Luke Babbitt and Rodney McGruder were not stars, but the starting lineup of Babbitt, McGruder, Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, and Hassan Whiteside gave Miami Heat fans a record-setting finish last season, with a thirteen game winning streak along the way. Who will be the new faces in the frontcourt, trying to duplicate the chemistry from last season?
A likely combination seems to be Josh Richardson and Kelly Olynyk, although they aren't the only possibilities. Olynyk fit well with Whiteside during preseason, and would be an obvious choice as a starter for now. Richardson impressed enough during the preseason to merit a perfunctory, perhaps permanent starting role. The only problem is, there is only one basketball for everyone to share. Whose usage rate will suffer?
The Brothers Johnson, James Johnson and Tyler Johnson, act as perfect second unit clones of Dragic and Waiters. Separating them on the court is like eating a peanut butter sandwich without the jelly. As coach Erik Spoelstra said, there are lots of minutes to divvy up among the players once the game starts, especially if a player gets in early foul trouble. Wayne Ellington, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo will get theirs as the season wears players down and traveling takes its toll.
An interesting combination would be former Boston Celtics' teammates Olynyk and Jordan Mickey paired together in the frontcourt, just to make the Celtics regret letting them go in order to sign Gordon Hayward. Obviously they would start when the Heat play the Celtics, with orders to shut Hayward down. Besides that angle, a Olynyk-Mickey frontcourt has intriguing possibilities on its own to merit serious consideration.
Even though 11 players returned from last season, everyone is a year older, or put more politely, experienced. They may have even upped their skill level this season, to Miami's fans delight. The debut of the new Fabulous Five on Wednesday, in enemy territory, should tell whether Heat Culture successfully survived the summer.