TNT’s Reggie Miller: Miami Heat are on the ‘fringe of that fourth seed’ in the Eastern Conference

MIAMI — As the NBA regular season inches closer, most have the Heat making the playoffs. But the opinions vary when it comes to where the Heat will finish among the Eastern Conference’s eight playoff teams.

TNT’s NBA analysts Reggie Miller and Chris Webber offered their take on this topic in a Wednesday conference call previewing the network’s coverage.

Miami Heat guard Rodney McGruder shows his support to his teammates during the second quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017 at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS)

Miller believes the Heat are “on the fringe of that fourth seed” behind Cleveland, Boston and Toronto.

“The question will be: Can their second half last year, where they played phenomenal, just missing the playoffs – can that expand to 82 games,” Miller said. “You’ve got obviously a centerpiece in [Hassan] Whiteside, who’s an unbelievable talent. Dion Waiters is going to have to stay healthy. He kind of evolved into their go-to guy, a voice on this team. But he’s got to stay healthy. You rewarded Josh Richardson with a nice four-year contract. A guy that really came out of nowhere out of Tennessee and became a pretty steady player for Erik Spoelstra. Tyler Johnson, another unknown, who given the minutes outperformed what everyone said about him. So they have the pieces around him.

“To me, they’re on the fringe of that fourth seed. They’re the second-best team in the Southeast Division, obviously behind Washington. To me, you’ve got Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and then you have to start thinking about Miami and if they can have an 82-game schedule like the second half of last year. Health is going to play a major role in that. The young players are going to have to develop like Justise Winslow. But they have the pieces there to be one of those teams on a nightly basis to be a very competitive team. And let’s not forget the man who’s the president who’s not going to settle for mediocrity, and that’s Pat Riley. So they are right there on the fringe. The question is, can they stay healthy and are they committed like we’ve seen most Pat Riley led teams. … Are they going to be relentless to play hard each and every night?”

Webber has the Heat in a similar spot.

“Let’s start with the way they ended the season and how strong they ended the season,” Webber said. “You always hear them, whether it’s coach Riley or coach Spoelstra, talk about believing in their system. It takes a lot of time to trust the system or to buy into a team concept when you’ve been used to being the main guy or you don’t trust the consistency of your touches. It just seems like they’ve gone through their growing pains with this new unit without the leadership of a D-Wade. Of course, they still have [Udonis] Haslem, who is a wonderful leader. But at the same time, they don’t have that star on the floor who has been left over from those times. It just seems as if they have built that chemistry.

“So I would not put them up there with Washington yet because they still have to prove themselves, and Washington still has to prove themselves consistently. But they’re a team that if they made the playoffs, you sure wouldn’t want to play them in the playoffs because as the season goes on they play better. It depends on the dedication of Hassan Whiteside and how well they can score offensively. We know they play well defensively. I see them as middle of the pack to that fourth spot, and that’s all based upon how well they played last year. It just seemed like something clicked for them where guys have confidence in themselves. They understood what their roles were, and they bought in. So middle of the pack is at least where I would expect those guys to be.”

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