The 2016-2017 campaign was a tale of two seasons for the Miami Heat, with the first half of the season being a nightmarish 11-30 start, followed by a fairy tale run of success in which they did a 180-degree turn and didn’t have their postseason dreams dashed until the very last day of the regular season.
So who are the real Heat?
Miami brass is banking on the latter with the Heat electing to bring back most of the players from last season with the biggest newcomer being former Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk.
The Heat team that you see on the floor this season was not what they were banking on coming away with in the offseason.
When Gordon Hayward elected to sign with the Celtics instead of returning to Utah or joining the Heat, that opened the vault for Miami to bring back Dion Waiters (four years, $52 million) and James Johnson (four years, $60 million) on deals that were significant upgrades on their previous salaries.
Those aren’t the only head-scratching contracts on the Heat payroll.
Miami is still on the books for Tyler Johnson’s four-year, $50 million contract (he signed an offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016 and the Heat matched the offer) which has three years and about $45 million left which means Miami’s core for now is centered around the Tyler and James Johnson (not related), Waiters, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside.
A decent group of players, but certainly nothing more than a team that’s fighting for one of the last playoff spots, despite a payroll that’s more indicative of a team with deep playoff run aspirations.
For this thing to work out, someone from among this group will have to emerge and coach Erik Spoelstra will need to do what he tends to do every year which is to get the most out of a roster that remains void of proven All-Star talent.
And this comes at a time when most of the top teams in the East (Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Washington) were solidifying their core with players with an established track record for success and the benefit of playoff experience.
Miami will look to avoid missing out on the playoffs back-to-back years for the first time since 2002 and 2003.
Look for Miami to once again play a scrappy brand of basketball, with Dragic and Whiteside leading the way.
Dragic, who averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists last season, has put up solid numbers throughout his career but has yet to take his game – or the Heat as a team for that matter – to a level that would cement his place among the league’s top playmakers.
And while Whiteside has shown steady improvement at center, the 7-footer’s inability to stretch the floor is indeed a concern for Miami, which is why the addition of Olynyk, another 7-footer who is a career 36.8 percent 3-point shooter, was huge for them.
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Kelly Olynyk (Boston)
Key losses: Josh McRoberts (Dallas)
Rookies of note: Bam Adebayo.
Expectations: 42-40 (Third in the Southeast Division, eighth in the East)