The Miami Heat, despite lacking that whale superstar regarded among the league’s top 10 to 15 players, has a couple of intriguing weapons going for them this season: depth and versatility.
While they may not offer quite as much firepower at the top of their roster compared to the NBA’s juggernauts, their depth and versatility could go a long way in securing a Top 5 seed in the Eastern Conference after narrowly missing out on the postseason last year.
Most of Miami’s guards, including Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, and Tyler Johnson, are capable of playing on and off the ball. Two of Miami’s top three big men — James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk — are highly skilled passers who can also shoot and handle. Justise Winslow can essentially play and defend any position on the court while Hassan Whiteside is among the NBA’s most feared rim protectors.
Throw all that in a bowl and Spo must be salivating over the various concoctions he’ll be able to whip up. It will take a ton of tinkering, which could lead to another slow start — hopefully it’s not as tedious as last year — but by April, this group could feasibly become the NBA’s most improved team from a year ago.
The following five lineups, labeled by what each group thrives at, are among the most interesting.
Our All-Defense lineup is already in shambles as Rodney McGruder will reportedly miss three to six months with a stress fracture in his leg. However, we’re not going to remove him because if three to six months is the prognosis he’ll be back in two. Because grit.
Temporarily filling his place on Miami’s stopper list is Waiters, who has the ability to be one of their best wing defenders but isn’t always locked in. At full strength, this group should rank among the league’s elite defensive units.
Flipping the script, we have the Heat lineup with the most juice from an offensive efficiency standpoint. We could’ve slid in Dion for Tyler but the latter isn’t nearly as efficient as a shooter and he’s more turnover-prone.
This group’s combined skill level is off the charts, with all five players capable of shooting the three, not to mention one of the league’s best-passing big-man tandems and three perimeter players adept at playing on and off the ball.
All we care about here is a fivesome that can hit the three and each of these individuals are career 37-percent 3-point-shooters outside of Dragic (36%), who is coming off one of his best seasons from behind the arc (41%).
From a pure talent standpoint, this group is Miami’s No. 1, though one could make a case for Richardson over Winslow right now. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s Miami’s most cohesive lineup, which leads us to…
There’s no Whiteside in our clutch lineup because he’s limited offensively, not to mention his subpar career free-throw shooting (61%). As for the first wing position, Tyler would be the logical choice if Waiters is having one of his infamous cold spells.
The Winslow-Johnson frontcourt offers tantalizing possibilities despite some hesitancy over their offensive fit. Defensively, they’re already an elite duo. If Winslow can take a step forward as a playmaker — there’s no reason to think he won’t — while Johnson proves his 3-point shooting from a year ago (34%) wasn’t a fluke, this lineup will be Miami’s most dangerous in crunch time.