Miami Heat Playoff Preview; First Round vs. Charlotte Hornets

With the 2016 NBA Playoffs set to begin on Saturday, let’s take a look at this year’s Miami Heat Playoff Preview.

When Lebron James decided to leave the Miami Heat last season, it left a huge void in the offense. As a result, the team struggled to compete and finished 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 37-45 record. This season, it has been a complete turn around. They are currently 3rd in the East at 48-33 and playing some of their best basketball. The Heat will be looking to make some noise in the playoffs, and possibly give Lebron and the Cleveland Cavaliers a run for their money.

Keys to Success:

Health

Miami Heat Playoff Preview

Miami Heat Playoff Preview

Everything is clicking for the Heat right now, but they will need to avoid the injury bug. The truth of the matter is, they are a Dwyane Wade injury away from being irrelevant. Wade has missed 38 games in the past two seasons, but has stayed relatively healthy this year. He has started in 73 of the 81 games, but has played through nagging injuries all season.

The importance of Wade staying healthy increases with the status of Chris Bosh still unknown. Bosh has been out since mid-February with what has been reported as a blood clot in his leg. He has remained optimistic about making a return this season, but has yet to be medically cleared. If Bosh were to come back during the playoffs, it would be a huge boost to the Heat’s chances of making it out of the East. Unfortunately, his return seems unlikely, so the burden will be placed on Wade to lead this team.

Hassan Whiteside

The emergence of Whiteside has totally transformed this team. He is an absolute beast in the paint, averaging a league best 3.7 blocks per game. When he’s not turning away shots at the rim, he is crashing the boards and creating second chance opportunities for his team. Whiteside ranks 3rd in rebounds (11.9) and is currently number 2 in second chance points with 4.0 per game. With Bosh on the sidelines, Whiteside has really elevated his game and will play a pivotal role in the Heat’s quest to return to the Finals.

Offense

As good as the Heat have been this year, consistent offense has been an issue. They shoot a very respectable 47.1% from the field, which is 4th in the NBA, but they are near the bottom in some very important offensive categories. PPG (23rd), ASS (23rd), and 3PT% (24th). By the numbers, it’s evident the Heat don’t do a good job at distributing the ball or spreading the floor. In addition, they also rank 26th in points off turnovers and 22nd in fastbreak points. If the Heat don’t improve in these areas, it could lead to trouble.

Luckily there is light at the end of the tunnel. For one, the late pick-up of Joe Johnson has been a blessing. Since his arrival he has put up 13.1 (PPG), and is shooting 52.2% from the floor, including 43% from 3 point range. The team has also got solid play from youngster, Josh Richardson, since the All-Star break. He has averaged 10.6 points per game while shooting an impressive 55.8% from downtown. The contributions from Johnson and Richardson have really helped space the floor, something the team desperately needed going into the playoffs.

In the end, it will be up to Wade and Goran Dragic to help facilitate the offense with their scoring and playmaking. Dragic has had a disappointing year only averaging 14.1 (PPG), and shooting a career low, 31.4% from deep. Wade leads the team in scoring with 19.1 (PPG), but injuries have limited his all-around game. With Bosh likely out for the postseason, both Wade and Dragic will need to step up. Not only with their scoring, but more importantly by getting their teammates more involved.

(Miami Heat Playoff Preview)