With the 2018-19 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we're dedicating one day to each team in the league.
Up next, we're taking a look at the Southeast Division. After starting with the Magic and Wizards, we're taking a look at last year's Division champion, the Miami Heat.
2017-18 season record
44-38 (6th in Eastern Conference)
Projected 2018-19 season record
41.5 wins (7th in Eastern Conference)
3 key storylines
Dwyane Wade's farewell tour
It's the elephant in the room - after serving as the face of the Miami Heat franchise since 2003 (yes, even when playing elsewhere), the 2018-19 NBA season will be the last for Dwyane Wade.
This upcoming season will be a year full of lasts for the three-time champion and each will be chronicled and documented. It's not like he doesn't have plenty left in the tank, either - Wade averaged 12.0 points in 21 regular season games with Miami last season and was the team's second-leading scorer (16.6 ppg) in the 2018 postseason.
There's no doubt the 2018-19 Heat will look to send the legend off on the best note possible; Wade's play last season suggests that he'll deliver a few more signature performances along the way, too.
The Hassan Whiteside experience
Did Hassan Whiteside peak in 2017?
While the numbers might suggest the 29-year-old centre is trending downward, last season is deeper than some stats would indicate. After dealing with injuries in the early parts of the season, Whiteside expressed his frustration over his lack of playing time once he returned to the active lineup. The 7-footer's frustration with his role continued in the postseason , where Miami was eliminated in the first round.
The outlook for 2018-19 is much more positive for Whiteside already, as the centre told the Sun-Sentinel all the pain from his injuries is gone, suggesting he could return to the level of explosiveness that set him apart in years past. The relationship between Whiteside and Spoelstra appears to be repaired as well , which means he can be more productive in the role he feels he deserves.
Which young player makes the jump?
In recent years, Miami has done exceptionally well in the draft process, acquiring players that fit stylistically and culture wise. Tyler Johnson (Undrafted free agent, 2014), Justise Winslow (No. 10 pick, 2015), Josh Richardson (No. 40 pick, 2015), and Bam Adebayo (No. 14 pick, 2017) each played an integral role in the Heat's 44-win season in 2017-18.
With Goran Dragic playing at an All-Star level, the potential reemergence of Hassan Whiteside and the uncertainty of Dion Waiters' health, Miami's ceiling largely depends on which young player steps up to be the team's clear-cut No. 3 guy.
Could it be Richardson, who has improved each season and fits the mould of the ideal '3-and-D' wing? Or Winslow, who has shown flashes but still has plenty of untapped potential as a lottery pick? If there are any more hiccups with the Whiteside experience, perhaps it is Adebayo, who has all the tools to be an elite big in Miami's system.
The Heat are in a great spot talent-wise, but 2018-19 is the season that potential needs to be realized.
5 games to watch
Nov. 12 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Playoff rematch? Check. Joel Embiid rivalry? Check.
After eliminating the Heat at American Airlines Arena in the 2018 playoffs, the Sixers make the first of two visits to Miami a month into the season. There will be plenty of fanfare, including the interior matchup between Embiid and Whiteside.
Miami's definitely got this one circled as its first crack at a top three team in the East this season.
Nov. 18 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
It's a new-look Lakers team making their only trip to Miami to take on a very similar Heat Team in what should be another valid early season test.
While it's been over four years since LeBron James donned a Miami Heat uniform, it's always fun to watch the four-time MVP take on his best friend Dwyane Wade and his former team. - after all, the duo did bring back-to-back titles to South Beach in the past decade.
Jan. 8 vs. Denver Nuggets
Last season, the first meeting between the Heat and Nuggets was decided by one point. The second? A double-overtime thriller which Miami won 149-141.
If this early January matchup at American Airlines Arena has just half of the entertainment value as either of last season's games, you won't want to miss it.
Jan. 19 vs. Chicago Bulls
Plenty of games will highlight Dwyane Wade's farewell tour, but few will live up to his final game in front of his hometown crowd in Chicago. Miami will always be "Wade County", but Wade is who he is because of his formative years.
There will be plenty of emotion and a good game to go along with it when the Heat face the Bulls on Jan. 19.
April 9 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Wade will take the American Airlines Arena floor for the final time in the regular season on April 9 when the 76ers make their second visit of the year.
While Miami is projected to qualify for the playoffs, emotions will be high in its regular season home finale where plenty of video and time is sure to be taken out to honor Wade's 14.5 seasons with the team.