Mailbag: With free agency winding down, where do Miami Heat rank in the East?

The Miami Heat should move ahead of teams who have decided to rebuild, like the Chicago Bulls. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

Even with about 90 players remaining on the market, free agency is winding down.

The Miami Heat lost out on Gordon Hayward, their main target, but Pat Riley re-signed James Johnson and Dion Waiters, picked up Wayne Ellington’s contract and added Kelly Olynyk.

Where does Miami stand in the East? We answer that and more in today’s mailbag. If you weren’t able to ask a question, send them for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

From: ChrisHypeTrain: How serious of contender do you see the heat being in the east?

I don’t know if anybody other Cleveland and Boston are contenders, but let’s take the question a bit further and examine where Miami ranks in the East.

The first thing is to look at the teams that finished tied or ahead of Miami last season that the Heat have passed. That list includes Chicago, Indiana and Atlanta. All three teams are in full rebuild mode.

That leaves five teams ahead of Miami from the final standings. To me, the top four – Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Milwaukee – have the edge. The Cavs remain the team to beat. The Celtics added Hayward, although they took a hit losing Avery Bradley and Olynyk. Toronto and Washington bring back the core of teams that won 51 and 49 games, respectively.

That leaves Milwaukee, which is where I believe the Heat also fall in. The Bucks won one more game than Miami last season. They will be boosted by having Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton (barring further injuries) each for a full season, but are they appreciably better than Miami?

The Heat had the second best record in the NBA the second half of the season and basically return that entire group plus add Olynyk and first-round pick Bam Adebayo.

To me, the Heat enter the season battling the Bucks for the fifth best team in the East. Could they finish in the top 4? It’s possible but barring a major injury to any of the top four teams, that will be difficult.

From @bballin13: How do you think Bam is doing in the SL and do you think it will keep going in the regular season?

The Heat are very pleased with what they have seen so far from the 14th pick in the draft.

Bam turned heads in Orlando with his athleticism and versatility. We knew he was a finisher around the rim, had the ability to block shots and could run the floor. But he has shown intriguing ball handling skills that typically defy most players who are 6-foot-10. It seems like every game we see a clip of Bam clearing a rebound and taking the ball coast-to-coast. Coach Chris Quinn at times even has instructed Bam to take the ball down the court and initiate offense.

As for stats, Bam was fifth in Orlando with 17.5 points per game, second with 8.3 boards and tied for second with 2.3 blocks. He did shoot just 35.2 percent, but that number is skewed by his worst offensive game of the summer when he was 1-of-10 from the floor against the Knicks.

Bam followed that game up with a double-double in the Heat’s first summer league victory in their first game in Las Vegas. He scored 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds.

As for the regular season. Mid-first round picks typically do not make an immediate impact. Look for Bam to get his minutes but Miami will be patient, especially after adding Olynyk and bringing back Johnson, which gives it nice depth up front.

[Chris Bosh to Miami: ‘You showed me how to stay strong and push through in the toughest moments’]

[Patience and confidence paid off for Dion Waiters: ‘I’ll bet on myself any day’]

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