The Miami Herald scribe and 790 the Ticket host provided his take on next year’s squad after the Heat signed a slew of role-playing veterans and developmental prospects, while also matching Tyler Johnson over the weekend.
“I think you’re gonna need 42, 43 wins to make the playoffs next season,” Skolnick said on Monday, “and I just don’t see that many wins in this team unless Bosh is healthy for the majority of the season and in the lineup and that’s just not something I’m ready to count on right now based on the information that I’ve gotten. And particularly since Dwyane left it’s become pretty clear that the Bosh situation there was a sticking point and an issue because Dwyane’s people didn’t think that was gonna get resolved. So, look, if the Heat are fun and they’re playing at a fast pace this year and they win 47, 48 games — and maybe Ill even have a change of heart here as I see them in the preseason — then I’ll give credit to them for doing this for one year and then they position themselves.
“But I’m just looking at the roster and I see basically a mid-30s win total and you hope that Winslow and Richardson and Whiteside continue to develop. And that’s basically what this year is about.”
ESPN’s Jorge Sedano sees a similar situation, projecting 35-38 wins. Many of you agree.
How many wins for the 2016-17 Miami Heat?
— Slice Miami (@SliceMiami) July 11, 2016
While I have immense respect for both Skolnick and Sedano, I think both are way off here and this is even with the assumption Chris Bosh never sees the court.
The Heat’s biggest losses were Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, and Joe Johnson. At first glance, the departing trio represents a huge hole that will be tough to fill but if you look past the big names, dive into the numbers, and analyze the the fit of the new roster, it won’t be as large of a hole as people think.
Losing Wade will hurt the team’s bottom line in ticket sales and merchandising but his departure will not sizably affect the Heat’s win total. His ability to create offense still has value but his efficiency has been declining as a scorer and his defense has been a disaster, as mentioned in more detail here.
While Josh Richardson or Tyler Johnson in Wade’s slot would appear to be a downgrade — neither match Wade’s prowess on an individual level — I think it’s actually an upgrade at the 2 — for the team. Infusing some much-needed shooting on the perimeter while shedding Wade’s tendency to dominate the ball will do wonders for Goran Dragic, whose presence was often an afterthought once Wade touched the ball. Wade’s high usage rate (8th in NBA) often mitigated Dragic’s impact as an attacker, which is his biggest strength.
Joe Johnson still is a quality shooter but again, like Wade, the ball tends to stick with Iso Joe and with those lead feet he was a defensive liability on the perimeter. He’s a shell of what he once was.
Luol Deng is another story and probably the Heat’s biggest individual loss. He was the team’s most balanced and impactful player since the All-Star break last season after sliding to the 4 in wake of Chris Bosh’s injury. However, his offense can be replaced with more attempts from Whiteside and some improvement from Justise Winslow as a facilitator and scorer. Any way you slice it, for Miami to remain a quality team in the upper half of the east, Winslow must take a big step forward offensively, where he was largely ineffective as a rookie. Clearly I’m not betting against him.
Yes, the Heat added a slew of fledgling talents like Wayne Ellington, James Johnson, Derrick Williams, and Luke Babbit along with some developmental prospects in Briante Weber, Rodney McGruder, and Willie Reed but realistically only a couple from that group figure to play meaningful minutes, even if Bosh is out of the equation.
On paper, the Heat might not look like anything more than a lottery team to many but with some moderate improvement from the team’s young core of Johnson, Winslow, and Richardson, and Erik Spoelstra continuing to emphasize a high-flying offense, there’s no doubt this should at least be a playoff team.
Outside of Cleveland, Boston, and Toronto, are any other teams leaps better than Miami from a talent standpoint?
With a potential game-changer in Whiteside manning the paint and an unleashed Dragic — who was MUCH better with Wade off the court last season — it’s not unfathomable to see Miami tally 45-plus wins and finish somewhere between fourth and sixth in the Eastern Conference. It may not have a shot at contending barring a big trade but at least they’ll compete, entertain, and bridge the gap to a blockbuster Free Agency next summer.
Forget tanking and think playoffs.
— Topher (@Cochran790) July 11, 2016