Starter: Josh Richardson
Bench: James Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Derrick Jones Jr.
It’s really amazing what the Heat have done, quietly, over the four years since LeBron James left the team. The Heat have consistently cultivated high-upside G-League athletes and turned them into killer rotation players, and that’s kept them in the East playoffs despite losing all of the Big Three. The Heat’s small forward rotation is a Sioux Falls Skyforce All-Star team.
Richardson is their foremost rags to riches story, a 6-foot-6 wing that has become a brilliant 3-and-D machine on the wing. Richardson’s taken on more and more on-ball creation duty in each of his three years in Miami, and he’s one of the team’s most versatile defenders. He’s still 25, so there’s still incremental development upside here, and he could be one of the team’s most pivotal players this year if he can take another step forward as a ball-handler.
McGruder, meanwhile, doesn’t have the pop that Richardson does, but he played pretty well in 18 games at the end of last season after a strong showing in the Heat’s 2016-17 turnaround. He is a pretty low-ceiling option, but he can defend multiple positions and is a decent passer.
Jones is the team’s latest reclamation project, a brilliant athlete and stunning dunker who never truly latched on in Phoenix. Miami might have more space for him, and could do better at fleshing out some of his ancillary skills, as he’s not much of a defender at this point. This is about the best development spot for him though, and if he can take a step forward, he gives Miami four legitimate small forwards, along with Johnson, who are all athletic marvels that play sound, mistake-free defense. That’s incredibly valuable in a switch-heavy league.