5 Reasons Why Miami Heat Could Surpass Expectations Next Year
Miami immediately transformed from the unquestioned favorite in the Eastern Conference to being a mid-level playoff team in the minds of many.
But contrary to popular belief, the Heat will be just fine without James.
It's not the juggernaut it once was, but Miami remains a top team in the East and a deep playoff run is well within its grasp. The Heat are going to surprise many this season, and we're going to break down exactly why that's the case.
Dwyane Wade Will Prove His Many Doubters Wrong
Dwyane Wade was absolutely dreadful for the Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals. He averaged just 15.2 points (43.8 percent shooting from the floor), 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while also struggling significantly on the defensive end.
This has led many to once again label Wade as "washed up."
But that's a mistake. Yes, Wade performed his worst at the worst possible time. But it's wrong to completely ignore all he did before that series.
Wade was great in the regular season with averages of 19.0 points (54.5 percent shooting from the floor), 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. This is a guy who can still get buckets in a variety of ways (post-ups, drives, off-ball cuts, etc) and be one of the main scoring options on a top team.
If Wade can stay healthy in 2014-15 (which, to be fair, is a question mark), expect a big season out of the three-time champion.
Chris Bosh Will Flourish as Heat's No. 1 Option
But Bosh's Raptors teams never experienced much success with him as the No. 1 option, failing to ever make it out of the first round during his seven-year stint.
This has many skeptical about how the Heat will fare this season with Bosh taking over as the top scoring option.
But Bosh, who averaged 24.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in his final year with the Raptors in 2009-10, is actually a much better player today than he was when he left Canada for South Beach.
Bosh has become a much more versatile offensive player; he's an excellent small-ball center, elite mid-range shooter and a solid option from beyond the arc. His defense, especially in the pick-and-roll, has also seen great improvements.
So, those who use Bosh's lack of playoff success as a No. 1 option in Toronto against him today are ignoring the fact he's not the same player he was then.
The 11-year veteran might have averaged just 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game this past season, but he's no longer the No. 3 option in Miami. Bosh is going to put up numbers and lead his team to plenty of victories.
Luol Deng Provides an Essential Defensive Presence
While LeBron coasted at times and didn't always display his defensive prowess this past season, there's no denying he was Miami's best defender and losing him was a sizable hit to their defense.
But the Heat alleviated that problem by adding forward Luol Deng to the roster on a two-year deal.
Deng is one of the best wing defenders in the league; he's a player who's always going to give max effort and has outstanding defensive instincts.
Grabbing Deng was absolutely crucial, considering Miami is surely going to place a premium on its defensive performance this season after the San Antonio Spurs' offense picked them apart in the 2014 Finals.
With Deng in the fold and great defensive coach Erik Spoelstra back, Miami is going to make life difficult for its foes next season.
Josh McRoberts' Passing Ability Will Be a Big Help
Josh McRoberts brings a lot to the table the Heat will find useful, but perhaps most important is his excellent passing ability.
With James running the show, Miami's ball movement was a thing of beauty, and the Heat were able to win games by simply finding better looks than their opponents.
But that basketball wizard is now in Cleveland, so Miami will have to rely on other guys to step up in order to keep the ball moving.
With great court vision and the passing skills to find guys out of the post, McRoberts will surely be one of those guys. As a power forward, McRoberts averaged 4.3 assists per game in 2013-14.
The 27-year-old might not be a flashy player, but his passing ability can really help an offense function properly.
The Eastern Conference Remains Weak
Working in the Heat's favor as they prepare for their quest to remain a top team in the Eastern Conference is that said conference still isn't very good.
Forty-eight wins is all it took the Raptors to earn a No. 3 seed in these past playoffs, and that could again be all it takes in 2015.
Miami absolutely can make a push for that spot if Wade and Bosh have the type of seasons we're projecting for them here.
The Heat are obviously going to be a worse team in 2014-15, but that shouldn't stop them from making noise in a subpar conference.