LeBron James isn't coming back to Miami - probably. Not for a while, anyway. Last year this team tried to move past the James era gracefully, but it didn't go well. Here's all you really need to know about the team - the likely starting five of Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh, and Hassan Whiteside were all with the team last year, yet they didn't play a single minute as a group during the season. Injuries - to Bosh and, as always, to Wade - forced all sorts of changes and compromises last year, and the result was a 37-win season. It wasn't pretty. They probably had more talent than they showed last year, and they are hoping to take a big step forward despite not making overwhelming changes.
2015 Miami Heat Betting Story Lines
The biggest concern here has to be the health of their big two. Dwyane Wade, who signed a new one-year, $20 million deal this summer after some tense negotiations, has been breaking down in front of our eyes for years now. We know he's going to get hurt and that he will be limited even when he is playing. We also know that even at half strength he's very good. Of bigger concern is Chris Bosh. He was signed to be the centerpiece of this team, yet a scary lung condition last year robbed him of too much of his season. He's reportedly back at full strength. He and Hassan Whiteside could make a terrifying duo in the front court, but only if he is healthy and they can play well together. We won't know anything until we see Bosh playing in games that matter, so this is a tough team to evaluate right now.
The biggest question mark aside from health right now is the pace this team will play at. Goran Dragic is a guy who can drive a fast pace, and Hassan Whiteside and new additions like Gerald Green, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Justise WInslow suit an uptempo pace, too. Bosh doesn't really, though, and Wade and Deng really, really don't. It makes a bit of an odd lineup - and a potential coaching nightmare for Erik Spoelstra. If they figure it out quickly then it's not a big deal, but it has a chance to be a contentious distraction all year.
2015 Miami Heat Additions and Departures
We've alluded to most of the changes already, but let's look in closer detail. When the core was kept largely intact, the big focus was adding complimentary pieces - unlike many teams that went for a dramatic overhaul. They did nothing at all at point guard (Dragic starting with Mario Chalmers as primary backup and Tyler Johnson as the third option) or power forward (Bosh plays the bulk of the minutes, with Josh McRoberts and Udonis Haslem back behind him). At shooting guard, Gerald Green joins the eighth team in his 10-year NBA career after a couple of good years in Phoenix. He'll be Wade's backup - and presumably the starter for long stretches of the season. At center, Hassan Whiteside will again start, and Chris Andersen will be a backup. The difference is that Amar'e Stoudemire, after absorbing a pay decrease of nearly $20 million from last year, has come in at the veteran minimum to try to revive his career. His effectiveness is very easy to doubt, but in the right system, and without the primary burden of carrying the team on his shoulders, he could be useful.
We save the biggest splash for last. In one of the biggest steals of the draft, the team was able to take Justise Winslow after he somehow fell all the way to 10th. He absolutely should have been off the board long before that. He's a special player. He'll be the primary backup behind Luol Deng at small forward to start the year, but it's not hard to imagine him as the starter sometime soon - and for a long time. James Ennis will be the third option, and it's a good thing for everyone but him that he will see much less time than the 17 minutes per game he played last year.
2015 Miami Heat Futures Odds and Trends
Miami performed for bettors about exactly as expected - they won 35 games and were 35-43-4 ATS. They went under in 46 of 82 games, so the lack of offense was one thing that really paid off for bettors.
Miami Heat Futures Odds (from BetOnline)
NBA title odds : +3300
Eastern Conference title odds : +1400
Odds to win the Southeast Division: +180
Justise Winslow Rookie of the Year Odds : +1400
2015 Miami Heat Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
I don't think there is a team any harder than this one to judge this year. The upside is big - if every piece works well and plays well together then they could win a lot of games - like 45 or 50. Wade won't stay healthy, though, and Bosh, Stoudemire, Deng and others aren't exactly durable, either. Whiteside was brilliant last year, but there is no guarantee he can keep it up. Winslow will be good eventually, but how long will that take? There is tons of upside here, and they will all but certainly be better than last year, but the range of potential is wide. Ultimately, I am less optimistic than many. I think 42 wins sounds about right - I have seen others say as many as 52. There is just too much I don't trust. That will easily make them a playoff team in the East, and I expect them to again be third in the Southeast Division behind Atlanta and Washington.
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