In the fifth season removed from the glorious days of vintage Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat seek to regain their rightful place in the chase for the NBA crown.
James has departed to recreate Pat Riley’s Showtime Los Angeles Lakers in his own image, leaving the Eastern Conference race open for all comers.
The Boston Celtics with Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward are the betting favorites, followed by the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors as their top threats to reach the NBA Finals in 2019.
Currently fielding a playoff team, Miami faces a tough challenge down the road as the Celtics restock their roster with up to four first-round draft picks in the summer of 2019.
[Sacramento] Kings or 76ers first-round pick: Celtics receive the more favorable pick, protected for No. 1 overall.
Los Angeles Clippers first-round pick: Celtics receive this selection if the Clippers make the playoffs next season because it’s top-14 protected.
Memphis Grizzlies first-round pick: The Celtics receive this pick if it falls between Nos. 9 and 30.
Boston also has its own selection, which probably will be toward the end of Round 1.
Bleacher Report’s 2019 mock draft forecasts a more realistic outcome of the Celtics getting two 2019 first-rounders and the Heat one.
#7 Celtics (from Sacramento) - Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
#16 Heat (own) - Kellan Grady, PG, Davidson
#27 Celtics (own) - Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
As Miami works its way back to serious contention for the NBA Finals, other top teams are just as busy upgrading their talent levels for the years ahead.
Since this season and the next’s roster remains fairly unchanged, the Heat will count on significant improvements by their current players to get past first-and-second round exits in the playoffs this season.
With competitors constantly adding draft-pick players to replace aging talent, Heat fans will see whether health and continuity turns out to be a better process than moving bodies just to look busy.