2015-2016 Record: 48-34
It’s pretty safe to say this next season will be strange territory for Heat fans. Their world was rocked this July when franchise cornerstone Dwyane Wade ended his proverbial game of chicken with team president Pat Riley and signed with the Chicago Bulls, ending a 13 year career with Miami that brought home three NBA championships, although perhaps more relevantly, none of these years saw Wade as the highest paid player on his own team.
Wade still may not have that status as the alpha dog in Chicago, but as for what this means for Miami, it’s hard to predict exactly, simply because recent memory doesn’t show us a Heat roster without Wade featured prominently.
In addition to Wade, the Heat also lost two veteran wings to free agency in Joe Johnson (two years, $22 million) and Luol Deng (four years, $72 million), both at prices the Heat would likely have been unable to match. In their place, the newly signed Derrick Williams and James Johnson will compete for minutes, but it looks like the starting small forward position may already be in the hands of 2015 first round pick Justice Winslow.
None of the aforementioned trio will demand touches on offense, particularly the very raw Winslow, but his physicality and defense should allow him to see an even grater roe than the 28.6 minutes per game he played last season.
In replacing Wade, the Heat, brought in Dion Waiters on a very affordable one-year, $2.9 million deal. Waiters is not anywhere close to the complete player Wade is, even in the latter’s years of decline, but as a stop-gap measure, his 12.7 points per 36 minutes will boost Miami’s offense.
Perhaps the biggest positive of the Heat’s offseason was their re-signing of center Hassan Whiteside on a max four-year, $98 million deal. The late-blooming 27-year-old is already one of the league’s best rim protectors, but he’ll need to improve as a willing passer and low-post threat to truly justify the money headed his way.
Salvaging a somewhat-broken team after Wade’s absence is difficult, and the Heat have done an adequate job in bringing in replacements yet at the same time allowing room for young assets like Winslow and sophomore shooting guard Josh Richardson.
That being said, any net rating of the Heat’s preseason prospects is not complete until we get a definite answer on the status of star power forward Chris Bosh. Bosh has missed the end of the last two seasons due to the unforeseen issue of blood clots, and according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the sweet-shooting big man unfortunately may never take the court for the Heat again.
"There is a fear within the Heat organization that Bosh’s condition will prevent him from ever being cleared to play by team doctors."
Whatever the final verdict is on Bosh’s future with the Heat, it will likely need to be made soon; Bosh has three years of max money left on his contract and unless some agreement is reached, that money will hamstring the Heat’s operations should Bosh be unable to play.
With Bosh, the Heat are a likely playoff team, but without, it’s hard to see them safely established in the postseason barring any surprise. The Bucks will likely be in close competition for a spot with Miami come next season, and with four games against the Heat coming up, each one will be of tantamount importance.
Next: Washington Wizards