2014-15 Record: 37-45
F Justise Winslow, G Josh Richardson, C Amar’e Stoudemire, G John Lucas III, F Gerald Green
F Michael Beasley, G Zoran Dragic, G Shabazz Napier
Projected 2015-16 Lineup
PG Dragic, SG Wade, SF Deng, PF Bosh, C Whiteside
The Heat suffered the fastest swing of emotions of any team last year. One minute they’re getting Goran Dragic and are lined up to be the most exciting team in basketball. The next day, Chris Bosh is diagnosed with blood clots in his lung and has to miss the rest of the season. That led to the Heat missing the playoffs, but there may be no team that’s ready to make a huge jump this year.
First they drafted an absolute steal with Justise Winslow. I had Winslow going in the top six in nearly every one of my mock drafts, and he somehow dropped to 10th. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Winslow ends up being regarded as the best player in this draft. Then they added Gerald Green, a hugely important scorer off the bench, and a guy who can help Wade ease the minutes on his knees.
In terms of pure talent through the top 10 guys, there are few teams that can compete with the Heat. But of course, there are injury questions for any aging team, and being great on paper doesn’t really mean anything. But it does mean enough for me to be excited about watching the Heat this year.
X-Factor: Dwyane Wade
Wade still has the ability to be one of the most explosive players in the league, but he’s had trouble staying on the court, and considering he’ll turn 35 this season, it’s not likely he’ll be able to be healthier than he has been. Still, his 53 True Shooting Percentage and over 21 PER was what kept this team going last year. If he’s able to replicate that performance and play more than the 62 games he played last year, that’ll be huge for the Heat.
Most To Prove: Hassan Whiteside
Whiteside was an absolute monster last year. It was hardly even fair to watch him swat shots into the 10th row. But there were obviously some problems with his staying power early in his career. The question now is whether what Whiteside did last year is what he really is, or if the relatively small sample size was misleading as to what Whiteside’s career really will be.
Why They’re Worth Watching:
Watching Dragic run this offense and Bosh re-emerge as the superstar he is should be thrilling. Plus, Justise Winslow should make a solid bid for rookie of the year.
Best Case 56 wins
If everything comes together for the Heat, they could find their way into the NBA finals. I still don’t see them as a 60 win team, since they’re going to rest Wade and Bosh as much as they can to make sure they’re ready for the postseason run.
Worst Case 45 wins
Barring catastrophic injuries, the Heat will be a playoff team again this year.