Miami Heat All-In as End of Wade Era Looms

Over the course of the last twelve years the Miami Heat, as an organization, has undergone constant change. But one staple throughout has been Dwayne Wade. From the young upstart squad which included Lamar Odom and Caron Butler, to the blockbuster Shaquille O’Neal trade which brought the big man to South Beach, to the big three era, Wade has seen it all. Now, as Wade embarks upon the dawn of his career, Miami has pivoted yet again. After trading for point guard Goran Dragic at last season’s deadline and adding free agents like Amare Stoudemire and Gerald Green, the Heat look to be gearing up for one more run.

However, Miami enters into this season with as many question marks as ever. After his frightening blood clot scare last season, much of the mystery revolves around Chris Bosh. While he’s slated to start the season, there remains some trepidation as to how effective he’ll be upon return, and how he and Dragic will play alongside each other. The two never saw a minute on the floor together last season, as Bosh’s pulmonary embolism was announced a short nine hours after Dragic’s trade, yet there is reason to be hopeful about Bosh’s fit in this offense.

Many have speculated that a Dragic-Bosh tandem may make for one of the most potent pick-and-roll/pop duos in the league, in part due to how effective former stretch-four Suns forward Channing Frye played alongside Dragic. Paired with Dragic in 2013, Frye put up some of his best career numbers, posting the second best player efficiency rating and true shooting percentage of his career, respectively. The pair also averaged a gaudy 1.3 points per possession on pick-and-rolls that season. If healthy (a big ‘if’), Bosh may be looking at one of his best seasons at the rim and behind the three point line of his career.

Unfortunately, though, Miami may be relying on the Bosh three pointer more than they like. While the roster consists of shooters like Gerald Green, Luol Deng, and Josh McRoberts, not one player on the team has a career three point shooting percentage that would rank in last season’s top 60 three point shooters. In a league that is becoming more and more perimeter-oriented year-by-year and as analytics continue to demonstrate the value of the three point shot, Miami needs its shooters to step up and have some of their best seasons from the arc in order to contend for a title.

One player who Miami hopes can develop his three point prowess and run the fast break with Dragic is rookie forward Justise Winslow. Having finished with the 10th worst record in the league last season, Miami retained their first round pick which otherwise would have belonged to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Heat watched as consensus the top-7 draft pick fell right into their laps at ten. Winslow is far from a finished product, but looks to make an immediate impact for the Heat in transition and on defense. As a freshman at Duke, Winslow made a name for himself guarding positions one through four, and bulldozing his way through defenders on the fast break.

As Miami looks ahead to a future without Dwyane Wade- the face of their franchise for more than a decade- prospects remain murky. The team will be shedding almost $47 million of salary next year (including Wade’s new $20 million deal) as the salary cap is expected to balloon from $70 million to $89 million in 2017. However, the Heat face major decisions going forward, and much of that cap space may be eaten up by Wade and Hassan Whiteside, who both come off the books next year.

One thing is clear, though. The Miami Heat are all-in for right now and only now. Barring injury, an issue which hamstrung the Heat last year, Miami may have a starting five as formidable as any in the Eastern Conference. If this team can stay healthy, get competent performances from shooters, and solid contributions from young players like Winslow and Whiteside, the sky is the limit for them in 2016. However, these factors could just as easily go sideways, in which case Heat fans may be in for yet another disappointing season.

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photo via: llananba