As the flame has finally gone dim on the career of (Flash!) Dwyane Wade and an era of South Florida hoops, the Miami Heat look for light to guide them into the future. That light may come in many forms but which will shine brightest this season? Will it be rookie guard Tyler Herro, new free agent acquisition Jimmy Butler, the continued emergence of Bam Adebayo, or perhaps a trade is afoot that will catapult the Heat back among the East’s elite?
One thing is for sure, Pat Riley won’t rest on past success in South Beach.
After three games, here are some bold predictions for how the season will unfold:
1. Tyler Herro will exceed already huge expectations
The choir singing praises of Kentucky phenom Tyler Herro reached a deafening tone this offseason, after the 19-year old guard took over Summer League.
With a number of young fresh legs on the roster, including Herro’s first-year running mate Kendrick Nunn, the Heat are sure to get up and down the court with furious pace producing an exhilarating brand of basketball. This style bodes well for the flashy and flamboyant slasher who excels in the open court and can set up teammates on occasion. The youngster can get his jump-shot off in a variety of ways and hunts scoring opportunities with a hunger.
Look for Herro to get a healthy portion of Miami’s designed half-court actions as he can thrive in isolations. At 6-foot-6, he also has the potential to be a more than capable perimeter defender as he’s shown the ability to utilize his 6’ 3.5 wingspan.
Tyler Herro has taken Summer League by storm pic.twitter.com/4LWxqWRw0D— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 11, 2019
2. Jimmy Butler will be voted an East All-Star starter
After signing a $142-million extension and then landing in Miami, Jimmy Butler is now the unquestioned No. 1 option. After coming from Philadelphia where his place in the pecking order was continuously in flux, Butler will embrace the burden of driving the offense and scoring big buckets in big moments which has become his reputation throughout the years.
Getting a lion’s share of shots and playmaking opportunities will presumably result in Butler filling the stat sheet. Butler will look to return to 2017-18 season form when he was voted second-team All-Defense, averaging nearly 2 steals per game. Combined with a fierce competitive nature, Jimmy’s ability to play both ways and demand maximum effort from his teammates should bait voters and coaches to vote the Houston native an all-star starter once again.
3. Dion Waiters & Goran Dragic will be traded by mid-season
The writing seems to be on the wall for Dion Waiters. Through off-court turmoil and injuries the former Syracuse guard’s time in Miami has been an up-and-down rollercoaster. It’s hard to envision Waiters being in the long-term plans for the organization especially given the most recent investments in young perimeter players. At a true crossroads in his career the veteran will either have to change his stripes or take them. The 27-year old has one year remaining on his contract at $12.6 million.
Goran Dragic’s role has changed several times during his stint in Miami, as it has for a better part of his career elsewhere. Dragic is good at eventually adapting to what his team needs from him which is an attribute of true value in the NBA. Heat fans have seen his play grow and draw back from year-to-year and he’s never quite taken the reigns of the team like many thought he would after being traded in 2015. The Slovenian point guard’s is coming off a season that saw him shoot just 41% from the field and his contract expires after this season making him an easy piece to move in a trade.
4. Justise Winslow will prove to be the suitable co-star for Jimmy Butler
I believe this season will reveal the truth about Justise Winslow. The fifth-year forward just turned 23 years old this March and the ascending growth curve continues into this young season. Through 3 games Winslow is averaging 19 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists a line the 2015 draft pick will need to maintain or eclipse if he truly wants the “co-star” label. Others in his draft class have had their breakout seasons; Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, even Devin Booker (who was drafted after Winslow), and now it’s time for the former Duke forward to take his place on the stage with his peers. Winslow’s versatility and aptitude to facilitate equip him to play on or off the ball, this should mean the pairing with Butler is seamless. Historically, the combination of two dynamic wings is the best pairing of star players. Around the league we see several duos who fall into the same nook (i.e. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard).
5. Erik Spoelstra will vie for Coach of the Year honor as Heat finish 4th in East
It’s simple, I’ve just learned to stop doubting Erik Spoelstra.
Four of ESPN’s NBA experts also picked Spoelstra to win Coach of the Year in their season predictions, tying him with Doc Rivers for second place and one vote behind Quin Snyder.
All five starters from Wednesday night’s season opener against the Memphis Grizzlies were different from last season’s opener but change is one thing Spo is used to dealing with.