Paul Flannery and Tom Ziller are previewing all 30 teams via conversation. Next up: the Miami Heat. Find all of the Flanns and Zillz previews here.
ZILLER: The Miami Heat had quite an offseason! Pat Riley paid through the nose to keep two young players in Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson, then balked at Dwyane Wade's contract request, watching him flee for Chicago.
These are defensible in a macro sense — pay your young players, be skeptical of aging stars — but make no sense with the previous trajectory of the Heat. This is a team that traded multiple future firsts for Goran Dragic in win-now mode.
Perhaps Chris Bosh's unfortunate turn hastened the shift in priorities. Assuming Bosh doesn't come back to Miami, the entire Big Three is gone. It's time to move on! But it still feels like Riley is grasping for straws and being reactive instead of proactive, which is unfamiliar. Does Riley have a plan?
FLANNERY: Riley always has a plan. It may just be more in the development stage than the execution phase. Dumping Wade was cold-blooded, but totally defensible once you remove the emotional attachment out of the equation. The situation with Bosh is unfortunate. The Dragic trade now looks like a huge mistake and there will be a high cost later on down the line, given the picks that will head to Phoenix.
Still, there's a handful of talented youngsters on this roster that will have room to grow into contributors now. That's a good thing. And Dragic may flourish without D-Wade to soak up shots and touches.
Their current prospects all come down to Whiteside and whether he's ready to be the main man. You think he's up to it?
ZILLER: We have a year and a half of evidence he's a starter in the NBA. We saw in the playoffs how important he is to their success. He really cannot be a featured scorer in any way, but he's a nice pick-and-roll option and garbage man, and his defense impacts the game, even if it's not perfect. He's legit. With the loss of Wade and Bosh, he might even end up with All-Star numbers. Someone's gotta score.
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On that note, I feel like Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson (when he gets back on the court), and Johnson will determine where Miami lands in the immediate term. You have an above-average starting center and an average-at-absolutely-worst starting point guard. If the other pieces perform well, you've got something.
I'm super bullish on all three, especially Winslow, who I think is a star within a few years. Richardson is coming off of a knee injury and Johnson has a long way to go, but this is a nice young core. Do you believe in these kids?
FLANNERY: Yes, 100 percent. You know I've been on Team Winslow since the beginning. He's already a pro's player at such a young age. If he gets a consistent jumper, then the sky is the limit. I know that we can say that about a dozen other young wings, but Winslow has such a strong understanding of the game and his role within a team concept. I like what I've seen out of Johnson and Richardson, but Winslow is the real key for me.
I'm real concerned about the lack of scoring, though. None of those guys are natural scorers, Whiteside included. I think they'll be competitive, but this doesn't look like a playoff team to me. You feel differently?
ZILLER: Worried about scoring? But they signed Dion Waiters! He's got this.
It's going to be tough to make the playoffs. They won 48 games with this group plus Wade, half a season of Bosh, and Luol Deng. Are those guys worth five, eight, 10, 15 wins when you account for internal improvement (including more comfort for Dragic)? I'd guess about 6-7 wins come off their record, putting them on the playoff fringe. But I feel like I could be wildly off in either direction.
FLANNERY: I have zero confidence in making a Heat pick. They are among nine other teams in the East that I feel like could go either way in terms of the postseason or the lottery. So, somewhere in that range.
ZILLER: Miami will be in the postseason or the lottery. Helluva take, Flannery. (I am right there with you.)