The Miami Heat won 44 games in 2017-18, won the Southeast Division, and got smacked by the Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs because the Southeast Division is garbage.
The Heat are staring at a 41.5 over/under in 2018-19, expected to come in second behind the Wizards.
This implies a regression, but what grounds do we have to expect that?
The roster is pretty much the same as a year ago, Hassan Whiteside is healthy (even if he’s a whiny, pouty jerk in the media to the front office and to Erik Spoelstra’s coaching staff, basically Dwight Howard Lite), Bam Adebayo is a year older, nine different guys managed to average 10 points a game in the mishmash system the Heat run, and while there’s not a chance in hell this team will get past the first round of the playoffs, they can’t be three games worse than last year.
Or can they?
2017-18 record: 44-38
2018-19 over/under: 41.5
Always Look On the Whiteside of Life
Whiteside had a 24.1 PER in 54 games last year. He’s got a 24.2 PER for 271 games in his career.
He’s getting worse at getting to the free throw line (a career-low .315 FT rate last year) but he’s getting better at actually making them (70.3 percent, by far his best.)
Offensively, he’s a massive liability, but he’s one of the best shotblockers in the league (it’s Whiteside, Rudy Gobert, or Myles Turner, take your pick), a fantastic rebounder (16.3 boards per 36 minutes and a downright monstrous 25.4 rebound rate eating glass), and a rim protector supreme.
At his absolute best, Whiteside is Defensive Player of the Year material.
The only question is whether he’s going to be too much of a clubhouse cancer to be worth it.
Last year, the Heat were 16th in the league in three-point percentage, 14th in two-point percentage, and 17th in overall shooting percentage.
They’re mediocre at scoring. They’re good at defense (13th, 7th, and 7th, respectively, for their opponents). Scoring more than the other guys wins games (gee, you don’t say.)
If their shooting improves, they could be an offensive force. If it regresses, they could suck horribly.
But these are the same guys. There’s no reason to believe their performance can’t continue.
Look, this is a short argument. They have basically the same team they had last year. Three of their four division rivals are trash. The fourth one might be trash if their backcourt can’t stay healthy. The East overall is terrible.
So where are the oddsmakers getting 41 as a win total?
Are the Heat good? It’s Plausible.
Will they post a winning record? Yes. Over.