The Miami Heat are coming off a disappointing 2014-2015 season in-which they won just 37 games while losing 45 of them. It was understandable that the Heat struggled with injuries to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh missing the entire second half of the season, but they have improved at every position this off-season, and the question remains, is it enough to give the Heat a fair shot at the crown in the East?

The Atlanta Hawks shocked us all when they won 60 games for the first time in franchise history, which was good for 7 more wins than the Cleveland Cavaliers, the favorites to win the East this year. A lot has been made about the potential Dwyane Wade versus LeBron James match-up in the playoffs, and let’s check the reality of it, and if the Heat could end up being the best.

If we take a look at the point guard position for both teams, the Heat would finally have an advantage at that spot if Kyrie Irving is indeed out till January or the entire season. The Cavaliers have more depth than the Heat at the point guard spot, however, as Mo Williams is one of the best back-up guards in the league, and Matthew Dellavedova showcased what he can do. Without Kyrie, the point guard advantage goes to the Heat, but come playoff time when Irving is expected to be back, it’s call Cavaliers.

Despite him not showing the same flash and athletic ability he once had, Dwyane Wade is still the better option at shooting guard for the Heat, and he would be on the Cavaliers. The Heat will likely run sets that feature Mario Chalmers, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Gerald Green, and of course Wade at shooting guard. The Cavaliers shooting guard core screams inconsistency, with J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert being their main options. This advantage goes to the Heat.

The small forward position features the biggest talent gap of any of the positions between the two teams. The Heat had LeBron James, but now the Cavaliers do, and while Luol Deng can still put up 15 points on most nights, he is no LeBron James. Luol Deng is also showing sings of wearing down due to the overload of minutes he was played while he was with the Bulls, which could also be a killer for the Heat. Not one team is really deep at the small forward spot, but the Heat could change that with Winslow behind Deng. Nonetheless, this advantage is still going to the Cavaliers with a doubt.

Chris Bosh and Kevin Love are fairly even in terms of playing style at the power forward slot. Bosh as a second option is better than Love as a third option, but this is likely going to come down to depth. The Heat can run Josh McRoberts and Amar’e Stoudemire at power forward along with Udonis Haslem, and who even knows what is going on between the Cavaliers and Tristan Thompson anymore? This one goes to the Heat, but if the Cavaliers can give Tristan Thompson what he wants, it could get very interesting.

Hassan Whiteside emerged big time for the Heat last year, and what the Heat loved about him was his ability to swat shots away, as he averaged more than 2 blocks per game. His health also caused him to miss some games last year, and Chris Andersen isn’t getting any healthier nor younger. The Cavaliers have Timothy Mozgov at center, and with a returning Anderson Varejao, the Cavaliers win this battle at center.

So now that I have broke it down, the question still remains to me: can the Heat win the Eastern Conference? I have to say yes, but it all depends on so many things out of the Heat’s control. There is at least one question for every Heat starter.

Goran Dragic: Can he return to all-star form in a new offense?

Dwyane Wade: Can he stay healthy?

Luol Deng: Can he be on the floor and more productive this year?

Chris Bosh: Can he live up to the big price tag?

Hassan Whiteside: Can he play like last year, or is he a one year wonder?

Let’s say Dragic makes the all-star team along with Wade and Bosh. Wade plays more than 65 games (played 62 last year), Chris Bosh plays more than 70,  and Whiteside builds on his breakout year. It won’t be easy for them to win the East even play like this, but it gives them a fair shot. I still have the Cavaliers winning the Eastern Conference, however, but the Heat could be dark horse contenders.

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