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2017 NBA Season Preview Series: Miami Heat

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It took 20+ previews, but it finally happened. The stoolies have spoken and they couldn’t pick a winner, which is surprising because stoolies are usually so decisive. This just means we’ll have to know out both today I guess. Please hold your applause until the end. To start, I flipped a coin (I did not flip a coin), and the winner was the Miami Heat. I feel like this is important because it was quite the summer for Miami and their fans, and while some in Miami may not know they still have a basketball team since Lebron and Wade left and Bosh retired, they do in fact have a collection of NBA players who will look to get back to the playoffs after missing last year, and twice in the last three years.

2016-17 Season Highlights

Like I said, this was an interesting summer for Heat fans. First, they learned that they are no longer a destination just because they have beautiful weather, beautiful women, and no income tax. That’s tough because the basketball team certainly isn’t attracting high level talent either. Imagine going from the Big 3 of the 2010s to missing out on Gordon Hayward and ending up with Kelly Olynyk and Jordan Mickey? That’s a reality I’m not sure Pat Riley was ready for. I love it, but that sure is a culture shock. So as a result of striking out, this is what their roster looks like as of today

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A total of $105,677,027, this is the 19th most expensive roster in the NBA, one with a decent mix of young high potential talent, and proven older guys. The Heat are in a weird spot, mostly because in my opinion, they should have been better than they were. They did have some injuries, for example Justise Winslow played just 18 games, but other guys like Dragic (73 games), Whiteside (77 games), James Johnson (76 games), and Tyler Johnson (73 games), all of which are major contributors, didn’t miss that much time. So why were the Heat 41-41? Well to understand the underachieving Heat season, you have to look at the whole picture.

This is a bad offensive team, no other way to put it. They have a really really hard time scoring. Their 103 points per game was 22nd in the league. When you have a tough time scoring in today’s NBA, play at a semi slow pace (97.6, 22nd in NBA) and can’t really shoot, you are going to have a year like Miami just had. And really, it was the story of two halves. Over the first month of the season, they found themselves a surprising 4-10. A month later, they were 10-22. At their lowest, on January 13, 2017, the Heat were a pathetic 11-30.

But, then something clicked. They won their next 13 in a row, and finished the season 30-11. That is quite literally insane. The biggest difference? Post All Star Break, for the last 25 games of the season, the Heat bumped up their offensive production to 107 a game, a number that would have been 10th highest in the league had they done it throughout the year. When you look at it, they were a few road wins away from being as high as a 5 seed in the East (4 losses from March 25th on were by 4 points or less) so you can understand why those 10 Heat fans are excited for the 2017 season.

The addition of Olynyk, while fun to joke about, is actually going to help. He should bring them into Top 10 range in 3PM, as they were 12th last year, and he is for sure an upgrade over Luke Babbit who the Heat were forced to start a bunch last year at the PF spot. With such a commanding presence in Whiteside, it’s important for the Heat to have guys around him who can stretch the floor and create space, and with a lineup of Dragic, Waiters, Johnson, Olynyk, and Whiteside, that’s exactly what the Heat have.

Remember, MIA was a top 5 defense last year, and they are getting a pretty good defender back in Winslow, so the opportunity for the Heat to bounce back and not only make the playoffs, but secure a decent seed are pretty good. On the surface their roster is just a group of solid NBA players. I think Tyler Johnson turned out to be better than we all thought when he got that big payday, and Dragic is interesting. Depending on who you ask, I’m not really sure where he fits in the hierarchy of NBA point guards. When healthy, is he a Top 10 PG? Last season, he was just outside (12th) in PER among PGs, and that feels more like where I would put him. If he’s able to take a slight leap into that Top 10 group, you could certainly do worse for a backcourt than what MIA will throw out.

But make no mistake, the real excitement for MIA will be having Dion Waiters for a full year

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Perhaps the best irrational confidence player in the entire league, it’s no surprise the Heat’s turnaround last year had a whole lot to do with Dion going crazy. It seems, that when he plays well, they are hard to beat. In wins, Waiters had a very respectable 18/3.7/4.6 with 47/43% splits. In losses, those numbers dipped to 12/2.8/4.1 with 35/32% splits. On some level it has to be terrifying that your success is so dependent on a wild card like Waiters, but he looks to be in fantastic shape so it wouldn’t surprise me if he has a breakout year

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I’m also excited to see Heat rookie Bam Adebayo. If summer league is any indication which of course it is, the Heat got a real player with Bam at 14

Hopefully, the preseason MIA just had isn’t an indication of what’s to come, because they scored just 99 points a night, but I wouldn’t be too concerned. A healthy Heat team will get back to the playoffs, maybe even win a round, so if I could give one piece of advice to Heat fans, learn from your mistakes

Official Greenie Prediction: 44 wins