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2015-16 NBA Preview: Have The Heat Moved On From LeBron?

We’re inaugurating our NBA player projection system, CARMELO, with 2015-16 season previews for every team in the league. Check out the teams we’ve already previewed here. Learn more about CARMELO here.


The post-LeBron James era got off to a disastrous start last season for the Miami Heat, who endured a 37-45 campaign that was riddled with injuries and dumped the team outside of the playoffs for the first time in seven years. A potentially devastating offseason could have followed, but some semblance of order and continuity was restored when franchise anchor Dwyane Wade patched up differences with management and settled on a one-year, $20 million contract for this season. Point guard Goran Dragic signed a long-term deal. Promising center Hassan Whiteside continued to develop, and both Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts are healed and healthy coming off season-ending maladies last year. All signs point to a Heat revival in the East and an opportunity, if the team stays relatively healthy, to stare down LeBron in the postseason.

FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO, on the other hand, projects the Heat to go 38-44 and fall just below .500.

carmelo_depth_chart_HEAT

It figures that a projection system named after a member of the longtime rival New York Knicks would take such a low-blow shot at the Heat. So a year after hitting rock-bottom and winning just 37 games during an injury-ravaged season, Miami is projected to win only one more game? If so, expect a major shakeup for what has been one of the NBA’s most stable franchises.

Here are the CARMELO projections for Miami’s core players:

dwyane-wade

If Dwyane Wade had a million dollars for every game he missed last season — oh, wait. Evaluating Wade is all about vantage point. He’ll point to the fact that he was second in the league in usage rate last season, but skeptics counter that injuries prevented him from being used for at least 20 games for a second straight season. CARMELO expects Wade to be a shadow of his former self; his top comp, another great in the last chapter of his career.


chris-bosh

Now that he has recovered from season-ending treatment for blood clots on his lung, Chris Bosh hopes to play as he did in his most productive year in a Heat uniform, the 2013-14 season. His conditioning and versatility ensure that his game will continue to age like fine wine.


goran-dragic

The Heat paid Goran Dragic $85 million this offseason to be the franchise’s best point guard since Tim Hardaway. If nothing else, Dragic should ignite a team that played at the NBA’s second-slowest pace last season.


luol-deng

After spending a decade in Chicago, Luol Deng struggled with the turbulence that moved him to Cleveland and ultimately to Miami in the span of a few months. After failing to find comfort with his role last season, he’s banking on that to change in a contract year.


hassan-whiteside

The promising yet enigmatic big man did something last season that hadn’t been done in 50 years: Hassan Whiteside averaged 11 points, 10 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in less than 24 minutes a game. That’s profound efficiency, but the key now for Whiteside is to develop consistency.


justise-winslow

Many want to compare Justise Winslow, a former Duke standout, to a younger version of Wade, but Wade says Winslow’s size and strength remind him of a younger version of Metta World Peace, the artist formerly known as Ron Artest. To complicate matters further: CARMELO thinks Winslow’s top comp is another Heat teammate, Deng.


amare-stoudemire

The route from a $21 million salary last season to the $1.6 million vet’s minimum this season involved plenty of sacrifice for Amar’e Stoudemire. But it’ll require even more if Stoudemire is willing to accept a reduced role off the bench to make this work in Miami.

Read more: 2015-16 NBA Previews

Michael Wallace covers the Miami Heat for ESPN.

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