Preseason Preview #17: Miami Heat

Season Goal: Get to the Second Round

After striking out on Gordon Hayward in free agency last offseason the Miami Heat signed multiple role players and became one of the most average teams in the NBA. They have an aging borderline all-star in Goran Dragic and a former star in Hassan Whiteside who is now just a distraction to the team. Surrounding those two is a bunch of good role players. Unfortunately, nobody else has the talent or potential to break out as a star. Despite their great system and culture, the lack of star power prevents this team from seriously competing, but they won’t be bad enough to secure a good pick in the draft. The best outcome they can realistically expect this season is to get a great first round matchup and manage to get through to the second round. Unless they pull off a surprising Jimmy Butler trade, I can’t see them standing a chance against the top tier teams in the East.

Storylines:

Butler in South Beach

At the time this is being written Jimmy Butler is still in Minnesota, but that is likely to change soon. After his trade request, Butler picked the Clippers, Nets, and Knicks as his preferred destinations but recently added the Heat to his list. Over the last couple days, a multitude of reports have been released that the Heat are aggressively pursuing a trade for Butler. With all this information out there it’s reasonable to ask how well Butler would fit in Miami.

The biggest issue with the Heat is their lack of talented offensive players. Their second highest scorer last season was Dion Waiters who is arguably the most unpredictable player in the league. Not a single player on this team averaged above 18 PPG individually and as a team, they only scored 103 PPG (23rd worst). Adding Jimmy Butler, an elite ball handler and 22 PPG scorer, will no doubt improve their scoring output. After being the 7th rated defense last year, Butler will only make them better. Having a top 10 defense and possibly improving to a top 10 offense may be enough for the Heat to compete in the wild Eastern Conference

What to do with Whiteside

After his breakout season in 2016, the Heat gave Whiteside a massive 4-year $98M contract. He was probably the best player on the team back then, but now he should be the third-string center. With Olynyk’s shooting being extremely valuable to the Miami offense, and Adebayo’s ability to do everything Whiteside does as a younger player; it makes no sense to keep Whiteside around. He currently has 2 years and over $52M left on his contract which makes him extremely challenging to trade.

Whiteside proved in the playoffs he was almost unplayable, he couldn’t keep up with Ilyasova on the perimeter but also couldn’t do anything against Embiid in the post. His skill set has been outpaced by the modern NBA and now doesn’t really have a place. Unless he returns to the 2015-2016 Whiteside that was a defensive beast. That season he led the NBA in blocks and defensive rating. But, now it looks as if he has no desire to play actual defense, and only wants to chase blocks. Unless Miami can find a way to get him to play with effort and commit to their system, they need to get him out of their locker room.

Depth Chart:

PG: Goran Dragic

SG: Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington, Dwyane Wade, Rodney McGruder

SF: Justise Winslow, Derrick Jones Jr.

PF: James Johnson, Udonis Haslem

C: Kelly Olynyk, Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo

Salary Cap Situation

~134M of ~101M cap committed

Expiring Deals: Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, Dwyane Wade, Justise Winslow, Goran Dragic (PO), Hassan Whiteside (PO)

Bad Contracts: Tyler Johnson (2yrs, ~40M), James Johnson (3yrs, ~45M), Hassan Whiteside (2yrs, ~52M)

*All salary data via sportrac*

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