Usually when an NBA season ends, you might find the team and fan base depressed because of what took place during the season. The Miami Heat on the other hand, can feel a sense of excitement for what is to come. After LeBron James' departure, Miami needed two players heading into the 2014-15 season: Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway.
Let me explain.
No the Heat literally don't need Zo and Timmy, who just completed his first season as a Detroit Pistons assistant coach, but Miami needed what these two guys offered in their prime. Zo offered the defensive tenacity while Timmy provided the offensive stability. This roster when the season started had a gaping hole at center and point guard. Both Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts were talented offensively, but you couldn't rely on those two for their defensive stops. With Dwyane Wade getting a year older and his backcourt mates at the time being a shoot-first Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers and a freshly drafted Shabazz Napier, that itself should expain to you why Miami needed a point guard. When McRoberts went down, it took a new dynamic out the Heat rotation. When Bosh went out, it just took the Heat out completely.
But next year isn't just about the return of McRoberts and Bosh though. Nor is it just about having a top 10 pick that could change the franchise. No, what the Heat have seen this year is the emergence of Hassan Whiteside along with the addition of Goran Dragic - who is expected to re-sign with the Heat once the free agency period begins. What these two have done in a relatively short amount of time is what makes Heat fans so excited.
Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy has seen every big center since Bill Russell. From Patrick Ewing to Shaq. From David Robinson to Hakeem. He saved his "This guy reminds me of Bill Russell" prediction for 40 years and then labeled it on Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside, the guy who has only played half an NBA season and wasn't even in the league last year!
Hassan told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald: "It’s going to be a big summer for me. My last couple of summers I had to go to China, I had to go to Lebanon. I had to go over here.This is really the first summer I can get with some coaches and actually work on my game and actually get on a program where I can lift weights and become a better basketball player."
So as you can see, Whiteside isn't resting on his success, he instead is making sure it's consistent enough to carry into next season. That could mean working on the fouls. Taking more contact. A quicker spin to the basket. You know, things like being a dominant NBA big man. With a few months on the fly, look what Whiteside has done. Now imagine what he can do next year on a healthy roster and good chemistry?
Goran Dragic knows Whiteside's potential too. His eyes light up every time Whiteside is brought up. There's a sense of happiness when it comes to playing with Wade and an eagerness to see how he plays with Bosh. Dragic already knows how playing with Bosh will be like. He refers to Channing Frye, citing how the pick and roll he ran with Frye during his time with the Phoenix Suns was almost impossible to stop. That's just Frye. Chris Bosh is more like Frye but way better. So Dragic loves to talk about the potential of his teammates. I instead rather talk about the potential of The Dragon himself.
Miami isn't on Phoenix's speed but I feel that Dragic will be the reason that Wade is able to play more games next season. The reason is because Wade is able to concentrate on cutting to the basket instead of having the ball to himself and attracting the attention of an entire team on his decision making. I don't consider it surprising at all that when the ball handling burden was put on to another person, Wade became the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
Dragic brings the element of speed to this team while Whiteside brings the post game back. During this off-season, I'm sure the coaching staff will come up ways for both to be maximized for next season. Add that with the dynamic of Bosh, the versatility of McRoberts and D-Wade being D-Wade. Excited yet?
The best thing that could of happened for the Heat post-LeBron was to somehow get to the Eastern Conference Finals or by some miracle, the NBA Finals. If the team wasn't going to do that, then the second best thing would be to fill its voids at center and point guard. The first goal wasn't achieved. As for the second, it was achieved so well that Miami is now a lot closer to their first goal.
The franchise hasn't had a player like Zo and Timmy since Zo and Timmy. Sure, since the pair left, Miami has had three championships and five trips to the NBA Finals (one with Zo on the team even), but this season, more than any other, Miami has needed a big man and a steady point guard for the future. Now Miami has both. Which makes the future so freakin' bright.