Don’t sleep on the Miami Heat.
After missing the playoffs last year for the first time since 2008, the Miami Heat are coming back with a vengeance. Their players have spent the entire summer rehabbing and getting healthy, and the Heat have a complete team for the first time since the departure of LeBron James.
On paper, it is hard to argue with the talent on the roster. Not only are individual players immensely talented, but the collective talent seems cohesive. One must give credit where credit is due; Pat Riley has shown once again he is masterful at creating basketball teams.
In an offense that is heavily focused on dribble drive penetration, spacing, and shooting, the Heat have the pieces to be a dangerously efficient offense from the get-go.
The two starting guards are elite in getting to the rim, and complement each other very well. When Goran Dragic is handling the ball, he can push the tempo with his speed and collapse the defense on his drives, as he is both able to finish around the rim and find the open man. Dwyane Wade is especially good at moving without the ball, and loves to take advantage of when his man loses focus on someone’s dribble penetration.
When Dragic plays off-ball, defenses must stay home on him as Dragic is a career 36 percent three-point shooter and has shown to be more than proficient at knocking down wide open looks. Wade will have all the room he could want to drive and attack the rim.
Why? The floor will have elite spacing. At the three, the Heat will start Luol Deng, a 6-foot-9 forward that shoots a career 33 percent from deep. At the four, the Heat will start Chris Bosh, a 6-foot-11 forward who shot 37 percent from deep last year. Both forwards will make a killing off a defender with a foot too deep in the paint, as both are at their best shooting with their feet set.
Finally, Hassan Whiteside will start at center, who will be setting screen after screen on the ball-handler then crashing hard to the rim. You can see why defenses are going to be on their heels against this offense.
Send help on the rolling big and leave an elite shooter open. Stay home and switch? The guard has a mismatch to blow by for a lay-up. Fight over the top and have the big sink? Wade and Dragic will feast on easy midrange jump shots. One hesitation on what option to choose and the ball handler will attack the backpedaling big for an easy finish or dump off.
Off the bench is where things get really interesting for the Heat. Mario Chalmers and Chris Anderson are veteran Heat players who know their role and still have some in the tank to get the job done. Chalmers will primarily be a spot up shooter (a career 36 percent three-point shooter) while Anderson is a smaller version of Whiteside — hard screen setter and even harder roller, looking to catch lobs or offensive rebounds.
The new Heat players look to fill in the roles already set by the starting five. A’mare Stoudamire is a forward capable of the mid-range game, and can pick up the scoring load for Bosh when he needs a breather. Justise Winslow is an athletic forward, able to defend the other team’s opposing best player and look for easy opportunities on offense.
Winslow is lucky to be able to learn from one of the best at moving off ball of all time (Wade) and will learn the angles on how to get himself in positions to score by watching and learning from Wade. If needed, James Ennis can step in as a forward that shoots 33 percent from deep.
Pat Riley has once again created a great basketball team, and the Heat have potential to do a lot of damage in the coming year. As with all things, health is the most important issue. When playing at full strength, however, the Heat are a dangerous team to contend with, and have a legitimate shot at being a top four team in the east.