Is the Miami Heat’s lackluster start a cause for concern?

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 09: Hassan Whiteside
MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 09: Hassan Whiteside /

The Miami Heat have once again fallen victims of a slow start, but should it really be a cause for concern?

At the start of the 2017-18 NBA season, fans and critics alike were hard-pressed to determine which Eastern Conference teams would make the push to the top.’s Sekou Smith wrote in his season preview that the Miami Heat might find themselves on the cusp of greatness, particularly after the comeback that was the second half of the 2016-17 season.

"“They are back. That Miami Heat team that played inspired basketball the second half of the 2016-17 season (a 30-11 mark after an 11-30 start) is poised for a significant rise this season. Sure, they’ll have to do it without a true superstar. But they have enough quality players, continuity and organizational and coaching excellence to buck the “super team” trend they helped energize and make some noise in the Eastern Conference.”"

Now, seven games into the season, and the Heat are sitting at 3-4, having ridden a three-game losing streak into the 97-91 win against the Chicago Bulls last night.

Looking back to the 2016-17 calendar, a sub-.500 record is quite familiar. The Heat began last year’s campaign just the same, tallying wins against the Orlando Magic and the Sacramento Kings while dropping off against the Charlotte Hornets, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Oklahoma City Thunder.

At the time, the Heat had access to their centerpiece, Hassan Whiteside, while workshopping the integration of Justise Winslow, Luke Babbit and Dion Waiters. Early in November of last year, headlines like “Heat Starters Disappear in Ugly Loss Against OKC” became the norm, only excused by Miami’s collective inexperience and youth dominated roster.

One year later and the team from South Beach have shown that they can rally around head coach Erik Spoelstra, with newcomers like Kelly Olynyk having bought into the obvious youth movement in Miami.

Given that the losses this season – to the Magic, Spurs, Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves – all came against teams largely expected to find some success this year, Heat Nation should shouldn’t be too concerned with the poor start.

The Heat are showing signs of finding their footing. 19 turnovers against the Celtics and a season high 24 against the Timberwolves are surely worrisome, but many of those came from misplaced passes and not careless mistakes.

Furthermore, with Whiteside having been out with a bone bruise, the Heat are testing out different rotations both in the front court, as well as off the bench. Rookie Bam Adebayo earned the first start of his career against the Spurs, accompanied by defensive assignments of LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. That’s a tall order for a number of big men in the league, and having the chance to bang in the post early in his career should shake off some of Adebayo’s first-year jitters.

As the Heat settle into finding their players the right roles, Goran Dragic has proved to be the most consistent of the bunch. Averaging a hair under 20 points per game, Dragic has put the burden on the squad playing 48 minutes worth of good basketball, and not leaving wins up to chance.

"“I feel like we didn’t play good at all,” Dragic said after the Boston loss. “Defensively, too many open shots, too many points in the paint and even on offense we didn’t look good. Maybe that fourth quarter when we were chasing them back it was a little bit better. But the game is 48 minutes. So we cannot just relax the other quarters and think you’re going to win games easily.”"

Next: Hassan Whiteside's return pushes Miami Heat past Chicago Bulls

Ultimately the early season doldrums should only be alarming if the Heat don’t show progress with keeping the ball safe on offense. Coach Spo has the team primed for active ball movement, but turnovers can be the difference between suiting up come April, or watching the playoffs from the couch.