Free Agents: None
“There can only be one state of mind as you approach any profound test; total concentration, a spirit of togetherness, and strength.”
Nobody can seem to agree upon the Heat. Some people think Pat Riley has come out of nowhere to build a dark horse contender, and others believe that the Heat are being trumped up far too much. The upcoming season should ultimately prove who is right, and while the Heat are looking almost complete, they aren’t quite finished transforming.
The only free agent Miami decided to not keep was Michael Beasley, whose team option was declined. This isn’t a big surprise, Beasley’s defense was abysmal as always, and he didn’t shoot particularly well. In any case, a hearty round of applause should be extended to Riley for managing to re-sign Dragic while convincing him to leave some money on the table. Dragic might’ve had a down year when compared to his world-beating 13-14 campaign, but he came from a toxic situation in Phoenix and had to adjust to Spoelstra’s schemes on the fly. $90 million over 5 years is a lot more palatable than a $109 million deal over the same time period, especially with the rising salary cap, and the fact that Dragic will be 34 at the end of his deal. Luol Deng also accepted his player option, which can be seen as a win for Miami in light of their other moves. When Deng was off the floor, the Heat had an Offensive Rating of 98.0 (would rank 2nd worst), and when he was on the floor, the Heat had an ORTG of 108.2 (would rank top 12). Deng also shot a career high on eFG%, and the rest of his stats managed to keep in line with his career averages. Although one wonders how much slippage his defense might’ve seen, it’s unfair to judge Deng for his past two seasons – he was stuck in a no-win situation on the Cavs two years ago, and the many injuries last season halted Miami from creating a defensive identity. This all leads up to the decision of Wade, who made it clear he wanted to be paid after years of sacrifice, just like how Bosh was given big money not to leave for Houston. Wade opted out and gave Heat fans a real scare, but eventually was able to come to terms with a one year deal for $20 million. He still isn’t the highest paid player on the team (that honor belongs to Bosh), but it is certainly indicative of the respect that the organization feels for the greatest player in their team history. The scary thing is, this is actually closer to market value than one would imagine, if it weren’t for Wade’s spotty health.
Many will argue that Miami has won the draft, by stealing Justise Winslow with the 10th pick, and selecting Josh Richardson at 40. Winslow is somewhat undersized for a small forward, standing at 6’4.5” without shoes, but thankfully being bestowed with a 6’10” wingspan. Coming from Duke, Winslow has achieved legitimate success as a starter on Mike Krzyzewski’s championship squad. He averaged 12.6 points in only 29 minutes per game on a 48.5 FG%, 41.4 3PT% (with an impressive 2.8 threes attempted per game), and going 64.1% from the free throw line. Winslow also stuffed the stat sheet with 6.5 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, a block, and just under 2 turnovers per game. Being only 19 years old, the all-around game that Winslow has displayed is no small feat, and he is sure to receive some minutes right from the outset. Winslow can guard multiple positions from both a one-on-one and team perspective, and his rebounding ability should serve him well versus smaller power forwards. Still, sheer power won’t work so well for an athlete like Winslow when he squares up against the big dogs of the league, and despite his efficiency, Winslow isn’t the best at creating for himself or others. Finally, his shooting could be a fluke – although he improved upon his shot mechanics heading into college, he still had his struggles at the free throw line, which doesn’t really occur for proven NBA shooters (exceptions like Bruce Bowen do exist, however). Miami’s other pick, Josh Richardson, is no mere throwaway. The senior out of Tennessee has improved upon his game every year in college, finally exploding for 16 points in 36 minutes per game last season, and shooting 36% from three on 4 attempts per game. Richardson made sizeable improvements in his game on a yearly basis except for his two point shooting and his shot blocking (which is mostly irrelevant for a shooting guard). Clearly, to improve his three point shot and his free throws shows a lot of hard work, which could take him all the way to a major rotational role in a few years.
The Heat are trying to rid themselves of Chalmers, Andersen, and reportedly even Napier and McRoberts at the right price. Presumably, this would be to clear up space for the epic free agency after next season, but Chalmers and Andersen are both expiring contracts, anyway. Perhaps the front office has decided the two are out of place, and peddling them off to another team for practically nothing would be a move of addition by subtraction. After all, Chalmers will eventually have to give way to Napier, and Andersen’s effectiveness in anything more than limited minutes has been steadily decreasing (he just turned 37!). McRoberts would be a nice piece off Miami’s bench, but his upcoming salary of $5.7 million after next season is enough to break the bank- Zach Lowe states that he’s reportedly being offered for one or two 2nd round picks. As much as I want to say that I don’t see the point in trading away Napier because of his subpar rookie season, it wouldn’t look like an awful move if he were to be shipped away. I mean, any team in the league would absolutely rid themselves of Napier if it meant enough money to sway Kevin Durant with.
Prediction: If Wade can stay healthy, this team is back in the playoffs for sure. If Bosh comes back strong from his life threatening blood clots, he’ll be enough to make the Heat climb another few rungs on the playoffs ladder. Hassan Whiteside has been gaining national recognition for his defensive abilities, and don’t be surprised if he comes into the season as a more polished post player (perhaps with a jump shot, too). Dragic’s offensive versatility is a great fit next to Wade, and if he shoot at least in the high 30s from three, Miami becomes that much harder to guard. If Deng doesn’t face a severe drop in athletic skill, he can continue to provide the Heat with valuable all-around play. That being said, I just listed a bunch of ‘ifs’. Things might not turn out that way, and the health of that lineup is suspect, Wade especially. This isn’t even beginning to mention the state of the Heat’s bench; a rookie and someone who just missed a year due to injury (Winslow and McRoberts) might turn out to be the 6th and 7th men on this team… which is to say things could real ugly, real quick. The young guns in Napier and Ennis could be featured in larger roles if either one of them were to break out, but the opposite is just as likely. Finally, Tyler Johnson has improved leaps and bounds, it might be time to unleash his scoring prowess upon the league, even if he doesn’t offer quite as much bang as some would expect. With health, this team can be top four in the conference material, but otherwise? Maybe more of the same – the Heat would toil in mediocrity as the injuries and emphasized weakness of the bench brings down the team. In any case, I’m confident in Miami finishing within in the 4th seed range, and gaining a second round appearance, maybe even a shot at the chip.