The Miami Heat had a lot of hype surrounding them coming into this season with some even thinking they have a legitimate shot of beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. Superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are both healthy and when the two of them are healthy, the team flourishes. Both of the players have logged a lot of minutes in the NBA, which is why the depth and bench of the Heat will help carry this team this season.
Bosh, who is playing a season after suffering a blood clot, is playing like he did when he was a member of the Toronto Raptors. The 31-year old is averaging 18.3 points-per-game, 9.9 rebounds-per-game and has a 24.56 player efficiency rating while playing 32 minutes-per-game. Bosh has shown no signs of slowing down after a serious injury.
Wade has been in the league 12 seasons and will turn 34 in January. The fifth overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft has played over 34,000 minutes including the playoffs in his career. That is a lot of minutes, especially with some of the injuries Wade has suffered from. He is playing 28.8 minutes per game this season while averaging 18 PPG and 4.4 APG. He has a PER of 21.70. A reason Wade is playing less minutes in the early goings, aside from getting proper rest to endure the marathon-like season, is the play of shooting guard Tyler Johnson.
The Heat are getting a pleasant surprise out of Johnson, who is making quite the name for himself in the early goings of the young season. He plays 19.9 minutes per game and contributes on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he averages 7.2 points per game, while shooting 53% from the floor and 50% from three. Defensively, he is a guy who will make plays, play tenacious defense and give 100% effort all the time. The in drafted second-year player out of Fresno State started off as a shooting guard before the Heat wanted to develop him into a pint guard. Standing at 6’4″ Johnson will be able to play either position, which will help give Wade some rest. Johnson has proved he can make the right decisions at the end of games, whether it’s setting up open teammates or knocking down shots. It’s a small sample size, being the Heat are 6-3, but this play is something that is a big positive for Miami. He has a defensive rating of 90.8. He can either play alongside Wade or allow Wade to rest and play alongside point guard Goran Dragic.
Another young player who is going to be a major contributor to this team, especially defensively is rookie Justise Winslow. Pat Riley and company got arguably the steal of the 2015 draft as Winslow slipped to the Heat who had the 10th overall pick. Miami took the 6’7″ small forward out of Duke and so far, so good. Winslow logs 28.5 minutes per game thus far and has been stellar on the defensive end of the floor. The 19-year old has a defensive rating of 87.7. He is a big, physically gifted, hard worker who like Johnson, gives 100% effort. He is versatile in the fact that he can guard either two guards or small forwards. Already in his young career, he has guarded LeBron James, (who went 3-3 with Winslow on him), Paul George, and DeMar DeRozan, who he limited to 1-4 shooting and got DeRozan off his game warranting an offensive foul and a technical foul. Coach Erik Spoelstra has instilled a lot of trust in Winslow, who is showing why he should have maybe been a higher draft pick. Bosh has noticed the play of Winslow, calling him the “oldest 19-year old I know,” in terms of his maturity and willingness to do what it takes to get the job done. When Winslow is on the floor, Miami is outscoring opponents by 19.4 points per 100 possessions. Opposing shooters are shooting just 32.8% when he defends an attempt.
The play and pairing of Johnson and Winslow has led the Heat to a defensive rating of 93.5, tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the best in the NBA. The sample sizes for both players are small, but Spoelstra has shown he has no problem letting his youngsters gain the knowledge and experience to help develop and enhance their respective games. Often times this season, these two players were relied upon down the stretch of games, helping Miami to a 6-3 record and second place in the Southeastern Division. If the Heat can continue to get this type of play and development from these young players, this team is be just as good as any in the East.