Heat mailbag: With Dwyane Wade back, is this Heat team better than one he left two years ago?

Dwyane Wade and the Heat took the Raptors to seven game in the conference semifinals two years ago. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

TORONTO – Time for another Heat mailbag, this come coming from the frozen North.

If you were not able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter to @tomdangelo44 and @Anthony_Chiang. You can also e-mail me at tdangelo@pbpostcom.

From @MikeTrimWPTV: 1) Is this current Heat roster better than the one D-Wade left 2 seasons ago? 2) Does this Heat team, with the addition of Wade, beat either the Celtics or Cavs in the playoffs?

1). This is great question. The 2015-16 team won a playoff series (4-3 over Charlotte) and took Toronto to the seven games before losing in the second round.

The numbers are eerily similar but we must note, Chris Bosh played 53 games that season before his second battle with blood clots ended his career.

Offensively, the team two years ago had a rating of 106.1 (14th) and averaged 100.0 points (23rd). This season the Heat’s offensive rating is 105.4 (25th) while averaging 100.2 (28th).

Defensively, the team two years ago had a rating of 104.4 (9th) and allowed 98.4 points (5th). This season the Heat’s defensive rating is 106.3 (7th) while allowing 100.1 (3th).

Those numbers virtually are a wash considering the pace of the game has picked up as has the scoring. With that in mind, the offense from two years ago was better but the defense this season has the slight edge.

Taking Bosh out of the mix for the 2015-16 team and Dion Waiters off this year’s team, the biggest difference in favor of the team two years ago is Wade was two years younger and averaged 19.0 points and the Heat had Luol Deng and Joe Johnson, who combined to give them nearly 26 points per game. This year’s team though has a much-improved Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson, and Goran Dragic has emerged into an All-Star. Hassan Whiteside’s numbers are similar – 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds two years ago and 14.2 points, 12.0 rebounds this season. Where he was better in 2015-16 was blocks (3.7 then, 1.6 now) and field goal percentage (.606 then and .546 now).

With a younger Wade, Deng and Joe Johnson, the team two years ago had more offensive firepower and two reliable closers in Wade and Joe Johnson. But with James Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo, this team is deeper.

Who is better? That’s a great debate but I am leaning toward two years ago because solely because of a 34-year-old Wade compared to a 36-year-old Wade.

2). We may have this question answered for us in three months but until then let’s speculate, and I will throw in the Raptors because I think it’s pretty clear Toronto, Boston and Cleveland are the top three teams in the conference.

Knowing what team the Cavaliers will be is impossible after making three trades and bringing in four key players at the deadline. I do know that this Heat team, and any other playoff team in the East, would have had a chance against the Cavaliers team we saw before the moves were made. I suspect the new version will be better defensively and now that LeBron James is happy he will start giving max effort.

As for the Celtics and Raptors, we know this. The Heat finished 2-1 against Boston, including a win on the road, and defeated the Raptors in Toronto last month. Miami has two more games remaining against Toronto, including tonight at Air Canada Center.

Figuring Miami will be a better team once Wade gets comfortable – and Kelly Olynyk and Rodney McGruder return from their injuries – then the natural assumption is, yes, the Heat certainly have a chance to knock off any of the three.

But the playoffs are much different than the regular season and while we never know how far the Heat will ride the Wade Wave, my guess is though Miami could win a couple of games against any of the three, it cannot win a seven-game series.

[Tonight’s matchup: Dwyane Wade will continue to come off bench as Heat face Raptors]

[Dwyane Wade finding time to relearn Heat’s system, get to know new teammates and enjoy Miami]

[Will the Heat continue to use Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo on the court together?]

[Mailbag: Can Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade coexist in Heat’s backcourt?]

[Photos: Dwyane Wade returns to Miami Heat]

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