The Miami Heat will open training camp on September 26, just one week away. That means preseason is just around the corner and the season is beginning to be in sight.
You should be excited about that! We are and so right now we are going to be looking at some of the most burning questions facing the team, and I asked fellow HHH writers Diego Quezada and Brandon DiPerno to answer some of these questions.
And we are going to start by looking at the battle of the regular season roster. As you know, teams can only carry 15 players into the opening night roster. The Heat currently have 19 players under contract.
We can identify these 12 as pretty much guarantees to make the roster: Dragic, Johnson, Richardson, Ellington, Waiters, McGruder, Winslow, Haslem, Olynyk, Johnson, Whiteside, and Adebayo.
That leaves these seven to fight for three spots: A.J. Hammons, Okaro White, Jordan Mickey, Matt Williams, Larry Drew II, Derrick Walton and newly signed Erik McCree.
So what is the most logical conclusion to this? First I believe Okaro White will also make the final roster. Diego Quezada agrees with me, saying, “He showed promise on the Heat last year and offers depth in either forward position.” Even more than that he looked pretty good in the Summer League. It wouldn’t make sense for Miami to give up on him now.
After that, I think it’s also pretty logical to conclude that Jordan Mickey makes this team. He signed a two-year contract, with the first guaranteed. He would have to have a really bad showing in camp for the Heat to just give up on him then. He also will provide front court depth.
Beyond those two it gets a little murky. Hammons does have a guaranteed contract, so just waiving him and his two years isn’t ideal. He has the inside track financially. Everyone else has non-guaranteed deals, even Rodney McGruder. In fact, you could make the argument that all of the other players were really signed for the Skyforce of the G-League. However, Diego believes Matt Williams Jr. will take that final roster spot due to his 3-point shooting.
Clearly there is at least one spot up for grabs.
What also is up for grabs is that starting power forward spot. The Heat have both James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk capable of playing there and there is some debate about who should start. Brandon DiPerno thinks it should be Johnson, “He proved in the final games of last season that he can be an elite player given the opportunity and after the contract he received, Miami will probably hold him to that.”
And that may be true, but Diego makes a good point about the Heat starting Olynyk, “Erik Spoelstra likes having Johnson as a point-forward when Goran Dragic goes to the bench. Olynyk, who signed a four-year deal with the Heat, is an ideal stretch 4 to place next to Hassan Whiteside. Johnson will get the bulk of the minutes, but Olynyk will start.”
I think there could be an experimental period here as well. Both are capable and this is really about chemistry and rotation. Because of the idea that Johnson provides so much play making for the second unit, I also like Olynyk as a starter. Olynyk can also play some center, which is important to consider as a part of his minute distribution. In fact, he could be playing alongside James Johnson quite a bit.
Regardless, whoever starts will be a major upgrade over Luke Babbitt.
The Heat also have a young prospect that wants some time in the power rotation. So what role does Bam Adebayo have on this team? Both my colleagues Diego and Brandon believe Bam will basically be the backup center and take over Willie Reed’s role from last year.
I think for this season, Bam’s role will be small. I do think he will get consistent time behind Whiteside. But I also believe that they would prefer Olynyk to play more backup center than Bam. I think Bam is going to get around 10 minutes a game which isn’t enough to make a significant impact right now.
He’s young and has a lot to learn about the NBA. Most may disagree with me here, but I think the majority of power minutes will go to Johnson, Olynyk and Whiteside and then a few to Adebayo and maybe even Mickey.
And lastly, we think there will be somebody who breaks out for the Heat this year!
Brandon thinks it’s Goran Dragic. “He's coming off an incredible championship run in Eurobasket and looks like he's in the best shape of his career. I think this might be the year that we finally get All-Star Dragic. For Goran, he'll succeed through familiarity. He already has great chemistry with this roster, and I expect him to build on this throughout the season. With him conducting the offense and getting two weapons back in Justise and Josh Richardson, he has a lot to play with.”
And Diego thinks its Justise Winslow. “[He] will surprise us because he will have a nice jump-shot. It may be wishful thinking, but a jump-shot added to Winslow’s skill-set — defensive tenacity, effective ball-handling and passing, smart cuts to the basket — would turn Winslow into the player Heat fans hoped he would become before his injury-plagued sophomore season.”
And I think its someone else. I’m calling on Josh Richardson to have that breakout. After a solid rookie campaign, he dipped in his efficiency last season but still got minutes when he played. I think he could really use his athleticism and play making to change the Heat. I want to see him average 14 points this year.
These are some of the things we are watching as training camp opens in one week for the Miami Heat.