Miami Heat: Three Takeaways from the Preseason
The Heat had an impressive preseason this year, finishing 4–1 after a loss to the Rockets on Friday. After their eventful offseason, there were a lot of questions and doubts about the Heat.
How will they play after the loss of Wade, Richardson, and Whiteside?
Will there be chemistry issues with Jimmy Butler and the team?
Can the Heat be near the top of the East without another star?
The Heat have silenced their critics with an incredible preseason, and here are three takeaways for what is to come with the Miami Heat.
1. It’s All Love in Miami
Kim Klemen/USA TODAY Sports
The Heat had a very different roster this season compared to last year.
Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade, Josh Richardson, and Yante Maten were all on the roster during the 2018–19 season, but are now on different teams. Miami also got some new additions in Meyers Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and KZ Okpala.
The new roster appears to be working well together, despite Jimmy Butler’s previous “locker room issues.”
After the Heat’s win over San Antonio, Butler said that rookie Tyler Herro is going to be an essential player for the team.
“He’s a player, man. He’s going to be big for us — big for this city. They’re going to fall in love with him, as they should.”
Jimmy Butler has become a good leader for this team as well. At the start of training camp, Butler proved his dedication to improvement by showing up to practice a little early. Butler walked into the practice facility at 3:30 A.M. This set a precedent for the rest of the team, because Meyers Leonard, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro all showed up at 3 A.M. in the following practices.
When talking about his early workout, Leonard stayed positive.
The thought of being outworked was not one I enjoyed. Jimmy is setting a new standard and I love it.”
During training camp, the Heat also had a weird obsession with wearing each other’s faces on shirts.
These players seem to have bonded during the summer and are happy to work together. It looks like a brotherhood is being made in Miami, and the Heat are ready to start the grind.
2. Rotation Changes
Since the Heat made many moves this offseason, their rotations aren’t entirely set. The starting lineup during the preseason rotated between seven people: Robinson, Butler, Winslow, Bam, Leonard, Nunn, and Herro. Those seven players started a combined 81 games for the Heat last year, so the final lineup this season is still unknown.
It’s clear that Butler will start, but who will be playing next to him to open games?
Well, Dion Waiters has made it clear that his goal is to start for the team this year. Waiters, who started 28 of the 44 games he played last season, said that he’s coming off the bench because head coach Erik Spoelstra wants him to continue his conditioning.
When asked about putting Waiters in the starting lineup, Spoelstra gave no clear answer.
“I’m still open to anything. But, yeah, that kind of scoring punch lends itself really in either lineup.”
Waiters might have a reduced role with the team after being suspended for the season opener, though. Heat President Pat Riley said Waiters’ actions throughout the preseason were unacceptable and unprofessional, so it’s a possibility that Waiters could be traded during the season.
Another player who is getting a role change this year is Kendrick Nunn. The Heat signed Nunn in April, who was playing for the Warriors’ G-League affiliate team, and he began to show off his abilities during the Summer League. Nunn led the Heat Summer League team in points and assists and earned 2019 NBA Summer League First Team honors.
Nunn continued to impress during the preseason, starting 2 of the Heat’s 5 games, but his best game came in the final game against the Rockets. Nunn had 40 points on 55% shooting and 60% from three, along with an impressive crossover on Westbrook. He averaged 13.8 points and 3.6 assists throughout the preseason, showcasing his offensive abilities. Spoelstra hasn’t stated what he wants Nunn’s role to be, but he can become a key rotation player for this team.
Meyers Leonard and Tyler Herro were also getting a lot of minutes during the preseason. Leonard started all five games, despite only starting 42 games over his 7-year career with Portland. Bam Adebayo is expected to start this year, but it is unclear whether the other big man will be Meyers Leonard or Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk missed most of the preseason with a knee bruise but started 36 games for Miami last year. Leonard had a decent preseason, averaging 8.6 points and 6.4 rebounds, but he could have a prominent role in the Heat’s rotation because he provides spacing with his three-point shot.
Another problem for the Heat is the point guard position. Goran Dragic has started in 268 of the 282 regular-season games he has played with Miami, but it’s not confirmed that he will start this year. During Media Day, Justise Winslow said his goal this year was to be the starting point guard.
“Starting point guard. Playmaking. Second-Team All-Defense. Most Improved. All-Star. Whatever that picture looks like on the court.”
The Heat’s rotations are left up to Spoelstra, but it’s a good sign that he has so many options to choose from.
3. Promising Young Stars
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The preseason showed that many of the Heat’s young stars are set for a breakout season.
After battling Hassan Whiteside for the starting spot last year, it appears that Adebayo will start at center this season. This preseason Adebayo led the team in rebounds (9.6) and blocks (1.6) while averaging 11 points. With a better role and increased minutes, Adebayo has the opportunity to win the Most Improved Player award.
Miami also has Justise Winslow, who has been a defensive stopper for the team throughout his career. Winslow is entering his 5th season as a professional at 23 years old, and he continues to improve. Last year he had career-high marks in scoring, assists, rebounding, and shooting percentage. Winslow has improved as a playmaker since entering the league, and his unique skill set allows him to play small forward and point guard. He led the team in assists in the preseason, and he may become the starting point guard during the regular season.
You can’t talk about the Heat’s young stars without mentioning Tyler Herro. The Heat drafted Herro with the 13th pick this year, and he has become one of the most promising rookies from the 2019 draft class. Herro was voted the best shooter in his draft class by NBA GMs during the annual rookie survey. During the preseason, Herro showed off his incredible offensive abilities by leading the team in scoring (14.2) while shooting 51.9% from three. Herro is likely to be a crucial part of the rotation, and he may start in the team’s regular season opener due to Waiters’ suspension.
The Heat also have many other young stars who could see increased minutes in the rotation. Miami has Derrick Jones Jr., who is the best dunker in the league and Kendrick Nunn, who just exploded for 40 points in a preseason game. Duncan Robinson and Chris Silva are also two players who had a good preseason and could earn a backup role. KZ Okpala was also drafted by the Heat this year and could play as three and D wing off the bench.
The team is filled with young talent that could become franchise players in the future.
The Miami Heat are not the same team that missed the playoffs last year. After some new additions during the offseason, the Heat have the ability to become a top 4 seed in the East. This is the best the Heat has been since LeBron left the team in 2014. The Miami Heat are a promising team that has the ability to shock the NBA and make a lengthy playoff run.