New Faces: Wayne Ellington, Derrick Williams, Dion Waiters, Luke Babbitt, Willie Reed, Briante Weber
2015-16 Regular Season Record: 48-34
2015-16 Regular Season Achievements: 1st: Blocks. 3rd: 3-Point Attempts (Defense). 4th: Field Goal%; 5th: Points (Defense). 6th: Defensive Rebounding, 2-Point% (Defense). 8th: 2-Point %. 9th: Defensive Rating.
Leading Scorer: Chris Bosh, 19.1
Leading Rebounder: Hassan Whiteside, 11.8
The blood clots that ended Chris Bosh’s season, though scary and dangerous, camouflaged a myriad of issues that kept the Miami Heat from being contenders in the Eastern Conference. The Heat were 23rd in assists, 28th in 3-point attempts and 25th in pace. There is no greater doomsday scenario than a team that doesn’t move the ball and plays slow and has no efficiency behind the 3-point arc.
Despite Hassan Whiteside’s production at the rim, the Heat were 22nd in offensive rebounding, meaning no second possessions and no getting to the line because of fouls.
So how did Pat Riley fix the multitude of problems?
He refused to engage in the Dwyane Wade free agency and then was shocked when Wade left, and then, publicly, Riley, in a moment of humility that many felt was forced, blamed himself. To replace Wade he signed Dion Waiters, an average scorer (12.8 ppg) and three point shooter (33.4%) who doesn’t move the ball (2.5 assists), which appropriately fits with the Heat identity. Riley also added failed lottery pick journey man Derrick Williams for an upgrade in the front court.
The Heat aren’t filled with a ton of playmakers who can put the ball on the floor and create for others. In a twist, Goran Dragic will probably perform better now that Wade is gone. As was the case in Phoenix, Dragic struggles playing next to a dominant guard as opposed to a role playing guard. He will be the center of the backcourt show and should thrive. As for the rest of the crew, everyone else is dependent upon guard action. Can the Heat move the ball at the pace necessary to put opposing defenses at a disadvantage? That is the challenge for Eric Spoelstra.
The Heat were a terrible three point shooting team last season and haven’t done much to change that. They signed Wayne Ellington, a 37.6% from the perimeter scorer who doesn’t do much else. The Heat are in a division with the Hawks and Kyle Korver, the Wizards and Bradley Beal, the Hornets and Nic Batum. That leaves Dragic and Waiters and Ellington to try to stop perimeter shooters on defense and match them on offense. Good luck.
Dwayne Wade may have been the most popular player on the team but Chris Bosh was the straw that stirred the Heat drink. He made everything go and for the Heat to finish in the top 4 of the Eastern Conference, Bosh has to remain healthy and play in 70 games and put up MVP numbers, 24 points, 9 rebounds. Bosh is convinced the Heat are title contenders. With an injured Bosh last season, the Heat still finished 13th in rebounding and fifth in points allowed. A healthy Bosh should up those numbers.
More importantly what kind of leader is Bosh? Can he fit all the pieces together by the force of his personality, being encouraging and being a little bit of a disciplinarian? Can he hold players accountable? Wade is gone. For the first time since he signed with the Heat in 2010, Bosh is the lone star, similar to his Raptors days.
Making it more complicated is Bosh’s health. No one knows what is going to happen, not even Bosh. There are a lot of crossed fingers hoping that for the third year in a row blood clots don’t reappear, putting him at odds with Heat management, causing them to sit him (again).
The third game of the season, the Heat play the Spurs at home. Two games later, it is a re-do, the team that eliminated them from the playoffs, the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors stayed the same. The Heat are drastically changed. The dual threat of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan is just as imposing now as it was four months ago. Without Wade in the backcourt to force DeRozan to defend, it’s going to be a difficult challenge every time the Heat go to Cananda. After the Raptors, the Heat go to OKC. The next game is the return of Wade. Two games later it is off to San Antonio. No more Wade to lean on in late game situations.
But it’s not all grim. Despite the Wade sorrow in Miami, the good summer news was that Hassan Whiteside signed a free agent deal. But his value is on defense. The Heat couldn’t crack the 100 point margin last season. Without Wade, where is the perimeter scoring going to come from?
photo via llananba