve. In a point guard driven league, Dragic earned 3rd team All-NBA honors two years ago, and may have continued to improve had he not been in a gigantic time-share last season. As I said, the bench is improved and the team should theoretically benefit from a full-season of Bosh who was having a career performance before he shut down for the season. I’m going to be rooting big-time for Winslow who had a crazy-exciting March Madness tournament and of course Stoudemire, who is one of my ten favorite Knicks of all time. If everything breaks right, this is a team that could definitely do some damage in the postseason and I’d really like to see them take a run at Cleveland with Pat Riley giving Lebron the death stare from center court.
Still, other than getting the chance to watch Dragic and Bosh play some pick-and-pop, this is a team full of known variables. These guys are going to play hard, and they should be able to win a fair amount of games, but they are going to operate at a slow pace out of respect for their vets. They are going to eschew the 3 point line as they don’t have any real marksmen on the roster and they are going to play a seriously dialed down version of the frantic trap defense they had in place during the Big 3 era. I like all of the pieces here, and I’m big time jealous of the organization in Miami, but this team is going to clock in just short of league average in terms of fun.
Let’s start getting to the good stuff.