Five Big Questions About the Miami Heat's New Roster

Five Big Questions About the Miami Heat's New Roster
Photo by George Martinez

Take a deep breath, Heat fans. You can sleep now — because barring some unforeseen blockbuster trade, this offseason is over for Miami. And after the past few weeks of constant disappointment, you have certainly earned a few months off. No more refreshing Twitter to see who Dwyane Wade just followed. No more obsessing over Gabrielle Union's Snapchat. No more pain — just a whole lot of assessing the damage and picking up the pieces. We'll all meet back here in October and talk about how we individually coped. 

The Heat isn't so lucky, however. The team has work to do if it's to recover from one of the worst months in franchise history.

There are more questions than answers. There are more problems than solutions. Here are a few things the Heat needs to figure out before we see the team next. 

1. Is Justise Winslow ready to fill Luol Deng's shoes?

Whether Winslow is ready to step into the starting lineup or not, the Heat needs him to figure it out on the fly next season. With Luol Deng leaving in free agency for the Los Angeles Lakers, Winslow now has a clear path to starting at the three spot. Pat Riley sounded like a man ready to see what Winslow can do. 

"Are we ready for Justise Winslow to start at the three? I am," Riley recently said of Winslow's future. "I'm not just throwing him out there. This guy has been thrown out there last year and played significant minutes and significant time. I trust him."

2. Can Hassan Whiteside become a franchise player? 

Everyone hold on to your butts. Now that Wade is gone, the franchise has been handed over to Hassan Whiteside. It's not the safest we've ever felt about something. Now that the seven-foot center is receiving around $98 million for four years, it's undoubtedly his show. No more underdog story. No more babysitting off-the-court. No more huge upside on a small contract. Whiteside is now the face of the franchise, and maybe even sports in South Florida as a whole. So, yeah, it'll be a pretty big couple of years for him. 

In 2016, Whiteside will have the chance to go down in Miami Heat history, one way or another. How we remember him will largely be the result of how he picks up the fans the season after they lost the franchise's best star. 

3. Will Josh Richardson make Goran Dragic expendable? 

There seems to be a theme emerging here: Young Heat players coming into their own. How fast these players make you forget how raw they are will determine what kind of team the Heat has in 2016-17. Josh Richardson is a huge piece of the Heat's future for so many reasons. Most of those reasons are tied to money. 

Richardson was a second-round pick, so his salary remains pennies compared to even the worst NBA role-player. He plays the same position as Goran Dragic, an aging point guard who eventually might have some value to a team looking for help on a championship push. If the Heat truly wants a clean-slate cap next summer, ridding itself of Dragic and his $90 million this season would make the most sense, especially if the eventual target is Russell Westbrook. Richardson's continued rise would make that move much more comfortable. 

4. Who is Tyler Johnson? 

Tyler Johnson has turned into quite the achievement for the Heat. The Heat found him, groomed him in the D-League, moved him onto the active roster, and eventually gave him a stage that earned him a $50 million contract offer from the Brooklyn Nets. Like Whiteside, that's one hell of a rise from obscurity. The Heat decided to make Johnson part of the rebuilding plan after Wade left, committing huge money three and four years out to him.

The question we must ask now is: Who is Tyler Johnson? Is he an expensive bench player? There doesn't seem to be a starting spot for him as of now. Is he a point guard of the future or a shooting guard the team hopes can fill Wade's shoes? If Johnson can take the next step, he'll end up being a steal, not overpaid. 

5. What will happen with Chris Bosh? 

The health woes of Chris Bosh are the undisputed largest story line this offseason. Whether you believe Bosh can still return to have a huge impact on the court, or you think clearing his huge salary off the books is vital to the Heat moving on from the Big Three era, Bosh is a massive question mark all the same.

Bosh last took the court for the team February 9. League rules state if he's unable to play again before February 9 next season, an independent doctor must make a recommendation to the league about whether he is fit to ever play again.

If the doctor deems Bosh's career over, the Heat can then take his contract off the books. The team will then have his $26 million salary available to spend on someone else.

Though the due date is February 9, much of the uncertainty will be figured out before training camp. Bosh felt ready to play months ago, so he is sure to cause a scene if the team doesn't allow him time on the court months from now. How this plays out this offseason is a definite fork in the road for the Miami Heat. 


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