Miami Heat: NBA season preview, roster and schedule 2018
The Heat had an amazing end to last season, but can essentially the same group replicate that level of performance over a full year?
Arrivals: Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo, Jordan Mickey, A. J. Hammons, Larry Drew, Derrick Walton Jr., Erik McCree,
Departures: Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Willie Reed, Luke Babbitt
After the removal of Chris Bosh’s contract was able to give the Heat a significant amount of cap space, Pat Riley and Miami tried to go after some big fish like Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin in free agency this offseason. However, they failed to reel any in.
Riley then had to turn to his Plan B, which was to re-sign James Johnson and Dion Waiters, who were integral parts of last year’s successful second-half surge. They also bolstered their frontcourt depth by adding Kelly Olynyk, who should be a significant upgrade to Luke Babbitt as a floor-spacing power forward, and rookie Bam Adebayo, who had an impressive run during summer league.
At its core, though, this will be more or less the same Heat team that went on an incredible 30-11 run to end last season and will now look to make it back to the postseason this time around.
Projected Depth Chart
C – Hassan Whiteside / Bam Adebayo / A. J. Hammons
PF – Kelly Olynyk / James Johnson / Okaro White / Udonis Haslem
SF – Justise Winslow / Rodney McGruder
SG – Dion Waiters / Josh Richardson / Wayne Ellington
PG – Goran Dragic / Tyler Johnson
The Heat don’t have what anyone would consider an elite defensive stopper at any position. Justise Winslow is probably the best individual defender on the team, and he missed most of the year with a shoulder injury. However, this is a well-drilled team defensively, which was why they were a top-five defensive unit last season.
A huge part of their success on that end of the floor is their ability to defend the three-point line. They ranked first in both opponents’ threes made and attempted and were also third in three-point percentage allowed.
And while Hassan Whiteside has lapses defensively, he still offers terrific rim protection. With Whiteside roaming the paint, the Heat were in the top three in field goal percentage allowed inside of five feet last season.
Miami’s overall rank offensively was mediocre last season, but something clicked for them at the halfway point, which saw them go on their incredible run. With Erik Spoelstra installing a dribble-drive offense, the Heat finished eighth in offensive efficiency over the last 41 games. Spoelstra’s ability to make the most out of a roster that doesn’t feature a top-caliber star is a big strength for this team.
The Heat don’t manufacture a lot of “easy” points. For one, they are seemingly allergic to free throws. They got to the line at a rate that was bottom-five in the entire league last season, and were dead last at converting them when they got there. They were also one of the slower teams in the league, which meant they also got few transition points.
The Heat’s lack of free throws can somewhat be tied to their lack of a true top-caliber star who can get those types of calls. Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters did well to step up to the closer role last season, but they just don’t get to the line quite enough.
Waiters was impressive last season in getting key buckets for the team when the offense stalled. However, it remains to be seen whether that season was an outlier or a sign of things to come now that he’s been given the opportunity to perform in that role. If it’s the former and his play drops off a bit, then the Heat could have some problems.
Player to Watch – Justise Winslow
Winslow’s sophomore campaign was unfortunately cut short after he needed to undergo surgery on his injured shoulder. It was a tough blow for the former tenth overall pick, who has yet to live up to his high draft position. Winslow’s shaky shooting continues to be a concern as he struggled with his shot when he was on the court last season.
However, there are still reasons to be optimistic about Winslow. He has all the tools (size, length, athleticism, attitude) to be a top perimeter defender who can guard up to four positions. And while he has struggled to knock down shots consistently, he has flashed the ability to be a capable playmaker.
The team’s starting small forward position is wide open, waiting for Winslow to make his own. With the addition of Olynyk, the Heat have the positional versatility to surround Winslow with more shooting, which should only benefit him on offense. The 21-year-old still needs to show at least some modicum of improvement with his shot, however. If he does, though, then it should be a big win for Miami.
1 Oct 18, 2017 @ Orlando Magic
2 Oct 21, 2017 vs. Indiana Pacers
3 Oct 23, 2017 vs. Atlanta Hawks
4 Oct 25, 2017 vs. San Antonio Spurs
5 Oct 28, 2017 vs. Boston Celtics
6 Oct 30, 2017 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
7 Nov 1, 2017 vs. Chicago Bulls
8 Nov 3, 2017 @ Denver Nuggets
9 Nov 5, 2017 @ Los Angeles Clippers
10 Nov 6, 2017 @ Golden State Warriors
11 Nov 8, 2017 @ Phoenix Suns
12 Nov 10, 2017 @ Utah Jazz
13 Nov 12, 2017 @ Detroit Pistons
14 Nov 15, 2017 vs. Washington Wizards
15 Nov 17, 2017 @ Washington Wizards
16 Nov 19, 2017 vs. Indiana Pacers
17 Nov 22, 2017 vs. Boston Celtics
18 Nov 24, 2017 @ Minnesota Timberwolves
19 Nov 26, 2017 @ Chicago Bulls
20 Nov 28, 2017 @ Cleveland Cavaliers
21 Nov 29, 2017 @ New York Knicks
22 Dec 1, 2017 vs. Charlotte Hornets
23 Dec 3, 2017 vs. Golden State Warriors
24 Dec 6, 2017 @ San Antonio Spurs
25 Dec 9, 2017 @ Brooklyn Nets
26 Dec 11, 2017 @ Memphis Grizzlies
27 Dec 13, 2017 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
28 Dec 15, 2017 @ Charlotte Hornets
29 Dec 16, 2017 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
30 Dec 18, 2017 @ Atlanta Hawks
31 Dec 20, 2017 @ Boston Celtics
32 Dec 22, 2017 vs. Dallas Mavericks
33 Dec 23, 2017 vs. New Orleans Pelicans
34 Dec 26, 2017 vs. Orlando Magic
35 Dec 29, 2017 vs. Brooklyn Nets
36 Dec 30, 2017 @ Orlando Magic
37 Jan 3, 2018 vs. Detroit Pistons
38 Jan 5, 2018 vs. New York Knicks
39 Jan 7, 2018 vs. Utah Jazz
40 Jan 9, 2018 @ Toronto Raptors
41 Jan 10, 2018 @ Indiana Pacers
42 Jan 14, 2018 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
43 Jan 15, 2018 @ Chicago Bulls
44 Jan 17, 2018 @ Milwaukee Bucks
45 Jan 19, 2018 @ Brooklyn Nets
46 Jan 20, 2018 @ Charlotte Hornets
47 Jan 22, 2018 @ Houston Rockets
48 Jan 25, 2018 vs. Sacramento Kings
49 Jan 27, 2018 vs. Charlotte Hornets
50 Jan 29, 2018 @ Dallas Mavericks
51 Jan 31, 2018 @ Cleveland Cavaliers
52 Feb 2, 2018 @ Philadelphia 76ers
53 Feb 3, 2018 @ Detroit Pistons
54 Feb 5, 2018 vs. Orlando Magic
55 Feb 7, 2018 vs. Houston Rockets
56 Feb 9, 2018 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
57 Feb 13, 2018 @ Toronto Raptors
58 Feb 14, 2018 @ Philadelphia 76ers
59 Feb 23, 2018 @ New Orleans Pelicans
60 Feb 24, 2018 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
61 Feb 27, 2018 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
62 Mar 1, 2018 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
63 Mar 3, 2018 vs. Detroit Pistons
64 Mar 5, 2018 vs. Phoenix Suns
65 Mar 6, 2018 @ Washington Wizards
66 Mar 8, 2018 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
67 Mar 10, 2018 vs. Washington Wizards
68 Mar 12, 2018 @ Portland Trail Blazers
69 Mar 14, 2018 @ Sacramento Kings
70 Mar 16, 2018 @ Los Angeles Lakers
71 Mar 19, 2018 vs. Denver Nuggets
72 Mar 21, 2018 vs. New York Knicks
73 Mar 23, 2018 @ Oklahoma City Thunder
74 Mar 25, 2018 @ Indiana Pacers
75 Mar 27, 2018 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
76 Mar 29, 2018 vs. Chicago Bulls
77 Mar 31, 2018 vs. Brooklyn Nets
78 Apr 3, 2018 vs. Atlanta Hawks
79 Apr 4, 2018 @ Atlanta Hawks
80 Apr 6, 2018 @ New York Knicks
81 Apr 9, 2018 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
82 Apr 11, 2018 vs. Toronto Raptors
With a fully healthy roster, this Heat team should be a playoff team in the East. It’s highly unlikely that they continue on with the torrid pace they were on during the second half of the season as some players likely take a slight step back, but they still have more than enough talent to remain to be an above .500 team. A top-four seed may be a step too far, but they should settle into the 5-7 seed range at around 42-45 wins.
How do you see the Miami Heat’s 2017/18 season panning out? Comment below!