Washington Wizards Southeast Division Preview 2015: Wizards vs. Miami Heat


The Washington Wizards and the Miami Heat are both projected playoff teams and they’ll face each other four times next year.

The Wizards have come off back-to-back playoff appearances and advanced to the second round each time.

Washington’s youth has led the team in the postseason while steady veterans have played well alongside the young core in both seasons.

The Heat, on the other hand, are at a different position. Loaded with star veterans and a top ten pick, Pat Riley‘s squad is in a perfect position to compete for a top seed in the playoffs next year.

Coming off of back-to-back-to-back-to-back NBA Finals trips (with the help of LeBron James, of course), the Heat under-performed last season — in large part due to injuries — and missed the playoffs completely. They’re looking to rebound off of a disaster year.

Miami, as mentioned earlier, have one of the best starting fives — on paper — in the entire NBA. The Heat boast top tier talent at nearly every position, with franchise centerpiece Dwyane Wade leading the way.

Part 1, Southeast Division Preview: Wizards vs. Hornets

Other than Wade, the most notable member of the Heat is consensus superstar Chris Bosh.

Bosh, a true power forward (who also found time center last year until the signing of Hassan Whiteside), can stretch the floor as well as post up inside and defend effectively. He missed time last season due to blood clots in his lungs, but with him playing, the Heat still struggled, going 19-25.

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Before missing the remaining thirty games, Bosh was putting up north of twenty points and exactly seven boards in over thirty-five minutes per game; he was dominating the competition.

Chris Bosh coming back fully healthy next season could mean trouble for his matchups in the Southeast Division, especially Washington Wizards presumed starter, Nene Hilario. Bosh holds nearly every single advantage between the two — it’s not close who’s better.

Bosh (when healthy, of course) is a better scorer, shooter, rebounder, defender, passer, and rim protector than the aforementioned Nene.

He’s also more versatile, and knowing that, Randy Wittman may start Otto Porter at the four or play him there very early on.

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Porter would matchup much better with Bosh.

With his long 7’1″ wingspan, Porter would have the wingspan to match up with the Heat star while being the quicker player of the two.

Bosh’s lack of elite strength should also come in Porter’s favor.

Along with Bosh, the Wizards are going to need to focus on Dwyane Wade.

Wade is going to play most to all of his minutes at the two spot while also bringing up the ball as the primary playmaker occasionally.

And with the Heat missing the playoffs, Wade will have gotten much needed rest time heading into next season.

Fortunately, the Wizards are strong at wing.

Wittman has flexibility to throw multiple guys on the Heat superstar this year, a luxury he didn’t have in years prior.

Gary Neal, Alan Anderson, and Ramon Sessions — who is just as big as Wade — all are capable of guarding Wade along with Beal.

At the center, the Heat will play last year’s biggest breakout player, Hassan Whiteside.

The big man took everyone by surprise last year after being out of the league for two year.

In a sense, Whiteside was found money last year, and, given the fact that his minutes were very limited last year, he could provide more useful in the upcoming season.

Part 2, Southeast Division Preview: Wizards vs. Magic

Whiteside is great at rebounding and defending, but he lacks a good offensive game (though he’ll disagree with you if you tell him that on Twitter).

He posted great numbers last year, but that was with a depleted Miami squad. With everyone coming back healthy, he won’t seem as dominant as last year, but, with more playing time, his stats could rise a significant amount.

In comparison to Marcin Gortat, Whiteside is much stronger and a better on the boards. But –being the older, smarter player –Gortat should be able to hold his own in this matchup.

When Whiteside gets the ball on the block, it’s going to be a shot attempt or a turnover (there’s literally no in-between, as he set the NBA record for least amount of assists in 10,000 minutes or more, with just six), meaning the Wizards can swarm him in the post, helping Gortat –even if there’s no need –or attempting a steal.

For the Heat’s offense to be successful, Whiteside is going to have to accept his role as a dominant rebounder who thrives on put-back jams.

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He may, however, try to do more than he can next year, calling for more touches and playing even more selfish (which, as a Wizards fan, that’s not a bad thing) than last season.

Another big acquisition made by Pat Riley last year was trading for Goran Dragic for basically nothing, and then signing him to a fat, five-year deal in the offseason.

Dragic had a breakout year in 2014 (finding a spot on the All-NBA Third Team), but splitting minutes with Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas in Phoenix hurt his numbers last season.

Dragic expressed his discontent, and was ultimately traded to Miami.

Dragic is a really good offensive player. Statistically, he is one of the best guard finishers at the rim, and is still and incredible playmaker while doing so.

Plus, given his time with the Suns and playing alongside Bledsoe, Dragic has learned how to play as the primary ballhandler and off-ball effectively, two traits that will mesh well with Wade. And although he’s no Stephen Curry, the Slovenian is a pretty decent shooter (his career three-point field goal percentage stands at 36% as of now) who can add some spacing to this offense.

Unfortunately for Dragic, he will be guarded and will be tasked to guard John Wall, the superior player of the two.

Wall matches up well with just about any point guard in the league, and in Dragic’s case, this is no exception. Because of Wall’s explosiveness, it will be harder for Dragic to penetrate and score at the rim. And defensively, Wall’s elite speed will wear him out.

Perhaps the weakest link on the Miami Heat starting five this season is Luol Deng. Deng, a 6’8″, 220 lbs forward, is the only starter that played more than seventy games last season, missing ten all together.

Deng lacks the explosiveness he had earlier in his career due to his high minute totals in previous seasons  — looking at you, Tom Thibodeau –and isn’t much of a three point threat. He does, however, manage to score well in transition and is an effective finisher around the rim.

He won’t have many opportunities to produce points next season, but when he does, expect him to shoot almost exclusively inside three feet or around the three point line.

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The “Man from Sudan” isn’t quite the defender he was back in his days with Chicago — again, thanks, Coach Thibs. Luckily, he doesn’t match up with much of an offensive threat.

Although Otto Porter is going to get a lot of minutes at the four in the upcoming season (as mentioned earlier), many assume he’ll be the starting small forward, meaning a matchup will Deng is inevitable.

Porter and Deng are very similar physically, with the former being just an inch shorter and ten or so pounds lighter (the weight will come in time).

Deng holds the advantage in this matchup, but not by much. The Georgetown product — that’s Porter –continues to develop, and if he can build off of a strong playoff performance last year, his numbers could skyrocket in contrast to previous seasons.

Lastly among the Heat starters is the main man in Miami, Dwyane Wade.

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It’s already believed that Wade is the greatest player in the history of their relatively young franchise, and he still has time to add onto his legacy while wearing a Heat uniform.

Wade, like Deng, has also lost his explosiveness and athleticism he used to have in his prime years.

But what he hasn’t lost is his craftiness, which has allowed him to continue to score at a high level.

His efficiency has dropped, but there’s no need to sound a panic button, because he still shot in the high 40s.

For Bradley Beal, it’s an interesting scenario. Wade’s loss of explosiveness should certainly help Beal defensively. Though Beal isn’t the greatest of defenders, a pair of fresh legs should help him contain Wade so, say, fifteen points or so.

Offensively is where Beal should shine in the matchup. His three point shooting makes him a huge threat on that side of the ball; the defense is going to concentrate on him as much as they can without losing sight of Wall, which, by all means, isn’t an easy task.

Beal is also working on his playmaking abilities this summer, strengthening his handle and shot off the dribble, according to himself in a SLAM Online interview.

Those elements could really add another dimension to the Wizards offense, making Beal more of a threat and making the team less reliant on Wall to do all of the creating.

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

For Wade, that means trouble.

As said earlier, Wade’s athleticism is declining fast, and if Beal does continue to improve in weaker areas, the Heat legend will have a tougher time guarding him than ever before.

Wade has the upper hand in this matchup, but it’ll only be a season or two longer before Beal surpasses him as the better player.

With all the injuries and whatnot last year, the Heat organization knew they needed a decent bench.

Fortunately, they were able to sign guys to cap-friendly deals, most notably with Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudamire, both who signed for cheap, one-year deals that will allow Pat Riley & Co. more flexibility next offseason.

Green was a much needed addition to a backup guard group that consists of Mario Chalmers, Tyler Johnson, James Ennis, and rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson.

Without Green, those five might just be a bottom five backup guard unit in the league today.

Luckily, Green is going to step in as the main backcourt option off the bench, and should thrive in that role.

The Washington Wizards don’t quite have a player coming off the bench at Green’s skill level, but they’ve got more quality guys than the Heat. T

he additions of Gary Neal, Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley (who, as I’ve said in previous articles, will miss a month or so due to injury), and Kelly Oubre will come up handily for the team in the upcoming season.

The Wizards three perimeter signees give them much more comfort in terms of depth after injuries; Wittman could start Neal, Anderson, and Dudley at either wing spot (and for Dudley, even the four) in needed to, and wouldn’t have to sweat much knowing those guys have experience and know their roles.

The Heat, on the other hand, do have two veterans (Chalmers and Green), but after that, however, there’s little to no experience in the league at all.

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Erik Spoelstra has two rookies and two sophomores off the bench, and if injuries do take place (surprise: they will) then the Heat will be in a world of hurt — literally.

For Miami, that lack of depth could put a ton of stress on the starters, which isn’t a good thing at all, considering a lot of those guys are injury prone.

The Heat’s frontcourt reserves are much of the same story.

Though they’re all veterans, the four backups of Chris Anderson, Josh McRoberts, Udonis Haslem, and newly signed Amar’e Stoudamire don’t look like great depth.

Once again, this is going to put a lot of stress on the froncourt starters, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside, who both have injury history (although Bosh’s is much less common).

McRoberts, probably the best backup big in the Heat’s rotation, has the capability of stretching the floor offensively and is an exception passer for his position. (In his last full season, 2014, he was second among all power forwards assists per game).

His playmaking skills are going to be very important for the second unit due to the fact that every other reserve — including the guards — are average at best in that area.

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With Anderson, Haslem, and Stoudamire, the Heat have a decent backup center rotation at best. All three are old, with Stoudamire being the youngest of the three at thirty-two years of age (although, due to his injury history, he plays much older).

We’ll have to see how they effect the team and what roles they will take: Stoudamire should get the most minutes, with “Birdman” being more of an injury player and Haslem there mostly for veteran leadership and championship experience.

The Washington Wizards, again, are better off the bench than the Heat. Because of their small ball approach, there are many more possibilities for Wittman off the bench.

Dudley is one of those possibilities for Washington, and although he’s only played the four approximately 13% of the time he’s been on the court, he’ll se serious minutes there due to his ability to stretch the floor.

Also, since the Wizards are wanting to go quicker, we could see Nene Hilario being subbed out early in favor of a guard off the bench with Porter playing the power forward.

In that scenario, think of Nene mostly as a backup center. That move alone could bolster the Wizards bench.

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The two other guys off the bench that will see time in the frontcourt throughout the season are Drew Gooden and Kris Humphries.

Gooden, with his experience and time in the league, will most likely serve to be a veteran leader and an energy guy off the bench who can play at either the power forward or center.

Humphries, on the other hand, is the more capable player of the two.

It has been reported that Humphries has been working on his jumper this offseason, expanding his range to the three point line and beyond.

If he can knock down the long ball at a decent clip next season, expect him to become Wittman’s secret weapon off the bench.

Humphries is a very underrated role player, and we could see him play a big part in the Wizards successes next season.

All in all, the Heat, for the most part, have a stronger starting unit, while the Wizards hold the advantage with their deeper bench.

This Southeast Division matchup should be a good one, with both teams being pretty balanced overall.

We’ll see who wins the season, but, baring major injury, expect four very competitive games.

Next: Wizards' Backup Guard To Play Big Role Next Season

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