Key Offseason Acquisitions: F/CBam Adebayo, C AJ Hammons, PF/C Kelly Olynyk, PG Derrick Walton and G Matt Williams
Key Offseason Losses: SF Luke Babbitt, F/C Josh McRoberts and C Willie Reed
Projected Starting Lineup: PG Goran Dragic, SG Dion Waiters, SF Rodney McGruder, PF James Johnson, C Hassan Whiteside
2017-2018 Season Outlook: In the 30th season of Miami Heat basketball, Erik Spoelstra and company will fight for a backend playoff spot in a weak Eastern Conference. After a great finish to last season, the Heat were optimistic to sign free agent Gordon Hayward but that did not come to fruition after he signed with the rival Boston Celtics.
Additionally, the Heat officially moved on from Chris Bosh, waiving him this summer. All-and-all, team President Pat Riley brought back the same roster with only minor additions and no superstar. Goran Dragic will continue to be the catalyst of the offense, penetrating into the paint and spotting teammates for the open shot. Hassan Whiteside will anchor the defense, protecting the paint while being a solid offensive option. Last year Whiteside showcased his improved post game and jump hook.
After having career years last season, Dion Waiters and James Johnson both signed long-term contracts to stay with the Heat. Can Waiters be a consistent twenty-points per game threat? That is yet to be seen, but Waiters will definitely have his chance this year. Similar to last season, Johnson will be expected to rack up steals and blocks while stretching the floor offensively.Most surprisingly, Rodney McGruder looks to be beating out Justice Winslow and Josh Richardson as the starting small forward. After their first preseason game coach Spoelstra said of McGruder, “We see a champion. We see a winner. We see somebody that will not be denied.” Furthermore, Spoelstra stated: “He’s proven himself with us. As we got to know him from him helping us win a championship in Sioux Falls, also breaking into our rotation and starting for us so many games last year, he’s a winner.” After missing 64 games last year, Winslow finally looks healthy this pre-season.
Off the bench, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson will have the green light to shoot. Newly acquired Kelly Olynyk will be the reserve power forward/center and his biggest assets are spreading the floor and playing gritty defense. Rookie forward/center Bam Adebayo will also see some playing time after he impressed in training camp and in the Vegas and Orlando Summer League.
Overall, the Heat are one of the best coached teams in the NBA and Pat Riley always gets the best out of his players. Therefore, the Heat should finish around the sixth/seventh seed but this will depend on the continued progression of Dragic, Whiteside, and Waiters.
Projected Strengths: Defense, excellent team culture.
Projected Weaknesses: Consistent scoring, no superstar.