After a disappointing 2014-15 campaign that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008, the Miami Heat are ready to prove that they still belong in the upper echelon on the Eastern Conference. After a full season of adjusting to NBA life without LeBron James, the fans are once again optimistic heading into the new season. Pat Riley had an underrated offseason, having managed to convince both Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic to resign. Through free agency, Amare Stoudemire and Gerald Green were picked up to bolster their depth, while promising rookie Justice Winslow out of Duke was taken with the No. 10 selection. Furthermore, when you take into account Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts are returning from their season-ending injuries, it’s easy to see why many experts have the Heat finishing comfortably with a playoff birth come April.
Graphic via heatnation
However with the face of the franchise, Dwyane Wade pushing 33-years old, Pat Riley and management understand that their time to win is now. He played fantastic in spurts last season, averaging 21.5 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds on 47% FG%, but injuries kept him playing limited minutes. Seemingly the entire Heat roster had some sort of injury last season, making health a determining factor of their success this year and the Miami Heat schedule is not very accommodating of this aging roster. While they are still fresh, they start off by playing 14 of their first 19 matches at the American Airlines Arena. The Miami Heat schedule then picks up after the Christmas break where for a month, between January 5th and February 8th, the Heat will play 14 of 16 games away from home. For anybody, let alone an aging roster of basketball players, this kind of living out of hotel rooms and constant travel is a gruesome period of time that will take a toll on the body.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards and other top Eastern Conference teams looking stronger after the offseason, the Miami Heat are going to need to play up to this competition to once again be taken seriously. Though the Heat may lack to youth and athleticism of some of these teams, they match-up great with seemingly every Eastern Conference team. This is in large part due to their veteran savvy at all positions. Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside are a frontcourt pair that has the size and skill to out muscle any other duo in the association.
One fun match-up to watch will be against Miami’s former golden boy, LeBron James and his Cavaliers. Though LBJ accomplished some pretty incredible feats while in a Heat uniform, many fans still feel betrayed by his decision to return to his home state. Thus, when he comes to town, those four straight finals appearances he brought to the city are thrown out the window. The Miami Heat schedule has the Cavaliers pegged to give them a visit on December 5th, a match-up that will have no shortage of national media coverage.
Graphic via bleacherreport