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Monday, 02 October 2017 17:44

Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics: 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

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Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics: 2017-18 NBA Season Preview | Powered by CLNS Media

Boston Celtics Newsfeed 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat

2016-17 Round-up: With a furious second-half charge, the Miami Heat impressed many with a push back to .500. However, their 41-41 record narrowly missed a postseason berth and Round 1 date with the Celtics.

The Heat were led by the 1-5 pairing of Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, who combined to average 37.3 points per game. Whiteside brought in 14.1 rebounds a night himself, becoming one of the league’s most dominant big men. Elsewhere, Tyler and James Johnson were reliable players throughout the season, but things really took off when Dion Waiters got healthy.

Waiters missed 20 games in the middle of the season with a thigh injury, and then the final 13 games of the year with an ankle problem. However, while on the court he averaged 15.8 points per game and shot a hair under 40 percent from three-point land.

Offseason Grades: The Heat reloaded big-time this summer, throwing a lot of money around to multiple guys.

First-off, they used their lone 2017 draft pick on Bam Adebayo (14th), a 6-10 big from Kentucky, who could serve as Whiteside’s primary backup. They doubled-down on that role, though, by trading Josh McRoberts for Dallas’ 2016 second-round pick, A.J. Hammons. Hammons is a seven-footer out of Purdue who saw 22 games with the Mavericks last year.

Next up came a series of veterans on decent contracts. That string started with former Celtic Kelly Olynyk, who left in free agency for four years and $51 million down in South Beach after a handful of solid years in Boston.

Waiters opted out of his final year, but signed a long-term deal to stay with the Heat later, inking for four years and $52 million. James Johnson shot 34 percent from three off the bench while on a cheap one-year deal in Miami last season and was rewarded with a four-year deal worth $60 million. The Heat also rewarded Josh Richardson, who had a good year despite a torn MCl sidelining him for nearly 30 games. The 24-year-old swingman picked up a four-year, $42 million extension.

The Heat picked up another Celtic late in the offseason, swiping Jordan Mickey for two years and $3 million. They also brought back veteran Udonis Haslem for a year on short money.

Training Camp Questions: The Heat look solid throughout their roster, courtesy of the money they shelled out this summer. However, the one major question mark is Justise Winslow. In two pro seasons (just 96 games), he has yet to show he can shoot the ball at a respectable enough clip to warrant real minutes.

Unfortunately, he is still going to be No. 1 on the depth chart at small forward. He remains the Heat’s highest-potential player and the kind of talent that will help challenge the rest of the NBA’s star wings.

While only 21, Winslow has to show improvement this season if fully healthy. He missed nearly the entire 2016-17 season with a wrist injury and then a torn labrum. There is still time, but the Heat need him to show some of what made Danny Ainge fall so in love with him two years ago to compete in the top-half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Next Move They Make: The lone expiring deals on Miami are Wayne Ellington ($6.2 million) and Haslem, who was just signed for under $2 million. Beyond that, the Heat are pretty strapped into the team they selected this summer. They’ve got well-over $100 million locked up for 2018-19 and $50 million the year after, as Dragic, Whiteside and Tyler Johnson hold player options ranging from $20-27 million.

How they Beat the Boston Celtics: The Celtics swept a four-game season series from Miami last season, withstanding some truly monstrous Whiteside games. They were able to keep Dragic largely in check, but Waiters missed all four of the contests. The second two victories were decided by a combined seven points, so that first-round matchup may have been an interesting one, though without Waiters and Winslow.

This year’s Heat team looks strong and deep, but Miami will need Winslow to step up if they hope to slow Gordon Hayward and Boston. South Beach Kelly is an intriguing wrinkle and getting to see Waiters and Kyrie Irving share the floor again will be a treat.

The teams meet three times in 2017-18, all coming before the New Year. They’re in Miami on Oct. 28 and Nov. 22, then up in Boston on Dec. 20. I’d expect the Heat to grab at least one of those games, as their arsenal is immense if fully healthy. They appear to be one of the few teams capable of keeping pace with Boston’s offense.

Trending: This is a big season for the Heat, as it will really tell us the direction in which they are trending for the foreseeable future. They tied themselves to a core of Whiteside, Dragic, Waiter, Olynyk and Johnson. That is enough to compete in the East, but unless Winslow grows leaps and bounds, it won’t be enough to squeeze into Boston and Cleveland territory.

Final Record/Standings Prediction: 48-34, 5th in Eastern Conference

Mike Walsh

Mike Walsh is the CLNS Media Network's Boston Celtics Content and Newsfeed Manager.

Mike is a graduate of Marist College with a degree in sports communications. He spent three years as a NBA Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report, where he was the site's top Boston Celtics writer.

Mike is a full-time sports writer with The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. He can be reached by email to MikeW@CLNSMedia.com or via Twitter @CLNS_Walsh.

Personal Website: www.WalshWrites.com