Back in 2011 the Miami Heat made the move that stunned the NBA, as they managed to not only re-sign Dwyane Wade but also reel in LeBron James and Chris Bosh. That “big three” led to other teams looking to put together their own versions, but with nowhere near the success as the Heat reached the NBA Finals four straight seasons and won two championships. LeBron returned to Cleveland after the 2014 season, leaving Wade and Bosh to continue to lead the way. But injuries derailed those plans, and this summer there was a changing of the guard in Miami.
Wade ultimately made the decision to sign with the Bulls after some contentious negotiating with the Heat front office, and after having his last two seasons cut short by blood clots Bosh failed his pre-camp physical. And with Heat president Pat Riley saying that in all likelihood Bosh has played his final game for the franchise, the three most important on-court pieces to those two championship squads have all moved on.
So where do Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra go from here? Players such as Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside will be asked to lead the way, with promising second-year wing Justise Winslow in the fold as well. The Heat will have a different look, but they should still contend in the Southeast Division.
Here’s a look at the roster:
Heat Projected Starting Lineup
G: Goran Dragic (14.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 5.8 apg) Dragic started all 72 regular season games that he played in last season, grabbing the reins at the point after agreeing to a five-year contract worth $86 million in the summer of 2015. With Wade and Bosh both off the roster, Dragic’s job of getting the ball to the right players in their best spots is of even greater importance in 2016-17.
G: Tyler Johnson (8.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.2 apg) After playing in a total of 68 games in his first two seasons as a pro, Johnson hit the jackpot this summer as the Heat gave him a four-year contract worth $50 million. Those figures, even with the increased salary cap, shocked some but the Heat are betting that with more opportunities on the court Johnson can blossom into an important starter. And he’ll need to be with Wade moving on.
F: Justise Winslow (6.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) Winslow didn’t do much scoring last season, but his energy, defense and toughness all stood out in his Heat debut. After learning the ropes on how to excel on the wing at the NBA level from Wade, the “training wheels” are off for Winslow in 2016-17 as he takes on a more prominent role within the Heat offense.
F: Josh McRoberts (3.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg) McRoberts played in 42 games for the Heat last season, making just on start even with Bosh being sidelined. Now that Bosh is no longer in the team’s plans and Luol Deng joining the Lakers someone has to man the power forward position, with that player being either McRoberts or free agent signing Luke Babbitt. Taking McRoberts for now in what should be an interesting training camp battle.
C: Hassan Whiteside (14.2 ppg, 11.8, 3.7 bpg) After struggling in his first two seasons in Sacramento, Whiteside has flourished in two seasons with the Heat. Whiteside has averaged a double-double in both of his seasons with the franchise, and with a shade under four blocks per game he’s evolved into one of the best rim protectors in the NBA. Armed with a new contract, Whiteside will be asked to be one of the faces of the franchise for years to come.
Heat Projected Bench
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G: Josh Richardson (6.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg) After averaging just over 21 minutes per game in 52 regular season appearances as a rookie, Richardson played 27.6 minutes per contest in the playoffs. Richardson works hard on the defensive end of the floor, and at 6-foot-6 he has the size to be a nuisance, and the personnel losses open the door for him to earn even more opportunities this season.
G: Dion Waiters (9.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.0 apg) Waiters’ career has been interesting to say the least, going from lottery pick in 2012 to a player who sparked little interest on the free agent market this summer. The Heat scooped him up, and while the Syracuse product can put points on the board consistency on both offense and defense will be key if he’s to earn consistent minutes.
F: Luke Babbitt (7.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg) Babbitt, who spent his last three seasons in New Orleans, is a face-up four with range out beyond the three-point line. Last season Babbitt shot just over 40 percent from three, but he only played in 47 games due to various ailments. Miami needs Babbitt to stay healthy, but if he doesn’t they do have other options to go with in the stretch forward role.
F: Derrick Williams (9.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg) Injuries weren’t an issue for Williams last season, as he played in 80 of a possible 82 games for the Knicks. An athletic forward, Williams doesn’t have the range of Babbitt but he can cause some problems for opponents at the power forward spot.
F: James Johnson (5.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg) A 6-foot-9 combo forward, Johnson is a tough defender who does not shy away from contact. Johnson isn’t much of a scorer, attempting an average of just 4.2 shots per game with the Raptors last season, but his value is found on the defensive end of the floor.
F/C: Willie Reed (4.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg) In addition to Bosh the Heat also have to account for Amar’e Stoudemire’s retirement from the NBA (he’s playing over in Israel), which led to them signing Reed to a multi-year deal. The 6-foot-10 power forward/center showed signs of promise in his lone season with the Nets, and Reed performed well with the Heat’s summer league team in 2015. Brooklyn had room for him on their roster while Miami didn’t, which is why he signed a one-year contract with the Nets last year.
Other Players in Heat Training Camp
G Briante Weber
G Wayne Ellington
G Rodney McGruder
G Luis Montero
F Chris Bosh
F Udonis Haslem
F Stefan Jankovic
F Okaro White
F/C Keith Benson
C Vashil Fernandez
Counting Bosh Miami has 15 guaranteed contracts going into training camp, so that has to be taken into consideration. Of the seven players on this list Haslem, a Heat lifer, is the only one with a guaranteed contract and there’s pretty much no way that the franchise would sever ties with Haslem anyway. That means Spoelstra and Riley will have to determine if they need another big man, which would in turn boost the chances of Fernandez, White or Benson to make the squad, or if they hang onto an extra guard.
Ellington is the most experienced of the six non-guaranteed contract players from an NBA standpoint, and last season he averaged 7.7 points per game with the Nets. Weber is a pest defensively at the point, and McGruder helped lead Miami’s D-League affiliate to a championship last season. Fernandez was an elite defender in college at Valparaiso, and White and Benson tend to do the majority of their offensive work from 15 feet and in.
Heat Coaching Staff
Head coach: Erik Spoelstra (Ninth season; 399-241 career record; 48-34 2015-16 record.)
Assistant coaches: Juwan Howard, Chris Quinn
UPDATE (10/17): The Heat announce that they have waived forward Stefan Jankovic and signed forward/center Vashil Fernandez.
UPDATE (10/18): The Heat announce that they have signed guard Luis Montero and waived forward/center Keith Benson.
UPDATE (10/22): The Heat announce that they have waived guards Beno Udrih and Luis Montero, forward Okaro White and center Vashil Fernandez.
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