Training camp is approaching for the Miami Heat, so we are taking a closer look at the roster, position-by-position.
Yesterday, we looked at the small forward position -- with the departures of Luol Deng and Joe Johnson making room for Justise Winslow to play more. Today, we’re looking at the power forward.
Chris Bosh’s failed physical has derailed his comeback attempt, and The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Heat increasingly believe his career with the franchise is over. (Chris Bosh, for what it’s worth, said that “little setbacks happen,” but “that doesn’t change what I want to accomplish.”) Wojnarowski also said that Bosh and Heat President Pat Riley have had “a complete breakdown in communication,” so it doesn’t appear likely that Bosh will put on a Heat uniform again. Which is a shame, because of all he did for the organization and that he may no longer have a chance to play the sport he loves.
But the Heat have to move on. And Erik Spoelstra will have to see who can fill minutes in today’s changing NBA. Ten years ago, people talked about the center position becoming extinct; now, it looks like the power forward position has irretrievably shifted, if not evaporated. Good power forwards today are expected to take 3-pointers, to guard multiple positions — not necessarily to post-up opponents.
Without Bosh, the power forward position is up for grabs.
With a roster slated towards guards, Spoelstra could downsize and put players like Justise Winslow, Derrick Williams, James Johnson and Stefan Jankovic in the “power forward” slot. Over the course of the season, he will likely do that — so he can put his best players on the court. We may see Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson all on the floor together. And the mercurial shooting guard Dion Waiters has a strong incentive to have a good year to boost his free agency prospects next summer.
At the same time, the Heat also have Udonis Haslem, Josh McRoberts and Luke Babbitt on the roster. Haslem figures to get spot minutes here and there — as has been the case the last few seasons. With his apparent low trade value, the Heat may try to fit McRoberts and his unique passing ability into the rotation. But McRoberts has showed a hesitancy to take even wide-open shots, and Babbitt could steal minutes if he takes and makes those.
Bosh’s health throws the starter position in uncertainty. It’s plausible that the person who starts at power forward is out of the rotation by mid-season. For now, I’ll predict it is James Johnson — meaning that Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside will join him in the starting lineup.
Spoelstra could easily yank Johnson for Derrick Williams or Luke Babbitt in the starting lineup, and Winslow could even see substantial minutes at the 4. Haslem may even emerge from a weeks-long absence to get valuable playing time if the Heat remain in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Don’t sleep on Jankovic, who had a strong showing during the Orlando Pro Summer League. He may see spend some time with the Heat’s D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. But he could also work his way into the rotation if he impresses the Heat coaching staff.
The Grade — C+
Perennial All-Star Chris Bosh has no timetable for a return, and the Heat are left with a collection of players who are best suited as reserves. Of course, it’s difficult to expect a franchise to quickly recover from a situation like the current one with Bosh. The Heat signed Bosh to a five-year, $118 million in 2014, and he’s suffered two season-ending blood clots since then.
But Winslow is a promising player, and he could play several minutes at the 4 if, say, Wayne Ellington emerges as a reliable 3-point threat. And hopefully players like Derrick Williams can have productive seasons.