For all the drama of what could have been with Giannis Antetokounmpo and whatever may or may not come of James Harden, the roster that the Miami Heat will open the season with Wednesday against the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center remains largely intact from last season.
That means that growth will have to come internally, through continued development.
But growth spurts in the NBA eventually mirror real life. Ultimately, you are what you are.
With that in mind, a longtime NBA scout this past week was asked to assess the growth potential of Erik Spoelstra’s roster, evaluate the next steps, in either direction, for those who return from the team that advanced to last season’s NBA Finals.
The scale is a simple 1 to 10, with a 10 meaning unlimited growth remains possible, a 1 connoting that it’s all downhill from here, and a 5 the grade of a player who will go forward this season at the same level as last season.
As could be expected, the young players who showed the most growth last season are expected to continue to ascend, while the team’s 30-somethings will be hard-pressed to maintain the form that boosted the Heat to last season’s NBA Finals.
Scout’s take: “8 or 9. Because he’s gone pretty far already. He’s sort of an asterisk guy, because he’s already made a considerable jump. If you asked me at the start of last year, it would have been a 10, unreservedly. But now, he’s already started that growth.”
Our take: Now that he has the money, with his $163 million extension, the drive will increase, to justify management’s decision.
Scout’s take: “4. He has no more upside. He can only go down. I’d say a 4. I’d be shocked if he does more, but that’s also because he reached his ultimate potential last season. More? I’d be surprised.”
Our take: Is there any doubt he gave every last ounce in last season’s playoffs? Simply, he should not be asked or expected to give more.
Scout’s take: “2? He is on the downside. I mean, for him to add something else at this point, that would be unusual.”
Our take: As with Butler, it’s almost as if Dragic maxed out in the playoffs, with his contribution. Expecting that for an entire season would be excessive.
Scout’s take: “1. How can you add when you don’t to play?”
Our take: Unless, of course, that long-awaited 3-point shot arrives.
Scout’s take: “9. It has to do with doing it over the long haul. His growth will come in sustaining in what he has shown. So far, he has shown it over a brief period. So now we’re waiting to see if he can do it night in and night out. It’s not doing more, but more often.”
Our take: He has heard plenty about being targeted defensively. That, alone, is a blueprint for the next step.
Scout’s take: “1. He probably maintained a certain level. But going forward, for this year, you’re not going to see something better. Totally old dog and new tricks.”
Our take: But Iguodala also never seemed fully acclimated last season, so, even at 36, there could be development from a chemistry standpoint.
Scout’s take: “5. What you see is what you’re going to get. He’s made some progress. He’s probably very happy with himself. He hit a groove. But I don’t see much development.”
Our take: Tend to agree. He was a space-eating, space-creating center and likely will continue to be a space-eating, space-creating center.
Scout’s take: “5. I mean, growing where? Doing what? Maybe he’s a 4, because maybe he’s topped out. Where specifically in his game are you going to see growth? What is he really going to do better? I don’t see it. Hopefully, he maintains.”
Our take: There has to be another step defensively, and he seemingly has the tools.
Scout’s take: “7 or 8. He’s nothing at this point, so it’s all upside, blank canvas and hope.”
Our take: And then came Friday night against the Raptors, when the hope turned into a reason for optimism. All upside, indeed.
Scout’s take: “5. I think he’ll maintain. He’s at the stage of his career where there’s no surprises. He’s pretty good and he does what he does, and we’re not going to see much more.”
Our take: That about hits it on the head, as Friday’ performance against Toronto showed.
Scout’s take: “7. He’s like Bam, in that sense. He’s made that huge jump, obviously. I’d give him a 7, because maybe he can put the ball on the floor a little bit more. Maybe he rebounds a little bit better. But to me, it’s only smaller degrees from here.”
Our take: At 6-7, 215, could there be growth into a stretch four? That could free up the rest of the clogged perimeter rotation.
Scout’s take: “5. I mean, for his sake, it’s about staying in the league. He’s not going to become a better shooter. Yes, there can be growth.”
Our take: It almost has felt like regression since the breakout at the start of last season. And then more meh on Friday against Toronto.