2016-2017 will be a transition year for the Miami Heat after losing franchise pillars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this off-season, giving Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra a lot of decisions to make with his rotation.
Spoelstra, who is entering his ninth season as Miami’s head coach, often utilizes a standard ten-man rotation that features a starting five and a back-up at each of those positions.
Let’s attempt to map out Spoelstra’s 10-man rotation for the Heat this season:
Point Guard: Goran Dragic
The 30-year-old Dragic is entering his second full season as the Heat’s point guard, and to this point at least, his Heat career hasn’t been what Pat Riley and company had hoped for when they dealt two first round picks for the Slovenia guard.
Dragic was given a pass during the second half of the 2014-2015 season after the Heat brought him in from the Phoenix Suns, but his statistical averages during that time period were better than they were in 2015-2016 playing alongside veteran teammates.
There are several things to note about Goran Dragic’s 2015-2016 season.
- Dragic’s season started off very poorly. He averaged 9.5 points per game in 2 October games, and then just 10.8 points in 14 November games. He also struggled knocking down the three ball, as he only hit 9 three-pointers in 38 attempts in those first 16 games.
- Dragic has since admitted publicly that he entered the season out of shape. The Slovenia guard did not play for the Slovenia national team after re-signing with the Heat on a five-year, $85 million during the summer of 2015, which was part of his struggles.
- Playing with Dwyane Wade wasn’t the smoothest thing either. While Dragic and Wade were great friends both on and off the court, their playing styles did not mesh well. Dragic is at his best when the offense is played uptempo, while Wade is at his best at the exact opposite type of offense.
- After Chris Bosh’s season was once again cut short due to blood clots, Spoelstra was able to to revamp Miami’s offense to help play to both Dragic and Wade’s strengths after the emergence of rookie guard Josh Richardson and the signing of veteran Joe Johnson.
- Dragic averaged 17.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 6.7 assists on 48% shooting from the field after Bosh went down with his situation.
With Dragic now in-shape entering the 2016-2017 season, and the Heat flipping their roster over to play to Dragic’s strengths, Dragic says he is now ready to go and have a great season for the Heat:
“I’m ready,” Dragic answered when asked if he thought he was ready for the 2016-2017 season by Anthony Chiang of the Palm Beach Post. “I already felt great at the end of last season. This year I’m in way better shape than last year because I was playing all summer. I’m ready.”
In his Phoenix days when the offense was designed around him, Dragic was a candidate to make the all-star team and was voted the NBA’s Most Improved Player for the 2013-2014 season. He also finished 16th in MVP voting that season.
Dragic has been given the keys once again in his career, and it should be interesting to see how he performs now that he is finally situated in Miami.
Shooting Guard: Josh Richardson
Josh Richardson played just 264 minutes prior to the NBA’s all-star break in February, but after being sent to the NBA Development League for a couple of games, Richardson came back after the all-star break and performed exceptionally well for the Heat, which transformed him into a vital cog in Spoelstra’s rotation.
If this doesn’t show you how much Richardson has grown in short time, nothing will:
Richardson averaged 10.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game after the all-star break in his increased role, while shooting the three-ball at a whopping 53% clip. Richardson’s three-point shooting made him rare on last year’s three-point challenged Heat team.
Now, the 23-year-old Richardson will more than likely be the Heat’s opening night starter at the shooting guard. That is, if he is healthy enough to start when Miami opens their season in Orlando on October 26 against the Magic.
Richardson reportedly suffered a partiality torn MCL during a Heat workout in September after landing awkwardly after a dunk. The Heat have listed the injury on their injury report as a right MCL sprain, but nonetheless the knee injury is keeping him out of preseason action.
Miami used the 40th overall pick to select Richardson in the 2015 NBA Draft, and it would be a big win or Miami’s scouting department if he starts alongside Miami’s other 2015 NBA Draft pick, who will we get to next that is basically a lock to start.
Small Forward: Justise Winslow
The 10th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft was awarded to the Heat after an injury filled 2014-2015 season, and the Heat elected to select Justise Winslow out of Duke University with the pick after he started to slide down the draft board.
In Winslow, the Heat knew what they would be getting right from the get-go. As a freshman at Duke, Winslow averaged 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 48% from the field and 41% from three-point land. There were several questions about Winslow’s shot translating to the NBA game, and so far it has not.
Winslow shot just 42% from the field and 27% from three-point range in his rookie season, but Winslow showed signs of offensive improvement during the season, and especially this off-season now that he has had a full summer to work on his game without the draft and other things surrounding him.
He boosted his scoring average to 7.7 points per game after the all-star break and was able to hit the three-point shot at a more consistent rate by converting 33% of his attempts. Now, his shot is more consistent and fluid then it was in his rookie season after the off-season:
Both the Heat and Winslow know that the offense is not fully there yet, or his jump shot, but they both also believe that Winslow will become a force on offense one day. 2016-2017 will be the start of his offensive growth, because in his rookie season, he wasn’t given a shot on offense very much even when though he averaged 28.6 minutes a night.
Winslow posted a usage rate of 12.5% last season, which means he was barely used in a Heat offense that had Dragic, Wade, and Chris Bosh all with very high usage rates. Winslow’s usage rate will surely jump this year, as will his numbers in 2016-2017 and beyond.
Power Forward: Derrick Williams
Power forward is probably the only position right now on the Heat where there is a big question mark on who the starter is.
It could be James Johnson, it could be Luke Babbitt, and it’s also unlikely that Josh McRoberts or Udonis Haslem would start at power forward for the Heat. One other option besides Johnson and Babbitt at the four spot is Derrick Williams.
Pat Riley and the Heat brought Williams to Miami on another one of Riley’s one-year contracts that will pay him a $5 million salary figure this year. The Heat are currently seeking spacing at the power forward position, which would make Babbitt the favorite to start, but they believe they can make Williams a great three-point shooter.
Williams also said part of his decision to sign with the Heat was the Heat’s long track record at giving players and shot and making them better in their system:
“That’s the reason why I came here,” he said to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel when asked about his free agency decision. “With Spoelstra, Pat Riley, they have a history of developing players and people like myself that haven’t found that right opportunity yet, looking at players like myself that can thrive in the position-less basketball.”
Throughout his NBA career up until Miami, Williams has been a 29% three-point shooter. So far in the pre-season, he is shooting 37% on the long-range ball. If the Heat don’t feel confident in starting Williams until they see more of his shooting in the regular season, it would be very likely to see Luke Babbitt starting for Miami 17 days from now.
Center: Hassan Whiteside
The NBA’s leading shot blocker in 2015-2016 Hassan Whiteside decided to re-sign with Miami this off-season on a four-year, $98 million contract. Now, it is all about continuing to expand his game on offense in his second full season with the Heat.
Whiteside showed flashes of his face-up jumper at times last season, but he has put in more and more work on the shot over the off-season. In the pre-season so far, Whiteside is averaging 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and three blocks per game.
He even told Erik Spoelstra that he was 9-11 on three-pointers after practicing one day:
The 27-year-old Whiteside will be Miami’s main option on the inside, while Goran Dragic will be likely counted on for the Heat’s outside scoring.