Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Hornets Playoff Preview: Player vs. Player Breakdown

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After one of the most turbulent seasons in franchise history, the Miami Heat finished the regular season 48-34 with the third seed and are proud owners of the South East division title. As the postseason begins, they’ll turn their attention to the Charlotte Hornets (48-34), the East’s sixth best team, who the Heat will play in the first round.

Both teams enjoyed dramatic turnarounds after the All-Star break with different players finding their footing and flourishing. Now the third (Hornets) and fifth (Heat) best teams since the break will go at it as multiple players are ready to show what they possess.

Here’s a look at the individual matchups for the starting lineup and who has the advantage.

1. Goran Dragic vs. Kemba Walker

Goran Dragic vs. Kemba Walker

Without a doubt this will be the most important head-to-head matchup of the series. The two starting point guards led their teams to some of the best records in the East during the second half of the season following unproductive years.

After a few subpar seasons and a sweep by the LeBron James-led Heat, Walker has elevated his game to the next level, averaging 20.9 points, 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds. The quick guard has emerged as the Hornets’ franchise player and is hungry to show the league his capability after being snubbed from the All-Star game.

Dragic struggled heavily in the beginning of the season to find a groove but went through a revival after the Heat turned to a much faster offense. Since the All-Star break, Dragic has put up 17.3 points, 6.7 assists and 4.6 rebounds a game.

While the 85-million dollar Heat point guard saw his production spike up with the team’s new style of play, his impact and stats still stand away from competing with Walker’s. The point guard out of the University of Connecticut is fast, crafty at the rim and a much-improved, dependable three-point shooter.

Simply put, Dragic isn’t on the same level as Walker and not the definitive leader of this Heat team. Playing in his first postseason since 2010, the Slovenian will also look to show everybody he’s the real deal and earn people’s respect. Facing a borderline All-Star in Walker will give him that platform after six long years of waiting, but he’ll have to outperform the opposing, perilous point guard in an impactful way.

Advantage: Charlotte

Next: Shooting Guard

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Born and raised in South Florida, Justin has always been a passionate Miami Heat fan. An avid supporter from the time Miami got its first championship in 2006 to having a league-worst 15-67 record in 2008 to the whole LeBron James era until now, Justin has seen and stuck through it all. His all-around analysis and heart for the game has made him a premier NBA writer. He writes for a variety of sites but his commitment to the Heat is always top priority.