Heat 2018-19 Schedule: Top Games, Championship Odds and Record Predictions

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 21:  Goran Dragic #7 of the Miami Heat and Wayne Ellington #2 of the Miami Heat look on during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 21, 2018 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

After returning to the postseason last season, the Miami Heat will look to take another step forward in 2018-19.

The Heat finished sixth in the Eastern Conference (44-38) and lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in five games in the opening round of the NBA playoffs.

The good news is, the Heat haven’t suffered any significant losses aside from Dwyane Wade, who might be coming back anyway. The bad news is, Miami is basically the same team from a year ago, which doesn’t necessarily represent progress.

Still, the Heat are poised to once again challenge for a top-eight spot in the East. With Friday’s release of the regular-season schedule, Miami now has its path to the postseason.

     

2018-19 Details

Season Opener: Wednesday, Oct. 17 vs. Orlando Magic

Championship Odds: 300-1 (via OddsShark)

Full Schedule: NBA.com

      

Top Matchups

Philadelphia 76ers: Monday, Nov. 12

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 21: Hassan Whiteside #21 of the Miami Heat gets ready to tip off against Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers in the first quarter  during Game Four of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on April 21, 2018

Mark Brown/Getty Images

Hassan Whiteside and Sixers center Joel Embiid were feuding well before the first round of the playoffs, and Embiid wasn’t content to leave things be after Philadelphia eliminated Miami:

Beyond the rivalry between the two big men, Embiid is the perfect measuring stick for Whiteside. Embiid typifies the prototypical center for the current trends in the NBA, whereas Whiteside is built more for the NBA of 10 or 20 years ago.

During the playoffs, Miami had a minus-15.3 net rating when Whiteside was on the court, per NBA.com, and he averaged just 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds. Whiteside was basically unplayable, especially once Embiid returned for the final three games of the series.

Miami’s regular-season matchups with Philadelphia will go some way toward answering whether Whiteside can adapt his style to better fit the demands of centers in today’s game.

     

Washington Wizards: Saturday, Nov. 10

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 11: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards handles the ball during a preseason game against the Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena on October 11, 2017 in Miami Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

No team may be harder to read in the East than the Washington Wizards.

They performed below expectations in 2017-18 to finish eighth in the conference. Rather than doing anything drastic, general manager Ernie Grunfeld prioritized adding depth by acquiring Austin Rivers and signing Dwight Howard and Jeff Green.

Team owner Ted Leonsis called the Wizards roster the deepest of his tenure, while Howard told reporters the team is going to “shock a lot of people.”

As much as the Wizards have the pieces to make a run to the conference semifinals or finals, it’s just as easy to envision Howard experiencing chemistry issues.

Washington and Miami split their four games during the regular season last year. The Southeast Division race could once again be very tight, so the Wizards and Heat’s matchups could have a big impact on the East’s playoff seeding.

     

Prediction

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 3: Hassan Whiteside #21 and Josh Richardson #0 of the Miami Heat during the game against the Atlanta Hawks on April 3, 2018 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downl

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

On one hand, the Heat should get a slight lift from LeBron James’ move to the Los Angeles Lakers. Miami was 1-2 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017-18, so the team should improve upon that record with James gone.

On the other hand, the Bucks and Wizards should be better, while the Heat did little to strengthen their squad. Miami traded both of its 2018 draft picks and had limited opportunities to sign free agents. Re-signing Wayne Ellington represented the biggest of the team’s offseason moves.

Like many other teams, Miami is likely looking more toward 2019 or 2020, when it will have more financial flexibility to pursue marquee free agents.

Goran Dragic has a $19.2 million player option for next year, while Whiteside can collect $27 million if he opts in as well. Assuming both Dragic and Whiteside exercise their options, the Heat will have to wait until 2020 before they’ll have the space necessary to sign a max-level player.

In the four years after James left, the Heat have averaged 42.5 wins and reached the playoffs on two occasions. Fans have every reason to believe the Heat will be a postseason team again in 2018-19. Improving upon last year’s result may be difficult, though.

Record Prediction: 43-39

NBA News

via Bleacher Report – NBA https://ift.tt/2gMI6gF

August 10, 2018 at 01:33PM

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