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Vegas Win Total Projection: 47.5 (VegasInsider.com)
As I talked with Amin Elhassan, NBA Insider for ESPN, he mentioned two or three teams that would have the biggest turnarounds from last year to this year. His first response? The Miami Heat. Not only are the Heat going to be better, they could play for the Eastern Conference with the team they have and the veteran leadership they carry. With the likes of Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, and others, they have a chance to take this far. They have one of the brightest youngsters in the game, in Hassan Whiteside, as well as the “steal in the draft" in Justise Winslow. They also went out and signed Amar'e Stoudamire and Gerald Green, as well as resigning Goran Dragic. This team has all the tools to become 2nd or 3rd in the East. Spoelstra, Pat Riley, and company certainly have a team to work with, now it's about developing a chemistry and winning ball games. The depth, mixture of youth and veteran players will help this team to rest veterans on back-to-backs, as well as provide a cushion of support if starters were to get injured. Erik Spoelstra is one of the most underrated coaches in the NBA and with Pat Riley backing him, I think this team has all the components of a surprise playoff run.
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With Dwayne Wade getting up there in age, I see Chris Bosh as the go-to guy on this team. He will likely be rotated in to begin the season after missing most of last season with life-threatening blood-clots, but will most like be the number one player on this deep and talented Heat team.Last season, before the injury, he was averaging 21 points, 7 rebounds, and a player efficiency rating of 20. He'll give you a block a game, a couple of assists, and likely double-doubles throughout the season. He's a match-up nightmare because of his athleticism, ability to pick and pop, as well as get to the rim. His size as well as shooting ability give him that “stretch 4" label at times. There is no doubt in my mind that Chris Bosh will end up one of the top producers in fantasy this season. I think Eric Spoelstra understands what he has in Chris and will use his shooting, size, and versatility to help the team as well as Bosh.
It pains me to even have this guy in this section, but he may not be in here for the reason you think. Dwayne Wade, obviously is getting up there in age, but also has been slowly reduced in back-to-backs and minutes per game. The reason I put Dwayne Wade on this list is because people will probably expect something that he isn't capable of, playing night in and night out. I expect Spo to use Dwayne Wade cautiously throughout the season. Maybe taking two or three games off in long stretches to make sure he's healthy come playoff time. He went on a tear last season and was an efficient, active, and frequent scorer, unlike seasons prior. Part of that was probably not having James, part of that was being healthy, and the Heat didn't have back-court depth like they do now. So with the depth, athleticism, and versatility of the players they now possess, I see Wade being rested and getting less minutes to prepare him for the playoffs. It's not that he won't produce, but that game in and game out, I think you'll see an inconsistent minute count, along with less statistics than normal D-Wade.
I have always loved Gerald Green and think that he'll get a chance to be a 6th man on this team. He's proved with the Suns that he can play big time minutes and produce and I'm sure that the Miami Heat will look for that coming off the bench in a less demanding role. He'll be a cheap option, who can produce 20 points on any given night. Last season, he only averaged about 20 minutes a game, but managed to produce eleven-plus points, one-plus assists, two-plus rebounds in that time, including scoring over twenty 14 times. He's extremely athletic, can shoot the three ball half way decent, and occasionally fills the steals, blocks, and assists sheet. Keep an eye out for his preseason and see what he can do with this coaching staff and team.
The Miami won't have a problem playing defense. Last season, a reduced version of this year's team, they allowed only 97.3 points per game, good for 6th best in the association. They should firmly hold that spot with the additions they made in the offseason. Their offense however, is another story. They ranked 27th in the league in points scored with only 94.7 per game. That cannot happen in order for this team to succeed, I don't think it will either. With Goran Dragic for a full season, the likes of Amar'e, Gerald Green, Winslow, and healthy Bosh and Wade, I think this team will improve dramatically on offense. I expect to see them somewhere in the middle of the road, about 15th in the league. They should be able to get more open looks with a good distributor like Goran and with Chris Bosh back in the fold, that adds instant offense. I would expect to see them closer to 97, 98, or even 99 points per game with this team and talent. Baring an unforeseen injury, setback, or problem, this team has a chance to make it to the Eastern Conference finals, but I don't think they can get past that team from Cleveland, Ohio. I see them winning close to 50 games this season, potentially more (vegasinsider has it at 47.5, take the over on that one right now!). With Eric Spoelstra, Pat Riley, and veteran leadership from Dwayne Wade, the sky is the limit for the Miami Heat.