With free agency almost over, every team is close to finalizing its roster for next year. And this is the part of the year when most team’s fans can talk themselves into a scenario where their favorite team wins the championship. Maybe it’s too hard for fans of the Nuggets and 76ers to imagine their team winning the title, but there are several teams that can look like contenders if you squint hard enough.
Before the season actually comes around and spoils everyone’s fun, let’s take our time to embrace optimism and tell you why your team will win the title. We continue with the Miami Heat.
After being perennial title favorites, the Miami Heat had to deal with being an afterthought in a weak Eastern Conference. The team replaced the best player in the world with Luol Deng. Deng was a solid Plan B, but he most certainly isn’t the best player in the world.
For a few fleeting moments after acquiring Goran Dragic, the Heat turned into stealth contenders. Then the news came that Chris Bosh would miss the rest of the season with blood clots on one of his lungs, and Miami had to fight for its playoff life. When the team didn’t make the playoffs, it was seen as a disappointment for an organization used to winning.
However, when Justise Winslow fell into the Heat’s lap on draft night, missing the playoffs turned out to be a blessing. And now, Miami has regained its stealth contender status.
Besides Bosh’s injury, the Heat’s biggest issue was depth. The team’s stars were veterans who needed to have their minutes monitored, but the team didn’t have any firepower off the bench to allow that rest to happen.
Josh McRoberts missed most of the season thanks to tearing his meniscus, and that dealt a crucial blow to the bench. McRoberts was coming off an exceptional year as a playmaking power forward (h/t Zach Lowe), and would’ve been a great compliment for Bosh and replacement for him when he needed a breather. Now, McRoberts joins newly signed Amar’e Stoudemire to give the Heat a solid four-man rotation in the frontcourt.
Winslow will probably start the season coming off the bench, and he’ll join Gerald Green to give the Heat depth on the wing. All of a sudden, the Heat, which already had an elite starting lineup, has a solid bench as well.
The starting lineup features two All-Stars in the backcourt, alongside the steady Deng, Bosh and the up-and-coming Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is a menace on defense and has an offensive game that continues to grow. Now that he’s started to realize his enormous potential, it’s fair to expect him to improve modestly this year under Erik Spoelstra.
There’s only one team that’s decisively better than the Heat in the East, and that’s the Cleveland Cavaliers. And if one coach could formulate a plan to attack a LeBron James-led squad, it’s probably his former coach in Spoelstra.
The Heat can be smart with Bosh and Wade because of the improved bench, and the stars should be fresh come playoff time. None of the other teams in the East will want to play Miami in the playoffs, and if everything breaks right, it’s reasonable to see a team this talented and experienced marching to another title.