The Miami Heat may be the most unpredictable team in the NBA this season, with a realistic chance to win it all or collapse into the lottery again.
The preseason's highlight was the excellent play of the second unit, which featured three D-League alumni: Josh McRoberts, Gerald Green and Tyler Johnson. Can Dan Craig -- now the head coach for the Sioux Falls Skyforce -- continue uncovering prospects from the D-League, such as Hassan Whiteside and Johnson, who are important members of the Heat's team this year?
On the surface the Heat squad appears solid on opening day, but unpredictable events always occur during the season to produce both setbacks and opportunities. With the depth of the team as it stands now, breakout performances by recent cuts Keith Benson or Greg Whittington in Sioux Falls might make a current roster player expendable for a favorable draft pick or trade.
Since his days at Marshall University in 2009, Hassan Whiteside has been on eleven basketball teams. Everyone expects him to become a Heat LIfer, but if history is any guide he may very well move on from the Heat next year. The disappointment of LeBron James going "home" last summer, serves as a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted in the NBA basketball world. Being prepared for any eventually is always the prudent course of action before crisis strikes. Last season who would have predicted Josh McRoberts missing so many games, Chris Bosh's blood clots, or the discovery of Whiteside?
The development of Justise Winslow might take longer than predicted since he had a single season to develop his basketball skills in college. Given his age, he will eventually become a scoring threat in the NBA. At Duke he was never required to put points on board, but with the Heat his role on the team will change to become more of an all-around professional player. As Winslow becomes more comfortable with his jump shoot, people will indeed realize he was the "steal of the draft."
Critics question the outside 3-point deficiencies of the Heat squad, but they overlook that shooting can be learned. Chris Bosh picked up a deadly outside shooting range strictly through practice and patience over a couple of seasons. Winslow, Josh Richardson, and Tyler Johnson are still young and have the ability to become consistently accurate shooters. The Heat already have Green, while McRoberts and Mario Chalmers have demonstrated 3-point range in the past. I believe the Heat's long-range point production will improve as they become more confident with it.
D-League teams finalize their affiliate players on October 30, the draft takes place on October 31, training camps begin on November 1, and the season officially begins on November 12. The AmeriLeague that former Heat player Henry Walker signed onto will likely never come to fruition and has been plagued by early scandal. Some of the more talented free agents still on the market will wait until the last minute to decide whether to go overseas for more money or play in the D-League for greater visibility. Players who do join the D-League will hope for 10-day contracts in January 2016.
The Heat don't need to become much better than they are now, because what normally happens is other teams will lose key players during the season, like Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony last season. Kyrie Irving already will be out at least a month or two, so the injury bug has already begun.
As long as the Heat have a couple of players ready to call up as needed, the team should go deep into post-season. The key this year they will be to better prepared for unexpected departures or injuries.