Don’t @ Me 2.0: Alf & Leif’s Hot Takes, 2017-18 Miami Heat Edition

Commentary

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Do you still like hot sports takes 🔥🔥🔥? Takes so strident and cocksure that you don’t care if they are both ridiculous and wrong? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Miami Heat Beat insider, Leif, and #HeatTwitter President, Alf, are here to bring you their hottest takes on every player the Miami HEAT are bringing into the 2017-18 regular season. All 17 to be exact.


Goran Dragic Height: 6-3 | Weight: 190 | Age: 31 | Point Guard

AlfGoran Dragic came into his own last year.  No longer encumbered by the weight of Dwyane Wade’s legacy, Dragic became the floor general that Riley unloaded the future for a couple of years ago.  Fresh off a Euro-league championship as a scrappy underdog, you’ve got to think Dragic feels he can replicate that success with the upstart Heat. This year’s Heat is full of comfortably paid journeymen though. Will he be able to summon the fire he showed over the summer?  I predict he will, and an All-Star appearance will be his reward.

Leif: The Dragon had a perfect summer by all accounts. He enters Wednesday’s season opener at Orlando in great shape but rested. Can Dragic eclipse his stellar 2016-17 season? Statistically speaking, that might prove a tall order due to the emergence of others. However, make no mistake, Dragic is the engine of the offense.

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Dion Waiters Height: 6-4 | Weight: 215 | Age: 25 | Shooting Guard

AlfOh Dion … the love-hate relationship we’ve shared over a calendar year is well-documented because, as they say, the internet is forever. I asked you not to start any crap last year, and you responded by posting career numbers and displaying the kind of enormous genitalia that is the stuff of legend. How will you follow your opus young, Mr. Waiters?  Will you “double-down” again or will you kneel over at the free buffet, fat from your winnings? My prediction: You push the chips to the center of the table, throw on your best poker face and dare the league to call your bluff.

Leif: Moved well enough in the preseason that it temporarily quieted the ankle concerns. I would be lying not to admit I hold my breath every time he lands on that ankle after attacking — and repeatedly getting fouled — at the rim. A healthy Waiters has one of the highest ceilings on the roster. Will the team get healthy Dion? Waiters has that Alpha Dog mentality the Heat, at times, can sorely lack. They need Dion to be at full strength to fully realize their potential as a team.

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Josh Richardson Height: 6-6 | Weight: 200 | Age: 24 | Shooting Guard

AlfThis is J-Rich’s year. I’m not tempering expectations. Leave that to the cowards with no guts. If the preseason is any indication, the skinny second-rounder from Tennessee is a man on a mission. I predict that Coach Spoelstra will call on Richardson less to make plays for others, where he sometimes comes up short, but more to create for himself, where he excels. Richardson is NOT A BACKUP POINT GUARD. He is a highly skilled wing, a strong defender and the best draft pick the Heat have had in years. Sorry, Justise.

Leif: J-Rich looks ready to take a big leap. Last year in this column I compared him to Eddie Jones. Well, it seems only health stands in the way of him becoming the reincarnation of prime EJ. Richardson had probably the most encouraging preseason of any Heat player.

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Kelly Olynyk Height: 7-0 | Weight: 245 | Age: 26 | Center/Power Forward

AlfI will admit, my initial reaction to Olynyk’s signing was probably like most Heat fans, “You mean the goofy hippie from the Celtics??” But upon further research (Twitter) and through my implicit trust in the Godfather, Pat Riley, I came to appreciate the free-agent pickup. Best Case Scenario: He plays off of Hassan Whiteside like we once thought Chris Bosh could, except Olynyk seems perfectly content with 20 shots or two. Worst Case Scenario: He draws comparisons to Josh McRoberts, without the poor man’s Magic Johnson passes and reluctance to, you know, score. My prediction: Olynyk proves to be a capable frontcourt partner to Whiteside and a fan favorite because he’s white. Yeah, I said it.

Leif: Has any Twitter account ever been spammed with more Marcus Camby gifs? Olynyk looks poised to prove much of the doubt wrong if the preseason was any indication. Already showing the effects of being in better shape, KO appears a perfect fit. Word is Spo was the biggest advocate of pursuing Olynyk when he became available this summer.

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Hassan Whiteside Height: 7-0 | Weight: 265 | Age: 28 | Center

AlfHassan Whiteside will pass the ball this year. It may sound like a lukewarm take for the casual observer, but any ardent Heat fan knows the enormity of what I speak. Whiteside will become a complete center and learn how to pass from the post and make opponents think twice about sending a second defender. Let’s also hope that this is the year that appreciating Whiteside’s game is no longer just a local past time. With the state of the Eastern Conference, it would stand to assume that this is Hassan’s best chance to be an All-Star yet. I want Whiteside alley-oops in the All-Star Game now that I’ve been spared the corpse of Carmelo Anthony.

Leif: Never has a Heat player shut my ass up so definitively. The player on the roster who is most likely to become a 2017-18 All-NBA selection. Various league pundits appear to assume Whiteside now, “is what he is.” I am suggesting they aren’t watching close enough. We will see the very best of Whiteside this season, in the ways that impact winning most. The evolution continues … Now, if someone could just get him to unblock me on Twitter.


James Johnson Height: 6-9 | Weight: 240 | Age: 30 | Forward

AlfJames Johnson got paid y’all. What does a paid and secure James Johnson look like?  He looks like he’s in the best shape of his damn life and ready to prove to the league that he deserved his big payday.  The shooting in the preseason is plenty of reason for concern, but the playmaking and defense are still there. Johnson will prove to be one of the league’s best players off the bench and will be part of a second unit that gives other teams fits.

Leif: Before last season I called JJ, “The cool kid’s version of Yakhouba Diawara.” Now he is my favorite player. That’s how great of a season he had last year. I spent all summer penciling in JJ as a starter. I underestimated how well Olynyk would fit alongside Whiteside. I also undersold how important the duo of JJ/TJ is to what the team is looking to achieve with the second unit. Starter or not, Johnson will produce like the player the Heat rewarded with a mega-contract this summer. JJ has shown a willingness to play any role, in any lineup. Unequivocal team leader. Future Team Captain.

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Tyler Johnson Height: 6-4 | Weight: 190 | Age: 25 | Shooting Guard

AlfThis is Tyler’s last year as a bargain bin find. After this year, there will be no more puff pieces about the D-League darling who made good. Next year he becomes a 20 million dollar player, so if he wants to stay in the good graces of the Heat faithful, this better be the year he makes the leap from “nice story” to “invaluable piece.” Like Richardson, I think Tyler will be asked to do less ball handling and more scoring this season as he makes a push for Sixth Man of the Year. And he’ll get a haircut. Please let him get a haircut.

Leif: TJ has a real shot at Six Man of the Year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lead the league in points per game off the bench. For all the trade chatter that follows TJ’s contract, his particular combination of skills makes him relatively indispensable to the Heat’s rotation. The extent with which Waiters, JJ and Justise Winslow prove to be capable setup men in the coming calendar year, will determine if Tyler’s ascension one day could make Dragic expendable.


Justise Winslow Height: 6-7 | Weight: 225 | Age: 21 | Small Forward

AlfProbably the most polarizing Heat player since Mario Chalmers made us simultaneously grit our teeth and pump our fists through his roller-coaster tenure with the team.  Is he a power forward?  Small forward? Shooting Guard?  Unmitigated bust? I think this is the season Justise shows us what he truly is … a backup point guard.

“Blasphemy!” you say? Oh? Where have we seen Winslow the most comfortable?  Standing in the corner waiting to brick an ill-fated 3-pointer? Or handling the ball at the top of the key, deftly navigating a pick-and-roll, breaking down a defense and finding an open shooter waiting in the wings?  Justise can guard five positions on defense, but he’s best suited to set up an offense.  Will Justise find his niche?  Justise better.

Leif: My how a year can change things … Winslow has had moments this preseason that made me worried he could receive some early season DNP-CDs. He’s also had moments where you see the vision. You see the way in which Winslow can be great. “Point Justise” appears to be the ticket to Winslow unlocking his ridiculously creative, cerebral game. The Heat love Justise. It’s hard not to look at this season as a crucial factor in determining his long-term future here in Miami. Fair or unfair as that may sound, I’ll be rooting for him.

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Wayne Ellington Height: 6-4 | Weight: 200 | Age: 29 | Shooting Guard

AlfEllington will run around like a maniac and jack up threes. It’s what he does. He will try mightily, but will still be a poor defender. He is James Jones and he will be treated as such. In years past, it was almost a guarantee that Jones would be pulled quickly to the bench if he missed two or more 3-pointers in a row. This will be Ellington’s fate as he offers very little if he isn’t hitting from long range.

Leif: The Man with the Golden Arm. Ellington is likely to help dig Miami out of some periodic offensive struggles with his steady long range shooting. Will likely serve as a placeholder starter to keep primary bench rotation intact. HEAT love him but might be an attractive trade chip from a contractual standpoint if a big move presents itself.

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Bam Adebayo Height: 6-10 | Weight: 255 | Age: 20 | Power Forward

AlfBam might be the most intriguing story of the season. Is he the limited offensive athlete we saw at Kentucky or is he the multi-skilled big man we saw in Summer league? Is he the hesitant finisher with poor touch as we saw the first couple of games during the preseason or the foul-drawing, high percentage beast we saw in the latter half?  Heat fans are hoping for the latter even as Adebayo is almost a luxury in a deep frontcourt. A strong showing from Bam might cause the Heat to buck the small ball trend and feature more Olynyk/Adebayo and Whiteside/Adebayo lineups than we previously thought possible. I say give the young man a few extended stints in the G-League, build his confidence up and then unleash him during the stretch run.

Leif: Some say Riley is still whale hunting, I say the whale is already on board! What do you get when you mix Chris Webber, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard? You get a 20-year-old Bam. Patience shall be preached but the sky is truly the limit. Adebayo hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he can be. The hope is he continues developing at such a rate that Spo has no choice but to play him.

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Rodney McGruder Height: 6-4 | Weight: 205 | Age: 26 | Small Forward (INJ)

AlfOof … this one hurts. Rodney was proving the doubters (myself included) wrong during the preseason. McGruder showed off a 3-point accuracy and trademarked grit that showed he might just fit in with the starting five after all. But with RMG missing extended time due to injury, the rotation might be set before he has a chance to reclaim his spot. He’s not going anywhere, but his days as a starting small forward are likely numbered.

Leif: Was on the cusp of becoming the second coming of Bruce Bowen, but with cooler hair. “The Scavenger” has the DNA of a Heat lifer. And you’re damn right I use all the Spo talk buzz words. Get over it. The team has been told to plan as if he won’t return until the playoffs at the earliest. The training staff will have to be firm with Rodney to keep him from getting back on the court too soon.

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Jordan Mickey Height: 6-8 | Weight: 235 | Age: 23 | Power Forward

AlfWhat I’ve seen from Jordan Mickey, I like. A project that will probably spend a lot of time in Sioux Falls, he has the kind of skills the Heat could use and feature. But I gotta be honest, I don’t know much about the guy and I doubt we’ll see him very much, save for a rash of injury or serious regression from one of last year’s returning big men (cough) Okaro (cough) White (cough).

Leif: Mickey appears more ready to crack the rotation than initially anticipated. Will push for playing time but likely finish just outside the rotation on most nights. Prime opportunity awaits when the inevitable injury bug bites the frontcourt. Gut feeling he contributes far more than anybody will have anticipated prior to the season.

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Okaro White Height: 6-8 | Weight: 215 | Age: 26 | Power Forward

AlfThe man whose mere presence sparked an unimaginable 15-game winning streak last year is back and looking as “meh” as ever. I’m sorry, Okaro. I want to like you.  You work hard, you bust your ass and you embody so much of the Heat culture. But a mediocre summer league and unremarkable preseason has left me feeling underwhelmed. I want you to rekindle that spark that captured the imagination of Heat Nation last year, but I don’t think it’s in the cards.

Leif: Last year at this time I told you we would never hear from Okaro White again. Shows you what I know. Injury cut short his preseason. The current pecking order will likely have him facing an uphill battle for many minutes early on. At worst, Okaro has proven to be a potential spot starter much in the way Spo used Rashard Lewis. Considering my prediction for Okaro last year, take my opinion with a grain of salt.

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Udonis Haslem Height: 6-8 | Weight: 235 | Age: 37 | Power Forward

AlfHe’s another coach at this point and if you have a problem with that, you tell him, not me. Not tryin to get punched in my damn mouth …

Leif: The Captain might be set to close the curtain on a great career with the 2017-18 campaign. Still the most respected voice in the locker room. I personally hope he gets the chance to humble that flopper, Joel Embiid. Also, he will utilize the six most important fouls of the season in each matchup with #TheLandfill.

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A.J. Hammons Height: 7-0 | Weight: 260 | Age: 25 | Center

AlfNo clue who this is. He made the 15-man roster? Are you guys sure? Gianni? Brian? There seems to be a mistake. This is supposed to be Justin Hamilton’s spot. Now that guy has upside … not sure about this Hammons kid …

Leif: Evokes memories of Mark Blount. The epitome of temporary Heat player.

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Derrick Walton Jr. Height: 6-1 | Weight: 185 | Age: 22 | Point Guard (Two-Way Contract)

AlfWalton Jr. is a junior college standout out of Iowa who played his junior year at San Jose State before declaring himself eligible for the draft. Many said he came out too soon, but obviously, the Heat sees something in the youngster from the Midwest. I just made all that up because I’m pretty sure no one is still reading. For those of you who still are, man you are dedicated. Did you really care about my take on Derek Walton Jr? Bless your hearts … really … bless you all.

Leif: HEAT were intent to add a young point guard to the farm system. Walton is the guy for now. Doesn’t appear likely to be called up much this season but certainly is part of the team’s long-term plans. Will get all the playing time he can handle in Sioux Falls.

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Matt Williams Height: 6-5 | Weight: 210 | Age: 24 | Shooting Guard (Two-Way Contract)

AlfMatt Williams is who your 2K team picks up in like the eighth year of MyFranchise mode. Just a completely generic sounding name. I’m not even looking up his profile and I bet he’s 6-foot-6 from a mid-major college. I’m completely guessing here. I’m sure some analytics weirdo will be clamoring for him after Winslow has a bad shooting game. But we all know: Justise better.

Leif: Seemingly has one elite NBA skill already in advanced development: Outside shooting. Stroke reminiscent of Ray Allen in form. Williams has a lot to learn in pretty much every other aspect of the game. The hope is Williams can be a low-cost replacement for Ellington at some point down the road.

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And that is all you need to know about all the players who will be starting the season on your favorite professional basketball team. As far as our hot 🔥 takes go, like Alf & Leif mentioned before, don’t @ us.

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