Projected record: 43-39 (6th in East)
The poor, poor Miami Heat.
LeBron James brings them not 5, not 4, not 3, but only 2 rings, decides to leave, and now they’re down to just Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? Give me a break. Be thankful for what you’ve got, Miami.
Lebron acknowledged that his tenure in Miami was “like college.” Let’s relive one of those wild, off-the-wall, senseless (drunk?) nights we experienced while working on our degrees that we never ended up using.
The Heat will contend, partly because their roster is still somewhat loaded, and partly because they’re in the Eastern Conference. Despite our overall projections ranking them sixth, they can easily finish as a top-four seed, giving them home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. To take that further, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the Eastern Conference Finals, against none other than the Cleveland LeBrons.
Highest TV-rated playoff matchup ever? Maybe. You heard it here first.
OK, so: LeBron James went home. You lose a premier ball-handler, passer, defender, leader… you lost the best player on the planet. But with James gone, it forces others to step up. Miami’s roster has guys more than capable of assuming a larger role with this team.
It’s easy to forget that Chris Bosh was a top-three power forward during his Toronto days. In Bosh’s last year with the Raptors, he averaged 24 points per game on 51.8 percent shooting, and corralled 10.8 boards per game. It’s extremely easy to forget his skill set as an NBA big after he was regaled to third option status with the Heat.
Of course, he’s four years older and will turn 31 near the end of the regular season. His best days are behind him. But he still has good basketball left, and the added motivation of living up to his criticized 5-year, $118.7 million contract will be there.
Miami was astronomically efficient last year, converting on over 50 percent of their field goals attempted. Breaking news: that will NOT happen again. The departure of that James dude who left via free agency will bring Miami back to Earth. What’s harder to predict is their style of play moving forward. They’ve brought in guys that can shoot (i.e. Josh McRoberts, Luol Deng, and Danny Granger), and so I’d expect Miami to spread defenses out and put up a ton of threes. Because each of their projected starters can shoot, the teams with bigs who aren’t as effective guarding past 15 feet will be at a disadvantage.
Wade’s health is a huge concern heading into the season, and will probably remain a concern until he retires. Wade has played in 70 games or more in just 5 out of his 11 seasons, and they can’t rest Wade the way they did last season. They can’t afford to, and whole process wasn’t worth it after seeing Wade’s performance in the playoffs last year. He’ll attack the basket, make some spectacular plays, play some solid defense – but to assume he’ll remain healthy all season long would make me wonder if you’re as medicated as he’ll need to be.
This is Bosh’s team, not Wade’s. Spoelstra may put him in more back-to-the-basket situations as opposed to the mid-range spot-up shooting role he found himself in. McRoberts could fill the “void” that Bosh’s role was previously. And don’t forget about Deng, an above-average perimeter defender and a guy who has become a respectable shooter in this league. Throw his stint with Cleveland out the window: Deng will have a very good year for Miami. There’s very little he doesn’t do well.
Even with James out, the Miami Heat are still a very good team. Because of their roster’s unique combination of size and shooting ability, they’ll create mismatches to their favor. Their new Big Three could be enough to win 47 games in the East, plenty for a playoff spot.