The Miami Heat went 30-11 in the second half of last season and still missed the playoffs. It’s an almost impossible feat until you realize they started the season 11-30. Don’t look for the Heat to replicate either one of those 41 game stretches anytime soon as they’re probably somewhere in the middle, just like our Pistons.
I like the Heat to secure one of those lucrative Cleveland, Boston or Washington first-round warm-up playoff seeds and here’s why.
First: Goran Dragic
Dragic finally felt comfortable in his own skin last year in South Beach once Dwyane Wade took up residence in Chicago. Instead of the my-turn-your-turn offense showcased by Wade and Dragic in his first full season with the Heat, Miami put the ball in the hands of Dragic (beautifully highlighted here) fulltime and turned him loose. Dragic parlayed the positive Heat vibes into a fantastic showing at the Eurobasket tournament over the summer. There is no reason to believe this won’t carry over.
I’m on the Dragic train and refuse to get off! *
* until the Eastern Conference playoffs begin
Second: Hodge-podge mix of their role players actually works
“Works” being a relative term as in when compared to other low seed hopefuls. The Island of the Misfit Toys is highlighted by James Johnson, a two-way versatile (underrated?) forward who added a decent long ball—34 percent last year—to his game. Does the name not sound familiar? Maybe this will help:
Or maybe you might recognize his pre-Heat work:
Shooters Josh Richardson and Wayne Ellington are both sub 40 percent 3-point shooters and thrive off Dragic penetration or the gravity of a rolling Hassan Whiteside.
Combo guards Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters are legit double-digit scorers and can put pressure on the defense in a variety of ways while not being afraid of the moment:
Third: Arrival of Justise Winslow (maybe?)
Had the Pistons reached out to me for consulting purposes during the 2015 NBA Draft, I would’ve calmly and confidently told them “take Justise Winslow with the 8th pick and thank me later.”
In my defense, it’s not like Stanley Johnson has been that much better.
The reality is, just like Stanley Johnson, this is a sink or swim year for Winslow. If he can’t prove that he’s playing time worthy then the Heat might look start to look for another small forward of the future.
He’s got all the necessary tools and it’s time to put it together. I think he will.
Fourth: Hassan Whiteside
Oh yeah, what about their borderline All-Star center? Whiteside is a walking double-double while also rejecting over two shots a game and altering many others. To his credit, he’s no longer trying to block everything that moves and jumping himself out of position. Instead, he’s done a much better job of picking his spots of when to leap and in return, he’s the anchor of the fifth-ranked defensive rating team.
Fifth: Coach Spo
Winning two championships didn’t do a whole lot for Erik Spoelstra’s coaching street cred. 99 percent of the 2012 and 2013 Miami Heat championship acclaim went to the trio of LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh. Obviously, they were a huge part of the team’s success but Spo was much more than a highly paid babysitter as some depicted. Arguably, the Heat’s second half 30-11 record is just as impressive as any Big Three feat. Spoelstra is only starting to get recognized as a top tier coach by finishing as a finalist for last year’s Coach of the Year award.
Record prediction: 44 - 38; 7th seed