Fantasy Basketball, Miami Heat

2017-18 fantasy basketball preview: Miami Heat

Over the coming weeks, we at FanSided will do a team-by-team breakdown of each NBA franchise’s fantasy prospects for the 2017-18 season. Let’s continue today with the Miami Heat.

Since the Miami Heat couldn’t land Gordon Hayward in free agency this offseason, they’re instead rolling back virtually the same core from last year. That helps create certainty for fantasy basketball owners, as it’s easier to project the outlooks of most Miami players than it is for those on teams which underwent major overhauls during the summer.

The Heat did add a few pieces around the group that surged to a 30-11 finish last season. During the 2017 NBA draft, they spent the No. 14 pick on Kentucky big man Bam Adebayo, who figures to absorb the backup center minutes left vacant upon Willie Reed’s departure in free agency. They also signed former Boston Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk to a four-year, $50 million deal, giving them more versatility in their frontcourt alongside Hassan Whiteside.

The biggest X-factor on this Miami team, though, is Justise Winslow. The former No. 8 overall pick missed much of his sophomore season after suffering a torn labrum in his right shoulder early in January, opening the door for James Johnson to go on a second-half surge. Winslow struggled with his shooting efficiency prior to the injury, but if he bounces back from his disappointing sophomore campaign, it could cut into the fantasy value of returnees such as Johnson, Dion Waiters and Josh Richardson.

Which Heat players should fantasy owners target with early-, mid- and late-round picks, and who should be left on the waiver wire? Let’s take a look.

Early-round picks

Hassan Whiteside, C: Of any player on Miami’s roster, Whiteside is the biggest sure thing when it comes to fantasy basketball. You know what you’re getting with the 28-year-old: a board-gobbling, shot-swatting menace who will help give you a commanding advantage in both rebounds and blocks. Whiteside finished as the 24th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues last season after averaging a career-high 17.0 points on 55.7 percent shooting, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 32.6 minutes per night. Even a minor uptick in blocks—he set a three-year low in that category last season—would potentially turn him into a top-12 value, making him a no-brainer second-round pick.

Mid-round picks

Goran Dragic, PG:  One year after averaging just 14.1 points, Dragic erupted for 20.3 points on 47.5 percent shooting, 5.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.6 triples and 1.2 steals in 33.7 minutes last season, finishing as the 56th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues. Fantasy owners appear to be even more bullish on the Dragon this season, as his early average draft position in leagues is 41.4. However, with Tyler Johnson lurking behind him and Waiters and Richardson likely to split most of Miami’s time at the two, Dragic may be hard-pressed to replicate his production from a year ago. That makes him more of a sixth- or seventh-round option than a top-50 target.

James Johnson, SF: To call Johnson a fantasy revelation last season would be an understatement. He set career highs nearly across the board during his first year with the Heat, averaging 12.8 points on 47.9 percent shooting, 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 triples, 1.1 blocks and 1.0 steals in 27.4 minutes to finish as the 78th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues. Johnson was one of just five players last season to chip in at least one trey, steal and block per game, according to Basketball Reference, which underscores how important his well-rounded contributions can be for fantasy owners. With little established frontcourt talent outside of Whiteside and Olynyk in Miami, the 30-year-old should be heading toward another strong season, making him a worthy ninth- or 10th-round pick.

Late-round picks

Dion Waiters, SG: Waiters entered last season off the standard-league fantasy radar, as he had an expert consensus rank outside the top 200. Wade’s departure from Miami opened the door for him to slide into the starting 2 spot, though, and he erupted for 15.8 points on 42.4 percent shooting, 4.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 triples in 30.1 minutes to finish as the 159th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues. Groin and ankle injuries limited him to only 46 games last season, but that didn’t stop the Heat from signing him to a four-year, $52 million contract this summer. With team president Pat Riley challenging him to show up in better shape this year and improve his free-throw percentage, per Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel, there’s reason to believe he can finish among the top 150.

Tyler Johnson, SG: Despite not starting a single game last season, Johnson finished as the 82nd-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues. With averages of 13.7 points on 43.3 percent shooting, 4.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 triples and 1.2 steals in 29.8 minutes, he proved to be a strong all-around fantasy asset, and he only turned the ball over a miniscule 1.2 times per game. Another top-100 finish appears unlikely, as Johnson capitalized on injuries to Waiters, Winslow and Richardson to seize additional playing time, but he’s worth a look in the 12th or 13th round.

Josh Richardson, SG: Injuries limited Richardson to just 53 games last season, but when he did play, he was a productive member of fantasy rotations. Despite shooting just 39.4 percent from the field, he finished as the 119th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues after averaging 10.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.4 triples, 1.1 steals and 0.7 blocks in 30.5 minutes. Considering he shot 45.2 percent overall as a rookie, positive regression to the mean appears likely, suggesting Richardson touts top-100 upside despite often going undrafted in standard-sized leagues. Grab him with one of your final few picks and reap the rewards.

Justise Winslow, SG: Winslow wound up being a bust last year even prior to the shoulder injury that knocked him out in January. Though he averaged 10.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals in 34.7 minutes across 18 outings, his dismal 35.6 percent shooting caused him to finish outside of the top 175 in terms of per-game fantasy value in nine-category leagues. He doesn’t rack up many blocks or three-pointers, so owners should treat him as a late-round steals specialist who is liable to hurt your squad in the field-goal percentage category.

Kelly Olynyk, C: Unless Whiteside goes down with a long-term injury, Olynyk doesn’t have a viable path to top-100 upside in Miami. Though the Heat shelled out a four-year, $50 million contract to land him this summer, he’s unlikely to supplant James Johnson in the starting lineup, which suggests he’ll play a role similar to what he did with the Boston Celtics. Olynyk finished as the 160th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues last season after averaging 9.0 points on a career-high 51.2 percent shooting, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.9 triples in 20.5 minutes, so don’t feel inclined to take him until the final round or two of your draft.

Waiver-wire fodder

Wayne Ellington, SG

Rodney McGruder, SG

Okaro White, PF

Bam Adebayo, PF

Udonis Haslem, PF

Jordan Mickey, PF

A.J. Hammons, C


Sleeper: Josh Richardson

Bust: Goran Dragic

Other team breakdowns

Atlanta Hawks | Boston Celtics | Brooklyn Nets | Charlotte Hornets | Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Dallas Mavericks | Denver Nuggets | Golden State Warriors | Houston Rockets | Indiana Pacers | Los Angeles Clippers | Los Angeles Lakers | Memphis Grizzlies 

All average draft position info via FantasyPros. All rankings via Basketball Monster are based on nine-category leagues.

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