Heat Need 5 Questions Answered

5 of 6

Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Can Shabazz Napier and James Ennis be key contributors?

The Heat haven’t had a great track record of developing young players over the years. When they’ve had to rely on them, it has been the result of the Heat coming off a rough season and needing them to play big minutes as the team tries to find its way. Then when those players produce, Miami uses them as bait to get a star.

But they can do it. The 2003-04, 2008-09, and 2009-10 versions of the Heat are perfect examples of Heat squads that the Riley/Spoelstra system has had youngsters take a bigger role on those given teams. Names like Wade, Caron Butler, Udonis Haslem, Chalmers, and Michael Beasley all played important parts in helping those given teams make what may have been considered to be unlikely postseason appearances.

Which brings us to Napier and Ennis. Napier will have the training wheels on to start the season, as he will have time to develop behind Chalmers and Norris Cole. How fast he learns on the job will have an effect on what Miami decides to do with Cole, as his contract expires at the end of this coming season. With Chalmers signed for two seasons, Napier could be in prime position to get the keys to the car starting in 2016-17.

Ennis is the big X-factor. The Heat have been quiet in the backup shooting guard market, as this might be a vote of confidence for giving Ennis the first crack at the opportunity, as opposed to bringing in a Jordan Crawford or trading Cole for a guard, before seeing what Napier can do. There’s enough veterans on this team to help hold Ennis’ hand, but it’s going to be up to him to have his shot fall and provide enough help on defense to not be a liability. As we saw with Beasley, you can have all the offensive talent in the world. But if you can’t be an asset on defense, Spoelstra will park you on the bench.