TNT’s Miller, Webber assess Heat’s place in Eastern hierarchy

Both spoke on a TNT conference call.

TNT’s primary game analysts share the conventional wisdom that the Heat should ultimately finish as a middle of the pack playoff team.

In a conference call previewing the network’s coverage, Reggie Miller said he sees the Heat on the cusp of the fourth seed.

“The question will be: Can their second half last year, where they played phenomenal, just missing the playoffs - can that expand to 82 games,” Miller said. “You’ve got obviously a centerpiece in [Hassan] Whiteside, who’s an unbelievable talent. Dion Waiters is going to have to stay healthy. He kind of evolved into their go to guy, a voice on this team. But he’s got to stay healthy.

“You rewarded Josh Richardson with a nice four-year contract. A guy that really came out of nowhere out of Tennessee and became a pretty steady player for Erik Spoelstra. Tyler Johnson, another unknown, who given the minutes outperformed what everyone said about him. So they have the pieces around him.

“To me, they’re on thefringe of that fourth seed. They’re the second best team in the Southeast Division obviously behind Washington. To me, you’ve got Cleveland, Boston, Toronto and then you have to start thinking about Miami and if they can have an 82-game schedule like the second half of last year.

“Health is going to play a major role in that. The young players are going to have to develop like Justise Winslow. But they have the pieces there to be one of those teams on a nightly basis to be a very competitive team.

“And let’s not forget the man who’s the president who’s not going to settle for mediocrity, and that’s Pat Riley. So they are right there on the fringe. The question is can they stay healthy and are they committed like we’ve seen most Pat Riley led teams... Are they going to be relentless to play hard each and every night?”

TNT’s Chris Webber said of the Heat: “Let’s start with the way they ended the season.... It takes a lot of time to trust the system or buy into a team concept when you aren’t the main guy... It just seems like they’ve gone through their growing pains with this new unit without the leadership of a D-Wade. Of course, they still have [Goran] Dragic, who’s a wonderful leader. At the same time, they don’t have that star on the floor...

That chemistry that they have built. I would not put them up there with Washington yet because they still have to prove themselves. And Washington has to prove themselves consistently. But if they made the playoffs, you sure wouldn’t want to play them in the playoffs because as the season goes on [they get better].

“It depends on the dedication of Hassan Whiteside and how well they can score offensively. We know they play well defensively. I see them as middle of the pack to that fourth spot, and that’s all based upon how well they played last year. It just seemed like something clicked for them where guys have confidence in themselves. They understood what their roles. And they bought in. So middle of the pack is at least where I would expect those guys to be.”

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