Are the Miami Heat the 12th best team in the NBA? Are Dragic, Waiters, Whiteside a (lower case) big three?

Are Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, and Dion Waiters a big three? (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

MIAMI – A big three, a playoff team even if they were in the Western Conference.

The Miami Heat have a fan in Sports Illustrated.

In their preseason power rankings, SI has Erik Spoelstra’s team No. 6 in the Eastern Conference and 12th overall, which would be good enough for seventh in the West.

Miami generally is about where most believe it will finish in the East, behind Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Washington and Milwaukee. Although some have Charlotte ahead of Miami, SI has the Hornets seventh but 17th overall.

[Heat rookie Bam Adebayo calls first-half struggles against Dwight Howard ‘a learning experience’]

[NBA rules changes: Expect more traveling calls, fewer time outs]

[3 takeaways: Kelly Olynyk, Hassan Whiteside frontcourt effective for Heat in preseason win over Hornets]

More surprising is the Heat are behind just six Western Conference teams – Golden State, Houston, OKC, San Antonio, Minnesota and the Clippers. That puts them in front of Denver, Portland, New Orleans and Memphis, which fall in at Nos. 13 through 16.

As for the big three. … well, this isn’t exactly LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and may been written with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but here is what it says:

Just as Dion Waiters bet on himself last season, though, I am betting on Dion Waiters this season. Hassan Whiteside has grown into a legitimate weapon, and Goran Dragic is still around. That’s a big three if I’ve ever seen one.

Okay, big three as opposed to Big Three. But, hey, it’s a start.

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