The start of the NBA season is almost here. It’s time to predict how it will go.
The Miami Heat opens the regular season Wednesday in Orlando against the Magic, and then completes a season-opening road back-to-back set with a game against the Washington Wizards on Thursday. The Heat plays 14 of its first 23 games at home.
Here are my five predictions for the Heat’s season (I’m probably wrong) …
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Josh Richardson will make one of NBA’s All-Defensive teams: Some will argue he should have made an All-Defensive team last year. Among the 139 NBA players who played in at least 40 games and defended at least nine shots per game last season, Richardson finished with the seventh-best opponent field-goal percentage at 41.6 percent. He also tallied a team-high 2.6 deflections per game, and recorded a team-high 121 steals while also blocking 75 shots (second-most on the team). He was the only player in the NBA to finish with at least that many steals and blocks. Richardson is too good of a defender to miss the cut again this season.
Hassan Whiteside will lead the NBA in offensive rebounds: This is a stat Heat coaches want Whiteside to dominate. Through all of the injuries and drama last season, Whiteside averaged the seventh-most offensive rebounds with 3.2 behind only Clint Capela, LaMarcus Aldridge, Enes Kanter, DeAndre Jordan, Steven Adams and Andre Drummond. If Whiteside stays healthy, he should finish this season even higher on this list.
The Heat will make a trade at some point this season: In order to avoid paying the luxury tax, a trade has to be made. With the Heat already about $6.3 million above the luxury tax threshold, its tax bill stands at about $9.7 million in addition to normal player salaries. Miami has until the end of the regular season to make moves to reduce the tax burden or get completely below the line to avoid paying the penalty. Whether it’s to acquire Jimmy Butler or a midseason cost-cutting move, it would make sense for the Heat to make some type of trade this season.
Rodney McGruder will play more minutes than Tyler Johnson: This is not to slight Johnson. It has more to do with the work McGruder has put in this offseason and the preseason he had. McGruder averaged 14.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists in the preseason, and has an advantage over Johnson because he can play at guard and forward. That gives him two ways to get on the court. While Johnson will make $19.2 million this season compared to McGruder’s $1.5 million salary, money shouldn’t dictate these on-court decisions.
The Heat will win 46 games and finish fifth in the East: Same roster, similar results to last season’s. After recording a 44-38 record to finish sixth in the Eastern Conference last season, an improved and re-energized Hassan Whiteside will translate to two more wins. The Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers will finish in front of the Heat.