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SB Nation Miami Heat Season Preview

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As part of SB Nation’s annual NBA Blogger Preview series, we get you ready for the new season with a comprehensive look at the Heat.

NBA: Preseason-Miami Heat at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

This post is part of SB Nation NBA’s annual NBA Blogger Preview series that Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog puts together. Read the other previews if you want to impress your friends with your NBA knowledge.

Team Name: Miami Heat

Last Year’s Record: 48-34

Key Losses: Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Joe Johnson

Key Additions: Dion Waiters, Derrick Williams, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington

  1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?

This off-season was one of the most polarizing in Heat history. Long gone are the joyous summer days of 2010, when the Heat signed the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Just six years later, all three stars will likely not play for the Heat again.

The Heat’s off-season started well, with Hassan Whiteside announcing that he was re-signing with Miami on Snapchat. But then, amidst a futile attempt to recruit Kevin Durant, rumors brewed of a Heat/Dwyane Wade falling out. With the relationship irretrievably broken, Wade signed with the Chicago Bulls. Pat Riley quickly stocked his roster, keeping Tyler Johnson and signing Dion Waiters to fill the void.

And then, just before the Heat opened training camp, Chris Bosh failed a physical, derailing his comeback attempt from a second stint of blood clots. Pat Riley later announced that Bosh’s Heat career is “probably over”, and the relationship between Riley and Bosh also appears ruptured.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

With such a new team with many faces, it’ll take time before the Heat’s identity this season takes shape. But this younger iteration of the Heat has the potential to embrace the up-tempo style that has characterized much of the modern NBA game — something Miami never quite got to in the Wade era. Additionally, the Heat could become a stifling defensive team.

Without Wade commanding the ball, Goran Dragic will have more freedom to direct the offense. Up-and-coming players like Josh Richardson, Johnson and Justise Winslow will have the opportunity to play through their mistakes and grow in a way that wasn’t possible on a team competing for playoff positioning. And of course, it will help to have defensive stalwart Hassan Whiteside in the middle to block shots and continue to develop his offensive game.

Whiteside and Winslow could form the cornerstone around this rebuilding Heat team. Both offer great defensive skills for their respective position. Erik Spoelstra will probably make their development a top priority.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

For the first time in recent memory, the Heat won’t have a veteran-heavy team. I mentioned earlier that the Heat’s young players will play through their mistakes. There will be growing pains. Dion Waiters has an incentive to play well this year in hopes of securing a big-money offer in free agency next summer, but he will probably infuriate Heat fans at some points. Hassan Whiteside will have his moments when he takes a 15-foot jumper instead of passing.

Some Heat fans are happy that the Heat are committing to rebuilding. LeBron’s departure in 2014 (and Chris Bosh’s health issues cutting short two seasons) dashed any hopes of Miami title contention, so why sign Luol Deng and Joe Johnson? But as a Heat fan, it was still nice to see Johnson methodically wear an opponent down and make a clutch bucket in a March regular season game. Miami’s experience won them some games last year; their inexperience may cost them some this year.

4. What are the goals for this team?

The Heat’s goals are a little amorphous at this point. If the Heat play well early and midway through the season, the team will turn its attention to competing for a playoff spot. If the team struggles and looks headed toward the lottery by mid-season, Pat Riley may seek to go even younger — trading Dragic, looking towards the NBA Draft to find another piece.

We’ll just have to see. In the best-case scenario, Miami have a season reminiscent of the 2003-04 campaign. That year, rookies Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem joined a core of Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Eddie Jones to secure the fourth seed in the East and win a playoff series. But it’s also conceivable for the Heat to win 30 games and hope a nice player falls to them in the Draft.

5. By the end of the season, what will the Heat’s most-used lineup be?

Erik Spoelstra may refuse to go small at the beginning of the year, but he’ll come around to it. The Heat’s most-used lineup will be Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside.