2017-18 Record: 44-38
Key Additions: None
Key Losses: None
After years of being a superstar-dominated team, Miami now has a plethora of good players with potential. Bucking the trend of Go Big or Rebuild, maestro Pat Riley and his protege head coach Eric Spoelstra seem perfectly content running it back with what they have; a good but not great squad that can be willed to elite status with leadership, coaching, and some luck. Being underrated like the Garfield Halloween Special can be a good thing. The lack of big name talent leaves Miami as the forgotten team. In a wide-open East anything can happen and, while Miami is not expected to crack the top 4, they have as good a chance as any to grab one of the remaining playoff spots and potentially advance in the playoffs. Also, keep in mind that Riley is very much in the hunt for Minnesota Timberwolves Jimmy Butler. Adding Butler to the equation would catapult Miami into the upper echelons of the East.
Goran Dragic has continued his crafty ways, needling through defenses with his Euro step move. At age 32, he has begun to slow down, but he’s still good. Just not MVP good like in days past. Still, Dragic gonna Dragic. He’ll be solidly productive as the leading vet on the team, providing solid but boring all-around numbers. Backup Tyler Johnson has proven to be an effective scoring point guard when asked. Any hope of an increase in usage went out the window when Wade announced his return. Also, for some reason, there’s been talk of Justise Winslow running the point at times. If so, that would further depress TJ’s value.
Ugh. One of the worst shooting guard situations presents itself here in South Beach. Sharpshooter Wayne Ellington should probably be the starter, as he can at least contribute positively in 3 point shooting. Incredibly inefficient shot jackers, Dwayne Wade and Dion Waiters, will most likely end up with more minutes and usage. Last season Wade rocked an impressively bad 42.7% EFG, while Waiters fared a little better, but still way below the league average of 46.9%. Third-year guard Rodney McGruder has shown some flashes of being solid but has a ways to go to earn playing time. Unless Butler ends up joining the team, it’s probably best to stay far far away for fantasy.
While the shooting guard situation is rough, the small forward spot looks very promising, led by Josh Richardson, a 3-and-D player who can do even more. Entering his 4th year, the Heat coaches are starting up the hype train with visions of 18 points per game. While that might be a bit of a long shot, a massive improvement is definitely possible. Behind JRich, Winslow has been a major disappointment after high expectations and some outlandish trade offers during his draft. He hasn’t found a comfort zone, which is why Miami seems to be thinking outside the box to try him as a physically imposing point guard. Far behind both is the annual Miami reclamation project, Derrick Jones Jr. With insane hops and incredible athleticism, DJJ appeared to be one of those dunk contest guys that never amounts to much more. An eye-opening Summer league and some preseason chatter have Miami fans hoping for more. It will be tough to find minutes, but with that athleticism, he’s a 3 point shot away from relevance.
James Johnson endured injuries last season and had a major letdown year. He’s been sidelined with a groin injury, and at age 31, his athleticism may be declining. He has far exceeded his trajectory, as the former D-league standout finally found a home in Miami. He should start ceding time to some of his younger teammates, namely Kelly Olynyk. Not the scrappy player Johnson is, Olynyk plays intelligently and has an elite outside game for a big. Last year his per-36 numbers were 17.6/8.7/4.2, with 1.7 steals, 0.7 blocks, and 3 3PM. Considering Whiteside is the starting center, having a power forward like Olynyk to space the floor seems like the ideal fit.
Lately, Hassan Whiteside and coach Spoelstra have been getting along, which seems suspicious. Signed to a ridiculous contract that is almost untradeable, the Heat have to be looking for ways to increase his value in an effort to move him. For now, he’s a good contributor in points and boards, but will hurt the FT%. Also, note that as he has learned to not try and block everything, which contributed to an increased foul rate, his block numbers have dipped severely. Behind Whiteside is human wrecking ball Bam Adebayo, who for stretches last season looked amazing. His development is real and he has been a major focus for the Miami coaching staff. If/when Whiteside gets moved, Bam’s upside could be huge. Even if Whiteside remains and plays well, there are enough minutes for Bam at the 4 and 5 to hang out in the realm of fantasy relevance.