The Miami Heat have made it to the NBA Finals twice in the past four years, including last season.
The Detroit Pistons are coming off a dreadful season in which they finished with the worst record in the NBA at 17-65.
Those two teams will open their seasons against one another on Wednesday night when the Heat face visiting Detroit.
In the offseason, Miami tried to acquire star guard Damian Lillard from Portland, but he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks instead.
Other than that, the Heat were fairly quiet, losing a pair of rotation players to free agency: Gabe Vincent (Los Angeles Lakers) and Max Strus (Cleveland Cavaliers). Those two players combined to average 20.9 points last season.
In the first round of this year’s draft, Miami selected Jaime Jaquez Jr., a 6-foot-6 wing who can play both forward positions. The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year, Jaquez is a relatively mature NBA rookie at age 22, and perhaps he can make an immediate impact.
All eyes will be on Heat combo guard Tyler Herro, who would have been the key player sent to Portland for Lillard, according to multiple reports.
Herro was also rumored to be a potential piece included in a trade for Bradley Beal.
“I didn’t speak to (Heat management) all summer,” Herro told The Ringer. “I thought I was out of here.”
Despite defensive struggles, Herro was one of Miami’s main contributors last season, averaging 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists while shooting 43.9 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from 3-point range.
Herro will again be joined by stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Last season, Butler led the Heat in scoring average (22.9 points per game), assists (5.3 per game) and steals (1.8 per game). Adebayo was the team’s leading rebounder with 9.2 boards per game while also averaging 20.4 points and 3.2 assists.
Meanwhile, the optimism in Motown revolves around its new coach, Monty Williams, and Detroit’s young phenom, Cade Cunningham.
After leading the Phoenix Suns to a 194-115 record over the past for seasons, Williams has been given the richest contract in league history — $78.5 million over six years.
Cunningham, a 6-foot-6 point guard, is back after shin surgery cost him all but 12 games last season. In 76 games over two NBA seasons, Cunningham is averaging 17.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
This past summer, Cunningham scrimmaged against Team USA as it prepared for the World Cup and — according to reports — he was often the best player on the court.
“I feel healthy again,” Cunningham said over the summer. “My leg isn’t a problem for me right now. So I think that’s the biggest difference — just that I can just play freely and not think about my body too much.”
Cunnigham is part of a young Detroit core that also includes second-year guard Jaden Ivey and Ausar Thompson, the No. 5 overall pick of the 2023 draft.
The Pistons also lean on veteran forward Bojan Bogdanovic, who averaged a team-high 21.6 points per game last season. However, Bogdanovic will miss Wednesday’s game due to right calf soreness.