Who's New: F Justise Winslow (draft), F A'mare Stoudemire (free agent), F Gerald Green (free agent), G John Lucas III (free agent), G Josh Richardson (draft)
Who's Gone: G Shabazz Napier (trade), F Michael Beasley (free agent), F Henry Walker (waived)
Off-Season Grade: B+. They built a pretty good bench to go with what looks like a scary starting lineup, provided everyone stays healthy. Probably the best off-season of any Eastern team? It helped that Winslow fell into their laps with the 10th pick when Boston was trying like heck to trade up for him.
2015-16 Slogan: "If we're half as good as we think we are, look out."
What Else Is New?: Dwyane Wade threw a scare into Heat fans during the Finals when, as a guest broadcaster for ABC, he referred to his Heat career in the past tense. Eventually he re-upped with Miami, but when GM Pat Riley was asked why he didn't sign Wade to a longer deal, he replied, "Because we just watched his best performance in the Finals of the past three years."
Head coach Erik Spoelstra got engaged to a former team dancer. When asked how he knew this was Ms. Right, Spoelstra said that during their courtship that he "respected the process," "ignored the outside noise," and ultimately realized that his fiancee had "championship wife DNA." The wedding will take place in the team's chapel during Spoelstra's lunch break on Tuesday of the All-Star break, while the honeymoon will be the parade route following their next championship.
Meanwhile, another Heat dancer who accidentally dropped her phone into the Atlantic ocean got it returned to her by a dolphin. Too bad they don't have dolphins in Lake Erie to retrieve LeBron, amirite?
Your Likely Starters:
C Hassan Whiteside
PF Chris Bosh
SF Luol Deng
SG Dwyane Wade
PG Goran Dragic
Holy hell, what a lineup! Their worst starter is literally Deng, who wasn't even all that bad last year, and if he falters they'll just replace him with Winslow, a jack-of-all-trades type who'll probably be their starting small forward for the next decade. Deng's 35.5 percent from downtown was his most accurate season since 2011-12, and it'll get even better if Whiteside ever learns to pass out of double teams. He'll probably be just a 28-30 minutes-per-game player next season, which should help him over the long haul.
Speaking of Whiteside, he came out of nowhere last year, after several failed stops both in the NBA and abroad, to average a double-double, along with 2.6 blocks, while shooting a tidy 62.8 percent. At times he was the most dominant big in the East, and he's gonna make less money next season than Matt Bonner. One would think he'd be on his P's and Q's next year so that somebody will give him a monster contract in 2016-17 (the Heat won't have his Bird rights), but he's shown zero indication so far that he can keep his emotions or ego in check to succeed in a team capacity. The Heat are pretty much counting on him to be their defensive anchor since there's plenty of scorers to go around, but we'll see how he reacts to that role.
Dragic came over in trade after a disgruntled few months in Phoenix, upset that he had to share point guard duties with Isaiah Thomas. The Suns solution was to trade both guys, because, Suns. He didn't come close to reaching the dizzying heights of his 2013-14 campaign, due mainly to a huge drop-off in his three-point numbers, but it's too late for Miami to turn back now, and they signed him to a five-year, $86 million extension in the off-season. Dragic just turned 29, so he's not likely to get much better, and he's not going to have the ball any more in Miami than he had it in Phoenix. How will that affect him mentally?
Bosh, thankfully, appears fully recovered now from a scary blood clot situation in his lungs that not only cost him half the year but was potentially life-threatening. He and Whiteside played just 311 minutes together and weren't all that impressive, with a net differential of just 0.6 (105.9 offensive and 105.3 defensive), according to NBAWowy.com. Bosh is one of the most consistent mid-range shooters in the league and will probably play more outside than ever now, and maybe that'll give him more energy to execute Spoelstra's demanding defensive scheme. The Heat will be playing bigger than most people, so he'll have to be on the perimeter quite a bit.
Finally there's Wade, who was actually quite good last season in 62 games. It's probably unrealistic to expect too many more, even in a contract drive, but Wade has shown he can be effective when rationing his energy (it helps that he's completely stopped even pretending to try on defense), but the question with him is if he can play at a star level in the playoffs, when his playing time will increase and he won't have any games off to rest. Spoelstra will also need him to lead a group of players who all want the ball.
Your Likely Bench:
F Justise Winslow
C Amar's Stoudemire
F Josh McRoberts
G Gerald Green
G Mario Chalmers
C Chris Andersen
G John Lucas III
F Udonis Haslem
A lot of offensive potency here, obviously, but man this crew is gonna give it up on the other end. Stoudemire and Green both thought enough of the Heat to sign for the veteran's minimum. The former was quite good offensively for the Mavs last season but it's another story in his own end. STAT continues to explore his spiritually, which is awesome, but the only thing he observes more than Passover is opposing bigs zooming by him on the pick-and-roll. Green, meanwhile, continues to alternate awesome three-point shooting seasons with poor ones, and he's due for a good one again. McRoberts signed a three-year deal last season as part of Riley's desperate plan to keep LeBron and promptly hurt his knee after 17 games. He returns now as the perfect handcuff to Bosh, minus the defensive part. After those four guys, it gets really dicey. Chalmers is okay as a backup, I guess, but there are rumors he won't last the whole year there. Andersen and Haslem are washed. Lucas is your create-a-player generic third point guard. There are also some young wings in the periphery like Tyler Johnson, James Ennis and second-round pick Josh Richardson.
Your Coach: Erik Spoelstra
Give Spoelstra full marks for keeping the team from capsizing after James left and keeping them relatively competitive ever after Bosh was out. If any coach in the league is used to dealing with a team full of egos it's him, but having five high-maintenance starters all healthy will be a good problem to have -- as well as the biggest challenge of his career. Whiteside by himself is gonna be a handful, but then there's getting Wade through the year, working out the backcourt issue where both guys will want to dominate the ball, and dealing with a bunch of reserves who'll expect to play a lot. And it's tough to get a team to buy in to defense when your best player just coasts on that end ... so good luck, Spo.
Bottom Line: The Heat have a ton of talent but hardly anyone on the roster who can guard anybody, and there is also a combustible mix of personalities and injury concerns that you don't know what to think. They'll probably flame out in the second round in Game 6
No, wait, don't leave! They might come back, have some faith!
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