In four days the Miami Heat will begin training camp in preparation for the 2015-16 NBA season.
The team will look to turn the page from last season where almost everything that could go wrong did. From seeing forward LeBron James bolt back to Cleveland to having forward Chris Bosh go down with blood clots on the same day guard Goran Dragic was acquired via trade, the Heat were not able to mesh as a team and missed the playoffs as a result. Luckily for Miami one of the things that did go right was the team being able to retain their 2015 first round draft pick, which turned into guard/forward Justise Winslow.
The Heat got more good news Thursday when Bosh was officially cleared for full basketball activities. In a press conference Bosh spoke about how the time off renewed his love for basketball and that he did not have the hereditary gene that could cause future blood clots.
With Bosh cleared Miami is now at full strength heading into camp. Here is what to look for as the Heat’s journey begins.
G Gerald Green (free agent signing)
G Josh Richardson (2015 second round draft pick)
F/C Amar’e Stoudemire (free agent signing)
G/F Justise Winslow (2015 first round draft pick)
F Michael Beasley (waived)
G Zoran Dragic (traded for cap space)
G Shabazz Napier (traded for cap space)
F Henry Walker (waived)
F Luol Deng (picked up player option)
G Goran Dragic (re-signed)
G Tyler Johnson (team option picked up)
G Dwyane Wade (re-signed)
The Miami off season mainly focused on stabilizing cap space knowing that next season an infusion of money will spread through the entire NBA. That meant making sure players like Deng and Wade opted in on their deals and re-signing Dragic. While Deng quietly picked up his player option Wade was another matter. Some drama followed after he opted out of his contract but ultimately both sides agreed on a one-year $20 million deal. Dragic was quickly re-signed to a five-year $90 million deal.
Next on the list was gaining veterans on the bench while adding youth. Drafting Winslow and Richardson, who in a rarity for the Heat was signed as a second round pick, helped in the youth column. Another player helping in that department is Johnson, whose team option was picked up as he has shown to be able to keep up with Dragic’s pace on the court at a consistent basis. When it came to veterans the Heat were able to sign Green and Stoudemire to minimum deals and fortify two positions of need.
With these additions along with the emergence of center Hassan Whiteside letting Bosh move to his more natural position at power forward, there were naturally some losses. Bosh moving back to the 4 will make forward Josh McRoberts go to the bench as the main backup. That along with forward Udonis Haslem being the third 4 in the rotation left no room for Beasley. The same fate befell Walker thanks in part to the drafting of Winslow. Napier and the younger Dragic were traded as salary dumps.
X Factors Coming Into Camp: Tyler Johnson, Josh McRoberts, and Josh Richardson
One aspect that Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra will want to change about his team’s style of play heading into camp is the pace. With Dragic in the fold for the long term it’s up to Spoelstra to build around his point guard’s aggressive style. That is where Johnson and Richardson come in. While both will technically be behind Mario Chalmers and Green in the guard rotation each has shown that they can play alongside Dragic and run the point. Each player can move from the 1 and 2 as needed and will be asked to do so in the pre season, particularly Johnson as that was the plan for him during Summer League before his jaw was broken.
With McRoberts the issue will be to get fully acclimated to the Heat system as he was injured throughout last season. He was brought in to start but can be good option with either the starters or the second unit due to him being one of the best passing big men in the NBA. He has shown flashes of this when on the court as Deng cuts to the basket. His perimeter shooting can spread the floor giving more scoring opportunities for either Whiteside or Stoudemire. His skillset will also take some load off Dragic over time as they get used to each other.
Player On The Bubble: James Ennis
Ennis is known for his great athleticism and hang time, as he showed in last season’s first Dunk of The Night highlight. Unfortunately he did not show it on a consistent basis either throughout the season or in this year’s Summer League. His explosiveness can be an asset for the Heat as they speed their tempo up throughout camp but the additions of Green and Winslow show that he is running out of time. Ennis knows this well enough to have agreed on a contract restructuring in the summer that changed that date of when it would become guaranteed to opening night of the season rather than be waived. This means that Ennis has to prove to Miami that he is worth keeping even as a third option in the small forward rotation. If he doesn’t the Heat will be able to sign another player and waive him without consequence.
Two other players also on the bubble in a smaller sense are Chalmers and center Chris Andersen, not so much for their play as for their contracts. The Heat have tried over the summer to find trade partners to take on those contracts with no luck. The situation with Chalmers can affect Ennis as him being moved would force Johnson into the point guard rotation leaving a spot at shooting guard open.