KEEP THE STARTERS FRESH
With three players who have All-Star appearances on their résumés (Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Chris Bosh) and two more (Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic) who are strong candidates to make the team this season, Miami has one of the NBA's strongest starting lineups. It's also one of its most fragile: Wade, 33, and Deng, 30, have battled injuries in recent years, while Bosh, 31, is returning after a life-threatening blood clot in his lung prematurely ended his 2014--15 season. To maintain his starters into April, coach Erik Spoelstra will need to lean heavily on his second unit—a group that is loaded with question marks.
The Heat giddily pounced on Justise Winslow when the 6'7" Duke forward slipped to No. 10 in the draft in June. An NBA-ready defender, Winslow worked with Wade on expanding his offensive game in training camp, but he's just 19. Miami took a flyer on free-agent swingman Gerald Green, hoping it gets the 2013--14 edition (15.8 points, 40.0% from three in Phoenix) instead of last year's model (11.9 and 35.4%). Forward Josh McRoberts can stretch the floor and knock down a three, but he missed 65 games last year with a right-knee injury. Mario Chalmers, now the backup to Dragic at the point, was known for his inconsistency during the Heat's two recent title runs.
No doubt the subs will struggle, and that may cost the team a spot or two in the standings. But Spoelstra will have to let them play through. The more time the starters can rest in the regular season, the better positioned Miami will be to go deep into the playoffs.
A rival scout sizes up Miami
In my mind they're the sleeper in the NBA—at least in the East. They're coming into the season with good coaching and an abundance of talent.... A big [question] is whether Hassan Whiteside can keep improving. Can he be consistent? The Heat are very big on fundamentals, very big on player development. I've got to think he's going to be better this year.... Backing him up is Amar'e Stoudemire. He played pretty well last year, and he'll be a good locker room guy. Then they've got Chris Andersen, who just creates havoc. That's three quality bigs.... Chris Bosh is an All-Star, though maybe a borderline one given his health issues, with Josh McRoberts behind him. McRoberts can shoot, he can rebound, and [at 6'10"] he's got good size.... I've always been a big Goran Dragic fan. In my mind, he's an All-Star. Dragic and Dwyane Wade: That's a hell of a backcourt. The x-factor is whether Dwyane stays healthy.... They've got Luol Deng and Justise Winslow at small forward, but Gerald Green's stepping into a bigger role. That's a little bit suspect. He'll either go 0 for 12 or 12 for 12.... Deng can contribute a lot when he has the right talent around him. He can't be the guy; he's more of a third or fourth player on a good team. He can make shots, he can take it to the rim, he can defend. I like him.... Winslow's got this thing about him—if you watch how he carries himself, you just see a player. As far as his talent, he can really take it to the rim. He's strong—he's got strong hands, a great body. He has all the tools except he's a little bit below average as a shooter. I think he'll get there.
COACH ERIK SPOELSTRA
(8th season with Heat)
2014--15 RECORD 37--45
(3rd in Southeast)
PG GORAN DRAGIC
16.3 PPG; 4.5 APG; 50.1 FG%; 34.7 3FG%
SG DWYANE WADE
21.5 PPG; 4.8 APG; 47.0 FG%; 28.4 3FG%
SF LUOL DENG
14.0 PPG; 5.2 RPG; 46.9 FG%; 35.5 3FG%
PF CHRIS BOSH
21.1 PPG; 7.0 RPG; 46.0 FG%; 37.5 3FG%
C HASSAN WHITESIDE
11.8 PPG; 10.0 RPG; 2.6 BPG; 62.8 FG%
PG MARIO CHALMERS
10.2 PPG; 3.8 APG; 40.3 FG%; 29.4 3FG%
PF JOSH MCROBERTS
4.2 PPG; 2.6 RPG; 1.9 APG; 52.8 FG%
SF JUSTISE WINSLOW (R)
12.6 PPG; 6.5 RPG; 48.6 FG%; 41.8 3FG%
*NEW ACQUISITION (R) ROOKIE, COLLEGE STATS
Starts made for Miami by Goran Dragic—sixth most on the team, even though he arrived from Phoenix on Feb. 19. The Heat used 31 different starting lineups, the most in franchise history.
ISSAC BALDIZON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES