Udonis Haslem declares Miami Heat as favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference

peter2dewey@yahoo.com'
3 Min Read

Miami Heat veteran forward Udonis Haslem believes the Heat will be the team to come out of the Eastern Conference in the 2022-23 season.

Haslem pointed to how Miami always seems to find diamonds in the rough that contribute to the roster, calling out forward Caleb Martin as a player who could take a step up in the 2022-23 season.

Martin is an option to fill in at the forward position for P.J. Tucker, who left the Heat in free agency to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers. Last season, Martin appeared in 60 games for the Heat, making 12 starts and averaging 22.9 minutes per game.

He averaged 9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game while shooting 50.7 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Haslem is clearly confident in his teammates, especially after the Heat made the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2021-22 season. He wonโ€™t play much for the Heat but is an important leader in the locker room for Miami.

During the 2021-22 season, Haslem appeared in 13 games. He averaged 2.5 points, 1.9 rebounds and 0.1 blocks per game while shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from beyond the arc.

The Heat didnโ€™t make a major move this offseason, but they did bring back Victor Oladipo, Dewayne Dedmon and Martin in free agency. The team also locked up guard Tyler Herro to a long-term deal.

Oladipo may make the biggest difference for the Heat, as the two-time All-Star missed most of last season as he recovered from an injury. If Oladipo finds his All-Star form in the 2022-23 season, the Heat could be extremely dangerous in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat have been a perennial playoff team since adding Jimmy Butler to the roster. They went to the NBA Finals in the 2019-20 season, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

Heat fans certainly would love it if Haslem’s prediction comes true, but the team will need to get through a loaded Eastern Conference that features the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs added Donovan Mitchell in the offseason while the Sixers and Nets will have a full season with their revamped rosters following last yearโ€™s James Harden-Ben Simmons trade.

Still, Miami should be able to compete with the best teams in the league after earning the No. 1 seed in the East last season.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.