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The Miami Heat lost LeBron James to free agency in the 2014 offseason, yet surprised many with a 37-45 record. Though the record does not look appealing, the Heat dealt with multiple injuries to the team’s top players; without these injuries, a playoff spot would have been inevitable. This offseason was a relatively quiet one for the Heat, as they added depth, signing Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire in free agency. They also drafted a future cornerstone of the franchise in Justise Winslow. Here is a look at the projected starting lineup for the 2015 season:
Point Guard – Goran Dragic: The Heat were forced to be big spenders this offseason as two of their five starters hit free agency, one of which was Goran Dragic. Acquired right before the trade deadline, Dragic was immediately placed into the starting job, pushing Mario Chalmers to the bench. Since finding a new home, Dragic appeared in 26 games, averaging 16.6 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game. Though his assists numbers are relatively low for a point guard, the numbers should see a small spike upwards – as the Heat are fully-healthy and ready to make another playoff appearance.
The Heat have a very crowded backcourt with the likes of Chalmers and Shabazz Napier at the point guard position. Chalmers has been solid off the bench, but will likely see his scoring totals fall off a bit. Napier on the other hand, was linked to trade rumors, but it seems he will stay in Miami for the foreseeable future. It is likely that the 24-year-old will become the sixth man once Chalmers hits free agency in 2016.
Shooting Guard – Dwyane Wade: Dwyane Wade has been the face of the franchise ever since 2003, when he was drafted by Miami. His success can be shown by his three NBA Championships and 11 All-Star selections. Those accolades have earned him a big pay day yet again. The Heat, like with Dragic, paid big bucks to keep their starting backcourt, as both sides agreed on a one-year, $20 million dollar deal. Though he is overpaid, Wade brings a lot to the table, as shown by his stat line of 21.5 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game.
As mentioned before, the crowded backcourt in Miami will be a problem for some of the bench players to earn minutes. Behind Wade will be newly-signed free agent Gerald Green, Tyler Johnson, and Zoran Dragic. Green will likely earn most of the minutes and become the team’s sixth man, leaving just a small amount of time for Johnson and Dragic to fight over.
Small Forward – Luol Deng: An established veteran, Luol Deng is coming off a very solid 2014 campaign in which he averaged 14 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. The Heat signed Deng to replace LeBron James in the 2014 offseason and while he cannot fill the huge gap left by James, he held down the fort. Deng just has one year left on his deal and will likely walk in free agency so the Heat can start Justise Winslow, but in the next year he will mentor the rookie, helping him develop his game and translate well to the NBA.
Winslow was a fiend at Duke and proved so in the NCAA Tournament. The freshman averaged 12.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Arguably one of the most polished rookies, Winslow surprisingly fell to the 10th pick in the draft, giving Miami their small forward of the future. Behind Deng and Winslow will be James Ennis and Henry Walker. The two will fight for the scraps and will not see much playing time in the NBA.
Power Forward – Chris Bosh: Chris Bosh had a very solid season in 2014, one of the best seasons since he left Toronto for Miami. His season in which he averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game was cut short due to blood clots in his lungs. However the 31-year-old showed that he still has All-Star caliber seasons left in the tank.
Behind Bosh in the depth chart is Josh McRoberts, newly signed free agent Amar’e Stoudemire, and Udonis Haslem. Haslem will likely see little-to-no minutes while McRoberts and Stoudemire come off the bench – possibly spending time at the power forward and center position.
Center – Hassan Whiteside: Hassan Whiteside had a breakout season last year, drastically improving from his previous years with Sacramento. Whiteside entered the year with his career highs being 6.1 minutes, 1.6 points, and 2.2 rebounds per game. However, a new change of scenery and the opportunity to thrive in Miami created a huge spike in production. The 7-footer averaged 11.8 points, 10 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in just 23.8 minutes per game. If given more time on the court, Whiteside may even improve upon his already impressive double-double line.
Behind Whiteside is Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen. Anderson is a solid backup and will produce in his limited minutes. However, with a crowded frontcourt, Andersen may be a victim to losing minutes to Stoudemire and McRoberts, who could transition to the center position if Miami runs with a smaller lineup.