A year after reaching their 4th consecutive NBA Finals in 2014, the Miami Heat found themselves teetering between the Draft Lottery and the Playoffs in 2015. Injuries decimated them, with Josh McRoberts, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all missing significant time.
However, Miami was able to equip themselves with some additional personnel to help them better navigate the post-LeBron James seas. They added Goran Dragic via a trade with the Phoenix Suns and then re-signed him to a five-year contract this summer, and they also found a gem in big man Hassan Whiteside, whose basketball ceiling had seemed to be that of a journeyman before his breakout year with Miami.
The Heat may have fallen short of their quest for the postseason in 2015, but that hasn’t shaken the confidence of the general manager Pat Riley, who stated that Miami has championship potential during an appearance on the Dan Le Batard show early this week. (Big ups to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald for the transcription.)
“I think this team has all of the elements of a championship team,” he said. “Whether or not you can ever win a championship will depend on a number of factors. I can list them and you can list them. It’s going to come down to this, health,… performance and this guy and that guy. It’s going to come down to can you make shots?…
“I think this team has the opportunity and the possibilities of being a contender. That’s where you start with a team like this. We have an opportunity to create a new first. That’s how I feel about this team…. I’m excited about this season.”
On paper, a starting lineup of Dragic-Wade-Deng-Bosh-Whiteside with a second unit of 2015’s No. 10 overall pick Justise Winslow, McRoberts, Mario Chalmers, Amar’e Stoudemire, Gerald Green, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem has the potential to evolve into a team that packs a potent punch, but as Riley alluded to, health is key.
Bosh missed all of last season due to a blood clot, Deng has grappled with his fair share of injuries over the past few seasons, and the creakiness of Wade and Stoudemire’s knees have been well documented.
But let’s not get it twisted. When on the court last year, Wade produced at an elite-like level, and even had a vintage stretch of games in March as he attempted to will the Heat to the playoffs. If you compare Wade’s numbers from last season to those of Klay Thompson’s, they’re eerily similar if you omit three-point percentage.
KT: 21.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.9 APG, 46% FG
DW: 21.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.8 APG, 47% FG
The biggest discrepancy between the two is the number of games played. Thompson played in 77 of Golden State’s contests, while Wade was limited to 62 games due to knee issues. For some to say Wade is “washed” is asinine. He’s still a very good player capable of registering an eye-popping performance, it’s just that his ability to do so on a nightly basis has diminished due to health and age, but best believe he can still get the job done.
It’ll be interesting to see how Wade performs now that he’s flanked by some better talent. I theorize that Wade flamed-out at the end of last season as the injuries piled up for Miami and the burden became too great for him to bear (he averaged 20.1 PPG on a very meh 41% from the field in his last 10 games of the season.)
If the entire Miami roster, specifically Wade and Bosh, can maintain good health, don’t be surprised if you see them battling Cleveland or Chicago in the postseason. They have the talent, coaching and experience, all they need is the vigor.