Three Heat Players Rank in Top 100 in Sports Illustrated's Preseason Rankings - Heat Nation
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Three Heat Players Rank in Top 100 in Sports Illustrated’s Preseason Rankings

Goran Dragic Hassan Whiteside

You know the NBA season is right around the corner when media outlets start publishing player rankings. The unofficial tradition leading up to the start of training camp has no real impact on the actual games, but it can rile up fan bases when they see their favorite players disrespected by the national media.

This week, two major news outlets, Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report, released their rankings and a couple of Miami Heat players made the cut.

Goran Dragic: Ranked No. 61 in Sports Illustrated, No. 53 in Bleacher Report

The Slovenian speedster has had a tumultuous two-year campaign with the Heat. After being named named third team All-NBA in 2013, his numbers have steadily declined. However, much of that has to do with the slow-paced offense the Heat have become accustomed to. This season brings a whole new set of possibilities with head coach Erik Spoelstra promising a faster-paced attack on the court this season. Here is what some of the national media is saying about Dragic:

“His optimal role demands freedom with the ball in his hands,” said Rob Mahoney of SI. “When given that benefit, Dragic can produce more. He can only snake his way to the rim and collapse defenses if he’s empowered to take the ball off the bounce and run an offense for himself. Dragic is a lesser player now than he was then—clever enough to still be relatively effective, but slowed a touch and outpaced by many of his positional peers.”

“The beginning of 2015-16 was particularly rough, but Goran Dragic rebounded nicely during the season’s second half, reminding the NBA that he could be a dangerous offensive commodity capable of holding his own on defense. He’s still a terrifying transition threat, even if his perimeter shooting has dried up,” said Bleacher Report.

Chris Bosh: Ranked No. 37 in Sports Illustrated, No. 35 in Bleacher Report

Even though we don’t know if Bosh will be cleared for the season, he still ranks in the upper echelon of players in the league. We have heard positive whispers from his camp so there is a good chance Bosh will put on a Heat jersey again. How often and how effective he will be is a whole another question. Here is what the national media is  saying about Bosh:

“Drama with the Heat organization aside, Bosh’s condition casts serious doubt as to how much he can function like a normal, star-level contributor,” said Mahoney. “Bosh had quietly tapped into the dueling instincts of his game to play his most actualized offense yet. He again became a 20-point scorer almost incidentally, humming through enough spot-ups and pick-and-pops to bolster his creative endeavors. Through all of this he remained one of the least turnover-prone bigs in the league, even while taking on a more substantive playmaking role.”

“Chris Bosh was arguably the Miami Heat’s best player before his second bout with blood clots ended another season prematurely. He’s a fantastic floor-spacing threat who can do more than just hold his own on defense, and his versatile production often serves as the impetus behind team success,” said Bleacher Report.

Hassan Whiteside: Ranked No. 35 in Sports Illustrated, No. 29 in Bleacher Report

We don’t know which Whiteside will show up to training camp in two weeks. If the star center shows up with the same “I’m here to prove I belong” attitude Heat fans have seen for the better part of two years, we could be looking at a monstrous season for Whiteside. However, he did sign the biggest contract of his career and it would be easy to become complacent at this point.

As far as his play on the court goes, there are still places where the 7-footer can improve. His one-on-one post defense against skilled big men became a liability that opposing teams often exposed. We know he can improve his game when he puts his mind to it (see free-throw shooting), so there will some excitement heading into camp to see what the big man has been working on all summer. Here is what the national media had to say about Whiteside:

“He ranked No. 7 in the NBA in Player Efficiency Ranking—and yet was moved to the bench for half of the season. He posted the NBA’s best individual defensive rating—and yet Miami’s team defensive numbers barely budged when he was on the court,” said Ben Golliver of SI who still has questions about Whiteside. “His numbers and advanced stats are enormous, but is he an irreplaceable piece on a winning organization? Is he capable of stepping into a leading role and a position of authority? Can you count on him, night in and night out, for 82 games, especially now that he’s not playing for a contract?”

“He’s accepted that blocking shots isn’t the only way to play high-quality defense, adjusting his positioning as necessary. He’s knocking down mid-range shots when opponents grant him enough space, and his touch around the basket is only getting better. As if that’s not enough, he’s one of the three best rebounders in the league. If he can learn how to pass or command more respect with his jumper, even the sky might not be the limit,” said Bleacher Report.

The Others: Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson

Winslow and Richardson didn’t make the SI list (top 100) but they were ranked No. 158 and No. 142, respectively, by Bleacher Report.

Everyone already knows that Winslow is a lockdown defender. The biggest mark against Winslow has been his shooting and that is the main reason we don’t see more praise from the national media. He has been working with a shooting specialist so hopefully we should see improvements on that side of the ball.

Richardson, who turned 23 today, made a name for himself with his hot shooting from the beyond the arc in the second half of the season. His recent MCL injury makes it hard to predict where he will fit into the rotation, but once he’s 100 percent Spoelstra will surely use him in the Heat’s game plan.

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