The Miami Heat roster faces the most turnover going into a season since the summer of 2010. The difference? LeBron James is leaving, not arriving, and those Heat fans who drink from a cup containing half of its maximum volume see it as half empty, not half full.
Still, the Heat figure to be in the mix somewhere near the top of the Eastern Conference. Much to the credit of Pat Riley, Miami bounced back by signing Luol Deng and a bunch of other players who should give this team a fun, competitive identity.
Of the 14 players who are more likely than not to make the regular-season roster (excluding Tyler Johnson, who I would bet makes it to the Sioux Falls Skyforce) seven of them are holdovers from last season and the other seven are new to the team.
Let’s take a look at how the depth chart shapes up, slotting each player in where they should get most of their minutes.
Unless Cole or Napier take some sort of leap, Chalmers will be the No. 1 point guard. The only new face is Shabazz Napier, but he could shake things up. Napier is the most talented scorer of the three, but is also the most raw when it comes to initiating the offense. Chalmers, and to a lesser degree Cole, have the advantage here and figure to get most of the minutes at point guard when the season begins. However, if Napier can develop throughout the season and if Chalmers and Cole struggle to score consistently, Napier could earn himself more playing time.
The only question here is how many games D-Wade will play. In games he does play, the backup minutes will get spread out between Williams, Ennis and some two-point-guard looks. Erik Spoelstra will treat this position more than any other with a bullpen mentality, going with Williams when in need of three-point shooting and Ennis when he needs more athleticism. When he wants to pick up the pace, he will go with a combination of Chalmers, Cole or Napier. Wade says he will play somewhere around 70 games this season and has been getting his body ready for the test, here’s hoping he can pull it off. The Heat could start Danny Granger and Luol Deng on the perimeter in games Wade can’t lace ‘em up.
- Luol Deng
- Danny Granger
When it comes to small forward, think 2010 Dallas Mavericks with Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. Marion started games with defensive intensity and selective shooting while Carter came in later to add a scoring punch. That kind of complementary play is the best-case scenario for the Heat, with Deng a better version of Marion and Granger a less effective, less healthy version of Vince. If Granger can bounce back from his injuries, this figures to be one of the most consistent positions for the Heat.*
I could have just lumped all the power forwards and centers into a “Big Man” category because most of these guys will be interchangeable. However, I figured these three probably won’t see the court much without one of the guys listed as center next to them. McRoberts gets the start and will finally bring a true stretch-4 to the Heat, who have been using Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis in the faux-4 spot for the last three seasons. Williams is more of a faux-4, and you could argue Hamilton is a center. I wouldn’t carry that argument on too long and, frankly, wouldn’t blame you if you listed him at center. However, Hamilton proved that he offers no rim protection whatsoever last season and I suspect Spo will play to his shooting strengths. The Heat could also play small and move Deng to the 4 or go with two centers in a “big” lineup. Without LeBron, the crutch of Miami’s small-ball approach is in Cleveland. Expect some experimentation here.
Nothing new here. Chris and Chris are back, so expect the same minute break down as last season. Bosh will start and Andersen will get roughly 20 minutes (10 minutes in each half) in most games. When Haslem sees the court, he will likely push Bosh to power forward or play along McRoberts because someone needs to space the floor with UD in. Riley seems content with these three as his centers, but he could still replace Greg Oden with another experiment.**
Sans any major injury, this is how the team will shape up. Of course, Spoelstra is known for his position-less approach and guys like Deng, Granger, McRoberts, Reggie and Shawne Wiliams and Chalmers can all be played at different spots. This kind of experimentation comes into play the more Wade sits on the bench. As far as a minutes allocation, I’m hesitant to get into that because of this reason. However, you can bet on a top 8 rounded out by Birdman, Granger and Cole.
Top to bottom, this is still one of the top teams in the East. Bosh will be the focal point of the offense and defense and will be surrounded by a breadth of three-point shooters and strong perimeter defenders. What sticks out most with this team, however, is how smart the players are. Gone are Michael Beasley and Oden*** and in their place are McRoberts, Deng and Granger.
With the Pacers crippled and the Cleveland Cavaliers firmly atop the conference with LeBron and Kevin Love, I expect the Heat will be competing with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards for that No. 2 seed.
*A strange thing to type given that the Heat just lost the best player in the world, who happens to play this position. By the way, sorry to bring up the ’10 Mavs. I know. Still a sore spot for me, too (Eff you Barea!). But I figure on Deng getting somewhere around 32 minutes per game and Granger playing the other 16. The Heat could play McRoberts at small forward without losing out on the athleticism or spacing, too. The Williams Brothers could also be used in a pinch.
***And Ray Allen and Shane Battier and LeBron James but you get the point.