The Miami Heat’s preseason, from a wins standpoint, is meaningless.
The vets will appropriately hold back, younger players who may not receive much grind during the regular season will rack up significant minutes, and coaches will be experimenting with strange lineup combinations.
However, there are a few things you can take from these games, with the following five areas providing some analytical substance for the Miami Heat this preseason.
1 — Justise Winslow’s jumper
The 20-year-old wing oozing with impact-player potential showed his defensive prowess from Day 1 as a rookie.
However, his perimeter jumper had a rough go, with Winslow converting just 28 percent of his 3-point attempts both during the season and the playoffs. For him to sniff stardom, he’s going to need at least a respectable jumper.
Don’t worry as much about purely whether the ball is going through the cylinder this preseason. Do focus on his form (is there still a hitch? Does it look more effortless?) and his process when launching them from deep.
2 — Tyler Johnson as a facilitator
With Tyler Johnson’s eye-opening payday (four years, $50 million) and Dwyane Wade’s departure, TJ will be leaned on more as a creator offensively. Goran Dragic can’t be the sole igniter of the Heat’s offense.
Johnson already is a proven 3-point shooter (38% career) and could end up being the best 3-point threat in Miami’s rotation this year. But with newcomer Dion Waiters’ unpredictability, they’ll need a consistent facilitator to take the heat off Goran.
3 — Front court depth
With no Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire, the elderly Udonis Haslem, and the perpetually injured Josh McRoberts, the Heat’s depth in the front court is frightening.
Derrick Williams still has potential at the four but their options at the five behind Whiteside are slim.
Enter Willie Reed, the 26-year-old big with just 426 minutes of NBA experience. If Reed can’t provide the Heat with some rebounding and defense from a reserve role, this team will be forced to go even tinier than expected.
6-foot-6 Justise Winslow at center could be a thing again.
4 — Hassan Whiteside’s patience
We all know Hassan Whiteside can swat shots as well as anyone. Ditto for his abilities as a finisher and rebounder.
However, there are still concerns about his patience, and this goes for both ends of the court. Whiteside shows elite defensive potential but often times will jump out of position in anticipation for a block. If his gamble fails, it sticks a knife in the defense’s rim protection. Sometimes Whiteside needs to hold his ground and maintain smart positioning, even if it costs him some blocks in the process. A shot-blocker alone does not make a great defender.
Offensively, I’d like to see Whiteside show some improvement in the post, not only as a scorer but as a passer. If a quality look isn’t there, he needs to show a willingness to kick it out for a cleaner shot by a teammate.
5 — Tempo
Much has been made about the Heat’s desire to play fast with Dragic the unquestioned captain amid the departure of a couple turtles in Wade and Joe Johnson.
Now let’s see it.
Miami’s biggest strength is the talent of its youth and their offense will be optimized if it’s constantly on the move. This team doesn’t have a ton of proven creators in the half-court and easy buckets in transition need to be a priority.