Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Shooting guards

Miami’s Dion Waiters celebrates during a Heat victory at the Brooklyn Nets last season. (Photo Getty Images)

   With the Miami Heat starting training camp one week from today, we are ramping up our coverage with our position-by-position breakdowns. Today we bring you shooting guard. Check back the rest of the week for small forwards, power forwards and centers.

SHOOTING GUARDS

Projected starter

Dion Waiters, 6-4, 215.

Backups

Josh Richardson, 6-6, 200; Tyler Johnson, 6-4, 186; Wayne Ellington, 6-4, 200; Rodney McGruder, 6-4, 205; Matt Williams Jr., 6-5, 210.

Who’s new?

Nobody really. The shooting guard position underwent a major change a year ago when Dwyane Wade signed with Chicago after holding down the spot in Miami for 13 seasons. That forced the Heat to scramble to find a replacement, deciding on Dion Waiters. Waiters gambled on himself by signing a modest contract and it paid off when he re-signed with the Heat for four years and $52 million. And with Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington returning, the position will have the same look as last season. The Heat are deeper at guard than any other position and coach Erik Spoelstra’s biggest challenge will be to find playing time for all of his wings. Besides Waiters, Richardson, Johnson and Ellington, Rodney McGruder, who emerged last season at small forward after Justise Winslow was injured, is more a true shooting guard and the Heat will take a look at rookie Matt Williams, the 3-point shooting specialist from UCF, during camp. Williams, who set the single-season school and conference records for 3-pointers made last year, had an impressive Las Vegas Summer League.

What to watch for

Ever since Wade decided to exercise the $23.8 million option to return to the Bulls for final year of his two-year deal, talk started of a possible buyout. And that meant the Heat were among those teams as a possible destination for Wade. Wade will be 35 when the season starts and he clearly is getting closer to the end of a Hall of Fame career, but he also has something left (Wade averaged 18.3 points last season) and he may want to bring his career full circle cycle and return to the city where he spent his first 13 seasons and won three titles. But if Wade is set loose by the Bulls and decides he wants to return to South Florida – over, say, Cleveland where he may be able to make a run at another title with LeBron James – it will have to be on the Heat’s terms. Wade would have to return with the understanding that he is no longer the Alpha Dog and the position is Waiters’. If he is willing to accept that, Wade could be an asset off the bench as a player and a mentor. Of course, that would mean Spoelstra finding a way to fit Wade into a crowded rotation.

Breakout potential

A bit unconventional but I am going with Waiters only because so many people still do not believe in the five-year veteran who needed to rehabilitate his game and his image during his one year in Miami. Waiters averaged 15.8 points and 4.3 assists last season but played in just 46 games because of various injuries. He needs to take another couple of steps to convince people that he can be a major contributor on a contending team. Sports Illustrated does not think Waiters has that potential considering the magazine did not list him among the 100 best players in the league.

Key question

How will Spoelstra keep all the guards on the bench happy? One way is by taking advantage of their versatility. Johnson will be the primary backup at point guard and Richardson could make a bid to start at small forward. That would thin the shooting guard depth chart. However they are used, Ellington will fill the role as the team’s 3-point threat/instant offense off the bench.

[Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Centers]

[Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Power forwards]

[Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Small forwards]

[Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Shooting guards]

[Miami Heat 2017 training camp preview: Point guards]

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