In a wide-open Eastern Conference, you would expect the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers to lock up the top two spots. After that, you can make a case for any of the remaining six slots up for grabs. The defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics are still expected to secure a high seed. So yes, the Heat aren’t going to be contending for a title in the immediate future, but this season will be all about player development and the quest to return to the playoffs.
We all know what Jimmy Butler will bring to South Beach, but this season could see the emergence of a few of his teammates. Bam Adebayo finally has the opportunity to step out of the shadow of Hassan Whiteside. In 82 games last season Adebayo ranked 29th in total rebounds (with 597) doing the majority of his work in second unit minutes. The 22-year-old has the frame and athleticism to become a real presence on both sides of the floor.
The Heat were the second-ranked defensive team in the league for points allowed per game (105.9), added Butler – a four-time member of the all-defensive second team – to its lineup. So another season of elite team defense should be on the cards, but the real question marks rest on the other side of the ball.
Justise Winslow continues to improve his offensive output season on season, despite constant questions surrounding his offensive ability or lack thereof. Last season Winslow not only proved a suitable deputy to the point guard void when Goran Dragic went down, but also produced career highs in points (12.6), rebounds (5.4) and assists (4.3). The former Duke Blue Devil made 37% of his three-point attempts last season, on two attempts per game more (3.9) than 2017-18, so the signs are increasingly positive for Winslow going forward.
The aforementioned Dragic will look to put his injury woes firmly behind him this time out, and a healthy Slovenian significantly improves the Heat offense. Long-rumoured to be on his way out of Miami as part of a Butler trade, the veteran Slovenian could prove to be a real asset once more if his unsettled situation is firmly put behind by all parties.
The most intriguing member of the roster, could well be rookie Tyler Herro. Whether Herro sees serious rotation minutes in his rookie season remains to be seen, but glimpses of his silky-smooth offensive game were on full display at the Summer League. A project head coach Eric Spoelstra will certainly relish and possibly deploy as the season progresses.
An intriguing season is ahead for the Miami Heat, progression is the aim and a playoff berth would be warmly received by the fans. But make no mistake, the focus is on the future in Miami as the Heat look to navigate towards its next period of contention.