The Miami Heat will be looking to make a second straight trip to the playoffs in the 2018-19 season.
Miami witnessed very few roster changes over the off-season and that consistency could pay dividends. The Heat only saw Luke Babbitt, Jordan Mickey and Derrick Walton exit the team via free agency over the off-season. The Heat did not have a draft pick selection and were not active in free agency. Miami was mentioned in some trade rumblings in recent weeks, but nothing ended up coming to fruition.
After missing the playoffs in 2016-17, the Heat made a return to the postseason last year. It was a brief return however as the Heat were eliminated in the first round. Bringing back the same group of guys should help, as this unit already knows what it takes. The Heat could also look to make changes during the season, should any needs arise.
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Dwyane Wade decided over the off-season to return to the Heat for one final season. Wade's decision came just days before the preseason began, after Miami kept a roster spot available for the veteran. The 36-year old showed some flashes of his old self after coming back to Miami last season in a trade. Wade will not play big minutes, but he should still be a leader for the Heat once again. The veteran will likely once again come off the bench for Miami, as he did during the 2017-18 season.
Goran Dragic is back for another year of basketball with the Heat. The veteran will be a starting guard once again and he will be looking for a bit of a bounce-back season. Dragic's numbers were decent in 2017-18, but he saw drop-offs in nearly all of his statistical categories. Dragic's field goal percentage went down, along with his three-point conversions and assists.
Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo, James Johnson and Justise Winslow give Miami plenty of options for time at the power forward spot. Johnson is working his way back from hernia surgery, while Winslow recently just signed a long-term deal with the Heat. With Hassan Whiteside at center, Miami will have options depending on the opponent and the situation. Olynyk and Adebayo will spend time at center while Whiteside sits as well. The Heat can play big and they can also play small-ball when needed.
Josh Richardson saw his name mentioned plenty this off-season, as Miami was reportedly working on a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves. That trade never came to fruition and Richardson remains with the Heat. The 25-year old had a dominant preseason and could end up being Miami's best player this season. Richardson is considered one of the better defensive players in the National Basketball Association and he has improved offensively as well.
Tyler Johnson will be coming off the bench for Miami most nights this season, but he could also mix in some starts. The guard is one of Miami's highest-paid players, but he will need to contribute more this season. Johnson had a number of poor performances in 2017-18 and saw almost all of his percentages take a step back. The 26-year old is signed through the 2019-20 season and has a contract that could prove difficult to move.
Udonis Haslem is back with Miami, in what could be his final season. Haslem has not announced any plans in terms of retirement, but the Miami captain could elect to leave with Wade after the season. Haslem will see limited action once again this season and will provide some veteran leadership on the bench.
Derrick Jones Jr., Rodney McGruder, Wayne Ellington will also return to Miami's rotation. One of Miami's greatest strengths last season was depth and that should be the case again. Unlike some other NBA teams, the Heat are not built around All-Stars. Instead, Miami has put together a full roster of players that has gained experience and found chemistry in recent seasons.
Dion Waiters could once again be a big part of Miami's roster, but it will take some time to see that potential impact. Waiters is sidelined until possibly December due to ankle surgery, but he is expected to start at shooting guard when he returns. Waiters played in only 30 games last season and averaged 14.3 points per game.
The Heat will begin the season with a pair of road games, before hosting four straight contests in Miami. Last season came down to the final few games of the schedule, which puts some importance on the early portion of this campaign. If Miami gets off to a slow start, it could be difficult for the team to recover later in the season.
Miami will have a rough stretch of games during December, when it heads to the other side of the country. The Heat will play LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, along with games against the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans. The Heat will be away from Miami for nearly two weeks during that difficult trip.
Three of Miami's final four games of the season will come on the road, while the one home contest is against the Philadelphia 76ers. After a solid 2017-18 season, the 76ers enter this season with championship aspirations. Philadelphia may have locked up a playoff spot by that point, but the game could still mean something in terms of seeding. The Heat meanwhile could still be on the bubble to make the playoffs during this stretch of games.
Miami's season will get underway on Wednesday in Orlando at 7:00 p.m.