The start of the NBA season is upon us. It’s time to predict how this year is going to go.
Miami opens the regular season Wednesday in Orlando against the Magic, and then will return to AmericanAirlines Arena for a season-long six-game homestand. The Heat, obviously, hope to avoid last season’s 2-8 start.
Here are my five predictions for the Heat’s season (I’m probably wrong) …
Josh Richardson will average career highs in points, rebound, assists and blocks: Richardson is expected to play a big role this season. More importantly, he’s healthy. The 24-year-old looked really good in the preseason and he will carry that momentum into his third NBA season. Richardson’s career highs are 10.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 0.7 blocks. He will set new marks in all of these categories this season, finishing with averages of 13.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 blocks.
The Heat will have another strong finish to the season: After an 11-30 start last season, Miami bounced back to record a 30-11 record over the second half of the season to finish 41-41. Although the turnaround won’t need to be that dramatic this year, the Heat will be a better team down the stretch once again. Miami plays 15 of its final 23 games at AmericanAirlines Arena, and this will help the Heat while fighting for playoff positioning in a tight race.
Rookie Bam Adebayo will have trouble finding playing time: There will be ups and downs for Adebayo, which is usually the case for rookies. But getting playing time will be a constant struggle for the Heat’s first-round pick. With Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson in line for most of the minutes in the Heat’s power rotation, Adebayo’s best chance to find a consistent role is with an injury. There will be more DNPs than games played at the NBA level this season, and that’s not a bad thing for a 20-year-old player who is still a work in progress.
Rodney McGruder will play again this season: There’s still no clear timetable. The Vertical is reporting McGruder will miss three to six months after surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left tibia. The surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, which means he could miss the entire regular season with a six-month recovery lasting into April. But McGruder will find a way to return to the basketball court before the end of the regular season.
The Heat will win 46 games and finish fifth in the East: After recording a 41-41 record last season, the Heat will win five more games this year to finish with a 46-36 record. Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and Washington will still finish ahead of Miami, but the Heat will be the top team on that next tier of Eastern Conference teams. That means Miami will finish as the East’s No. 5 seed on top of Milwaukee, Charlotte, Philadelphia and Detroit.