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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?


Offseason Recap

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

Strengths

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.

Weaknesses

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.

2017/18 Schedule

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        

Prediction

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!

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Brad Taningco

Brad Taningco has been a RealSport NBA contributor since Decemeber 2016. But apart from basketball, he's also a fan of soccer, American football, baseball, and ice hockey.

Miami Heat: NBA season preview, roster and schedule 2018

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