You should be very familiar with this Miami Heat team.
There aren’t any new faces on the 14-man roster entering Wednesday’s opener against the Orlando Magic. But there is one noticeable difference from past years: The Heat will start the season with fewer than the NBA maximum of 15 players for the first time since 2003-04 in order to avoid adding on to its current luxury tax bill.
Along with the 14 players on its roster, the Heat also has two players signed to two-way contracts — Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten. These players don’t count against Miami’s salary cap or 15-man roster, and can’t be poached by another team as they can spend up to 45 days with their NBA teams and the rest of the time must be spent with the organization’s G League affiliate.
Here’s a closer look at the Heat’s roster and what you can expect from each player this season …
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Bam Adebayo, F/C: Minutes could be inconsistent for him this season as part of a crowded frontcourt that includes Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson. But as a 21-year-old lottery pick who’s coming off a productive rookie season, Adebayo’s energy, defensive versatility and obvious upside make him one of the most intriguing players on the Heat’s roster moving forward.
Goran Dragic, G: He has been the Heat’s most reliable and consistent player for the past few seasons. And the expectation is he will fill that role again this year. As a 32-year-old point guard who averaged a team-high 17.3 points and made his first All-Star Game appearance last season, Dragic is still one of Miami’s best offensive players. Without another true point guard on the roster, the Heat needs him to stay healthy.
Wayne Ellington, G: He’s not the Heat’s best scorer or defender, but he’s one of the team’s most important players. Ellington is Miami’s top three-point weapon, and his elite shooting helps provide spacing for its drive-and-kick offense. Playing primarily in a bench role, Ellington is expected to be a consistent part of the Heat’s rotation after finishing with the second-best plus-minus on the team at plus-127 last season.
Udonis Haslem, F/C: While Haslem hasn’t officially announced this will be his final season, nobody would be surprised if he retires at the end of the year. Entering his 16th NBA season, Haslem is the Heat’s all-time leader in rebounds with 5,711. But if recent history is any indication, the 38-year-old will have a bigger off-court impact as a team captain than an on-court role this year. Haslem has played just 202 minutes over the past two seasons.
James Johnson, F: After battling through various injuries and stretches of inconsistent play last season, the hope is that improved health will help him be a better player this year. Johnson’s status for the opener is uncertain because he’s still recovering from May surgery to repair a sports hernia. But once Johnson is back on the court, he’s expected to start at power forward as one of the Heat’s top two-way players.
Tyler Johnson, G: Unfortunately for Johnson, his salary is going to be an ongoing topic of conversation. After making $5.9 million in 2017-18, Johnson’s cap number spikes to $19.2 million this year. That makes him the second-highest paid player on the Heat’s roster behind only Hassan Whiteside. Fortunately for Johnson, he has found a consistent role for himself off Miami’s bench as a combo guard. Consistency is the next step for him after finishing with fewer than seven points in 18 regular-season games last season.
Derrick Jones Jr., G/F: After playing on a two-way contract with the Heat last season, Jones’ commitment to the organization’s player development program earned him a guaranteed deal this summer. The 21-year-old, who went undrafted in 2016, possesses elite athleticism and has the potential to be an above-average perimeter defender. But none of this guarantees Jones a spot in the Heat’s rotation with a crowded depth chart at the wing position. Instead, he could find himself playing in a situational role.
Rodney McGruder, G/F: Another one of the Heat’s success stories. McGruder signed with Miami as an undrafted player looking to find an NBA home in 2016. Well, he found one with the Heat. McGruder is known as a 3-and-D player, but he has shown an expanded offensive game this preseason. Leg surgery limited him to just 18 regular-season games last year, but he should play in more games this season if he stays healthy.
Kelly Olynyk, F/C: He has been with the Heat for just one season, but it was the best statistical season of his career. Olynyk averaged career highs in points (11.5), rebounds (5.7) and assists (2.7) in 76 regular-season games. The skilled 7-footer has already proven he deserves a consistent role after finishing last season with the top plus-minus on the team. The question is, how many of Olynyk’s minutes will come next to fellow 7-footer Hassan Whiteside?
Josh Richardson, G/F: After a career-best season last year, the Heat expects even more from Richardson this season. Arguably the top two-way player on the team, the 25-year-old is also one of the NBA’s top candidates for a breakout season. Richardson is already known as one of the league’s best perimeter defenders. Now, he’s working to become a consistent offensive threat. Richardson will be in Miami’s starting lineup on opening night.
Dwyane Wade, G: Yes, Wade announced he’s retiring at the end of the season. Yes, he’s 36 years old. But Wade can still play at a high level and will be a key player off Miami’s bench. That was obvious in last season’s playoffs, when he looked like the Heat’s best player at times during its first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers. The spotlight will be on Wade because this is his final season … and he is the greatest player in Heat history. Prepare for the farewell tour.
Dion Waiters, G: It’s hard to project Waiters’ season when it’s still unclear when he’ll be available to play. Although he has been working on the court behind the scenes, there’s still no timetable for his return as he’s still rehabilitating from January surgery on his left ankle. If the original timetable is correct, Waiters should be back by December. When he does return, he’s expected to start at shooting guard.
Hassan Whiteside, C: After taking a disappointing step back last season, Whiteside has been saying and doing all the right things this offseason. And it continued in the preseason, when the starting center averaged 13 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 23 minutes. The hope is Whiteside is again moving in the right direction. He has the talent to be the Heat’s best player, but he has never filled that role consistently. Is this the year Whiteside becomes the consistent force the Heat needs him to be?
Justise Winslow, F: The organization is invested in Winslow after signing him to a three-year, $39 million extension in the preseason. Versatility is one of his strengths, with his ability to play at both forward spots and also take over as a point-forward. At 22 years old, Winslow is still growing as a player. The hope is he can build on last season’s impressive showing in the playoffs, when he averaged 9.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Whether it’s off the bench or as a starter, Winslow is expected to be a consistent contributor this season.