Beyond the Toronto Raptors: Previewing a horrible Southeast division

Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Kyle Lowry (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

Miami Heat

Key Arrivals: Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Meyers Leonard

Key Departures: Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade

There should be a real concern in Miami if Jimmy Butler will still be worth a max-contract on the tail end of his four-year deal. They don’t have a lot of future assets, their cap flexibility is questionable, and they might have just put a ceiling on this team.

However, when just looking at the players on the court next season, the Miami Heat upgraded. Jimmy Butler is a top-15 player in the NBA; he’s an offensive catalyst who can control the game in a way Josh Richardson can’t.

In terms of departures, Richardson, who was the cornerstone of the Butler sign-and-trade, will be a significant loss. Hassan Whiteside is one of the most obvious addition by subtraction candidates in the league. Dwyane Wade was a franchise icon and a bright spot in an otherwise mediocre season, but he got out at exactly the right time.

Offensive outlook

This is where Miami is hoping Butler will make his impact. Last season, the Heat ranked 26th in offensive efficiency, behind teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, and the Orlando Magic. Spoiler alert: That’s not good.

They lacked dribble penetration and shot creation, a problem Jimmy Butler should solve. The Heat were relying on Wade’s creaky knees to initiate offense for long stretches of last season. This year, they have one of the NBA’s best.

There still isn’t a ton of raw offensive talent on this team and some of their best lineups will lack NBA-quality shooting. However, if you add Butler in the culture and system Erik Spoelstra has built, they should compete to be average.

Defensive outlook

A top-10 defense last season, the Miami Heat hung their hat on this side of the ball.

The question for this year’s Heat team might come down to if Hassan Whiteside was a good defensive player. He swatted away a lot of shots, gobbled up a bunch of rebounds, and the on/off loved him. He also stat-chased, gave lackadaisical effort, and was a bit of a plodder. The numbers say he’s a good defender. I’m not so sure.

Perhaps it’s as simple as the Heat getting worse during Kelly Olynk’s minutes and better during Edrice (Bam) Adebayo’s to remain in the same place. Seventh might be a hair high in terms of expectations for this year. Still, the Heat have the talent, depth, and culture to be top-10 on this side of the ball once again.

Predicted outlook: 48-44

The addition of Butler is going to help the Heat, the only question is how much? If they can maintain their defensive efficiency and Butler can drag them to average on offense, this should be the best team in the division. Perhaps that’s damning with faint praise, but it is good news for a franchise that hasn’t been higher than the 6 seed the past three seasons.

Next. Why Kyle Lowry's contract extension was good for the Raptors. dark

Make sure to stay tuned for the rest of our division previews, as we go across the league prior to the start of the season.