Long gone are the days of Lebron and back-to-back championships for the Miami Heat. But that doesn’t mean you should sleep on them just yet. The Heat are back from a recent six-game tour of the West Coast and fans are feeling a little better about their odds of making the playoffs. They held their opponents to fewer than 100 points in the four games that they won on the road.
Their odds of making the playoffs at the start of November were 96.5% but, after a lot of early losses, dropped to 8.4% as of the 27th. Now the Heat have won six of their last nine games and things are looking up! Their playoff odds are back up to 45% and they’re currently ninth in the Eastern Conference, a game behind the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets. However, their schedule only gets tougher from here and they play the Houston Rockets on Thursday. So what can we expect from the Heat this 2018-2019 season? Here’s a breakdown of Miami Heat players to watch and where things might be headed.
The Hottest Heat Players
Dwyane Wade is by far the biggest name on the team and the face of the franchise, having been there through the championship years. In September, Wade announced that he was returning to Miami for one final season. At 36 years old, he’s a leader on the court and he can still perform. Despite missing their recent game against the Memphis Grizzlies because of lower back pain, he returned on Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans with a few threes and 19 points. Wade says he feels that he owes it to the fans and kids who have come out to see him play one last time.
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The powerful defensive play of Hassan Whiteside, who missed four games after the birth of his first kid, returned to the Heat against the Grizzlies and Pelicans. Whiteside feels good, saying, “I’m just playing and really taking pride in defense. I’m definitely fired up. I’m really fired up. We won two games since I came back.” He has racked up multiple double-doubles and 20-point games this season so far. Bam Adebayo is a big defensive force for the Heat as well, scoring a few double-doubles of his own and helping his team play faster and more efficiently.
Wayne Ellington, a three-point threat for the team, has been fighting rumors of trades, but right now he remains one heck of a shooter, connecting 46 of 124 three-pointers this season and averaging 9.5 points per game. Last weekend, he became eligible to be traded. Word on the street is the Lakers might be interested in him.
But Josh Richardson can drain threes too. So can Kelly Olynyk. Richardson has been a breakout star for the Heat, averaging over 18 points per game and playing more confidently and aggressively. Ellington says of Richardson, “I always knew he had that potential, but to see him put the work in to get to where he’s at is inspiring. He’s definitely evolving into the player that he’s capable of being.”
And don’t forget those guys coming off the bench. Derrick Jones Jr. may have peaked in this recent road trip, earning more meaningful minutes and performing well when it mattered with 8 rebounds and 11 points against the Pelicans. At only 21 years old, he’s young and steadily improving.
Potential Issues Going Forward?
The Heat haven’t been without their share of injuries this season though. 2018 NBA All-Star Goran Dragic, the team’s only true point guard, is out with a knee injury, having missed 12 games already. Dion Waiters is still out after having ankle surgery in January and nobody really knows when he’ll be back. Justise Winslow sat out for half of Sunday’s game with an ankle issue as well. All of these combined could hurt the Heat’s hopes for a postseason.
Another problem? Miami hasn’t been kind to them. The Heat is currently 8-7 in road games but 5-9 when it comes to playing at home. Still head coach Erik Spoelstra remains optimistic, hoping to keep his players focused. Spoelstra thinks that as of this past string of road games in recent weeks, his team has acquired a new winning mentality, remarking, “We’ve taken some steps forward and we have to continue it.”
We’ll see if they can keep it up on Thursday against the Rockets.