This is a make or break year for the Miami Heat.
In the post-LeBron era of basketball in Miami, the Heat have been incredibly….average. The Heat have just over a .500 winning percentage in that four year stretch, including two post-season appearances and a trip to the conference semi-finals in 2016.
While that isn’t a bad mark, but it ain’t good either.
The Eastern Conference is on the come-up with young, talented teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics, and the Kawhi-led Raptors are poised to make a championship run this year.
As of now, Miami is not on this shortlist of conference front-runners. Right now they are stuck in NBA mediocrity – in between “contending” and “rebuilding” – which is the worst place to be.
Let’s take a look at how this season could play out for the Heat*:
Note that I did not include in Dwayne Wade in these scenarios because I do not want to jinx brining him back for the upcoming season*
Best Case Scenario
Heat are better than expected: Waiters becomes consistent, young talent comes up big, Whiteside makes difference defensively.
Picture this: it’s early February, and Miami is near the top in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Goran Dragic is having another All-Star campaign, and Hassan has bounced back to be potential All-Defense pick. Young guns Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, and Bam Adebayo are solid. And the best news? Dion Waiters is good and consistent. Life is good.
This is absolutely a best case scenario for the Heat. I’d say, in this dream scenario, the only lock is Dragic being good again. I think he has found his place in Miami and will continue to excel. The others are a little more far fetched. Whiteside’s blocks, rebounds, and defensive win share all dropped last season, but he is still in his prime. If he can get refocused and focus on defense, he can be a factor. Richardson can be a legit 3-and-D threat, Winslow can continue to get better as a creator/scorer, and Bam be the energy off the bench. All possible, but all have work to do. Finally, Dion Waiters – I personally believe in him. The Waiters formula should bring him off the bench early, ride him heavily if he’s not, monitor him when he’s not. Tougher said than done, but Waiters could become a potential 6th Man of the Year candidate if all goes well.
Worst Case Scenario
The Heat are super average: they fight for a playoff spot, Whiteside isn’t useful, Richardson/Winslow regress, Waiters….
Now, the counter to everything I just said, which is another potential situation in Miami. I expect Dragic and Adebayo to both be solid in their respective role, but hopefully last year wasn’t their plateau. On the other hand, Richardson has to hit from beyond the arc to be his best, and if he doesn’t he will have issues. Winslow also must continue to shoot well and become more polished overall, but he could regress just as quickly. Waiter and Whiteside…. we know their problems, and if this (hopefully untrue) prediction becomes a reality, they might end their season in a different city.