The Cavaliers franchise went into the tank when LeBron James left. The Heat, however, could be an Eastern Conference contender this season just two years after losing LeBron back to Ohio. Let's examine the Heat's NBA odds at sportbooks.
The Heat finished 10th in the Eastern Conference last year and third in the Southeast Division with a 37-45 record -- just one game behind No. 8 seed Brooklyn for the final playoff spot. The good news from last season is that both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh played at an All-Star level. Wade averaged 21.5 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds. Bosh was now option No. 2 instead of the third wheel when LeBron was around. Bosh averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 rebounds last year.
In addition, center Hassan Whiteside came out of nowhere to dominate at times. He averaged 11.8 points and 10.0 rebounds. Pretty impressive for a guy who had appeared in just 19 previous NBA games in his career and not since 2011-12 with the Sacramento Kings.
Miami president Pat Riley also made a big trade for the future, acquiring former Suns All-Star point guard Goran Dragic at the deadline. Miami gave up four players and two draft picks to get Dragic, who forced his way out of Phoenix. The Heat sent two first-round picks -- one that will be used in either 2017, 2018 or 2019, the other in 2021 -- to the Suns, who also got Danny Granger from the Heat. Also leaving Miami were guard Norris Cole, forward Shawne Williams and center Justin Hamilton, all to New Orleans. Riley is never afraid to trade draft picks because he assumes his franchise is always going to be a contender and thus pick way down in the first round. And none of those players the Heat gave up were any good. The only concern was that Dragic was set to become an unrestricted free agent, but he signed a five-year, $90 million extension this summer.
So that's the good news from last year. The bad is that Wade played only 62 games due to injuries and Bosh was limited to 44 because of a dangerous blood clot condition that was potentially life-threatening. Dragic played just OK after arriving from the Suns and Luol Deng largely looked old. He averaged 14 points and 5.2 rebounds, which were his lowest numbers since his rookie season. I'm pretty sure the Heat were hoping that Deng wouldn't exercise his $10.1 million player option for this season but he did.
The Heat were 35-43-4 against the spread on NBA picks in 2014-15 and 36-46 'over/under.'
Potentially Sweet Starting Five
When everyone is healthy, the Cavaliers will clearly have best starting five in the Eastern Conference, led by James and fellow All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. You could make an argument that Miami would be No. 2 with Dragic, Wade, Deng, Bosh and Whiteside. Obviously that's presuming good health for Wade and Bosh (he returned to the court for the first time Sunday in an exhibition game) and that Whiteside wasn't a one-year wonder. He's playing for a new contract this season.
The Heat didn't add a ton this offseason as they were up against the cap after signing Dragic and giving Wade a new deal. They added veteran free agents in Gerald Green and Amar'e Stoudemire and drafted Duke forward Justise Winslow at No. 10 overall -- many think that was a steal. Not sure Winslow will help much this year, however. The Heat also welcome back forward Josh McRoberts, who played only 17 games last year with a knee issue. And of course there's a full season of Dragic.
The Heat are given a wins total of 45.5 on NBA odds, with both options at -115. They are +220 to win the Southeast Division and +1400 to win the Eastern Conference. Winslow is +1500 to win NBA Rookie of the Year honors. And here's an interesting prop: the Heat are +1000 fourth-favorites to be the team to sign Kevin Durant as a free agent next summer. They are definitely going after Durant and players tend to be drawn to South Beach. Not sure I see Durant following in LeBron's shoes, though.
Miami opens the season on Oct. 28 at home against Charlotte as a 6-point favorite on NBA odds.
NBA Picks: This is a tough team to judge. Tell me Wade and Bosh play at least 75 games each and I'd go 'over' this wins total with ease. How realistic is that? But playing in the East, I suppose Miami could still get to around 48 wins even if those two guys miss double-digit games each. So go 'over.' And the Heat will beat Charlotte to kick things off. Winslow won't win ROY.