2009/10 Review:

It’s almost irrelevant to talk about the Heat’s last season because there won’t be any sign of continuity between last season’s version and the current powerhouse that the Heat have transformed into during the offseason.

Nevertheless it is curious to notice that basically the Miami Heat was no more than a Cavaliers’ poor version in the last 2 years, as they overachieved during the regular season, but when the playoffs came they were no match for the real best teams in the league.

Dwayne Wade once again carried the team on his shoulders with another monster season, but when your two best young players (Chalmers and Beasley) don’t develop into solid and consistent players and your theoretically second best offensive option (Jermaine O’Neal) had a playoff series in which he shot 20% from the field (against the Celtics), then you know that your team is way far from being a top team in the NBA.

2009/10 Advanced Stats:

Pace 28th 92.9
Offense 19th 104.4
Defense 7th 101.6
Rebounds 11th +1.09

2010/2011 Outlook:

Projected Depth Chart:

PG: Carlos Arroyo, Mario Chalmers, Patrick Beverley
SG: Dwyane Wade, Eddie House, Kenny Hasbrouck
SF: LeBron James, Mike Miller, James Jones, Da’Sean Butler
PF: Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Juwan Howard, Shavlik Randolph
C: Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jamaal Magloire, Dexter Pittman

First of all, let’s give some merit to Pat Riley and his vision/plan a couple of years ago. Others teams in the NBA tried to pull the same plan, but it was ultimately the Heat that received the biggest prize. To make Riley’s actions even more impressive, the Heat was still competitive in the last 2 seasons even though their objectives were focused in the 2010 free agency market.

The offseason started with the re-signing of Dwyane Wade, closely followed by the signing of Chris Bosh and then capped off with the signing of the reigning MVP in LeBron James. The first notion of “sacrifice” was given when these 3 superstar players gave up of receiving huge money, if they had chosen instead to play for their former teams. To make a long story short in here, I just need to say that Wade, James and Bosh together will receive in this season about the same as Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol for the Los Angeles Lakers! Also Udonis Haslem turned down more lucrative offers to sign a five-year contract with the Heat for only about $4 million per year and before that, swingman Mike Miller chose the Heat over the Knicks, Cavaliers, Clippers and the Bulls, so the first stone of this “new” franchise was written using the word “sacrifice”.

After this brief introduction, the pertinent question that every NBA fan has made was: can these 3 guys play together and keep everyone’s egos in check?

They received a lot of criticism after their decision especially Lebron James, but many people seem to forget these players thought in EVERYTHING before making an decision and still didn’t mind in playing together. If the plan goes well for them, then Lebron James will always have one less Championship ring than Dwayne Wade who has already one, but guess what? He doesn’t care about it, otherwise he wouldn’t join Wade and the Heat!

By talking about egos, go back to the 2005-06 Miami Heat team that managed to secure their first title ever. They featured in Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton and Antoine Walker three of the biggest egos in the NBA at the time and still won it all because every player shared one desire, and that was to win.

If you are a superstar player in any sport, it’s not that hard to play along with another superstar player (who by the way is your friend), hard is to play with mediocre teammates(!) and that’s why Kobe Bryant was so frustrated with his team a couple of seasons ago when he had to play with the likes of Smush Parker or Kwame Brown.

Note that when we are talking about Lebron James and Dwayne Wade, we are talking about two players who have court vision and are the definite definition of all around players, as they don’t need to score to make an impact in the game. If Allen Iverson had signed back in the day for the Rockets to play along with Tracy McGrady, then I would be truly worried about the Rockets’ chances because these 2 players are basically scorers - indeed they were the best that the league had, but there’s only one ball to play in the game. With Lebron and Wade, this isn’t the case, as they are complete all around players.

Yes, they won’t be able to shot 20.1 and 19.6 field goals per game nor average 29.7 and 26.6 points per game and probably the discussion will appear when Miami loses a tight game in the final possession because it would be better Wade to shoot in that play instead of Lebron, but let’s not forget that we are talking about two players that were in the top 10 of Assists per game last season and averaged 7.3 and 4.8 rebounds per game, while being selected for the first and second All-Defensive Teams in the last 2 years: their game is way more than just scoring.

Man.. I was talking about Lebron and Wade that I simply forgot Chris Bosh and he gives the Heat their first legitimate post presence since Shaquille O’Neal left the team in the middle of the 2006-07 season. Bosh is coming off a career season by averaging career highs in points (24.0), rebounds (10.8) and in field goal percentage (51.8%). However he couldn’t help his former team to qualify to the playoffs in the last 2 years and let’s be honest: his defense was way off from being top notch. Likely his scoring average will dip a bit, but for him (and for the team) it is imperative that he improves in two important facets in the game: overall defense and offensive rebounding. Note that we was the 9th best offensive rebounder in the league last season, but now with Lebron and Wade sharing the spotlight and attempting more FG’s, it’s imperative that some of the Bosh offensive production came from grabbing an offensive board and score in that way. Also in order for Miami to be a terrific defensive team, then CB4 will have to improve his toughness, which I believe he will because it’s all about his mind.

This trio can succeed in the NBA like “others trios” did in the past:

In Boston’s championship season back in 2008, Pierce, Allen, and Garnett averaged a combined 55.8 points per game, while the team averaged 100.6 points -  55.5 percent of the team’s scoring.

In San Antonio’s title year in 2007, the big three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker posted a combined 55.1 points, while the team averaged 98.5 points per contest - 56 percent of the team’s scoring.

Note that both the Celtics and the Spurs were at the time a bit older, so are you telling me that these three players playing in their prime aren’t able to put build together a dynasty? C’mon man!

Beyond those 3 players, there are still 2 positions to fill in the starting lineup and a whole second unit to play some minutes. The truth is that Pat Riley made a terrific job in proving solid contribution under the tight financial circumstances surrounding the team.

For the Point Guard position, the Heat doesn’t need a traditional PG playmaker because they already have two playmakers on the team. They need only their guard to play solid defense and in this area, Mario Chalmers has the advantage or to be a good spot-up shooter and in here Arroyo is more efficient. Plus, don’t be surprised if Spoelstra uses Lebron James in a kind of Magic Johnson role on the team. Lebron averaged 8.6 assists-per game last season and actually he sees the court the way Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Chris Paul see the court, but with a power forward’s body.

In that scenario, Mike Miller will be on the court just to pay the opposing team’s price of double teaming Lebron, Wade or Bosh. Offensively he only needs to stand out behind the three-point arc and knock the ball down when left wide open. Last season he was the second best 3 pointer shooter in the league only behind Kyle Korver and there is no reason to think otherwise, when the rankings are revealed at the end of this upcoming season.

In order to the Heat win a Championship they will have to “survive” against Dwight Howard, Garnett and the both O’Neal’s or against Gasol and Bynum and that is the biggest challenge for the team when the playoffs arrive.

Udonis Haslem is a guy that will bring defense, rebounding, hustle, attitude and energy to the court, but he is ultimately undersized to play against the “bigs” in this league. At the center position the Heat is counting with Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jamaal Magloire and the overall quality of this unit is years behind the other spots in the roster. Anthony is a terrific shot blocker and an overall good defender, but again he is undersized when compared against Howard, O’Neal or Bynum.

Finally we have to talk about head coach Erik Spoelstra, who looked to be a good head coach in a team that lacked talent beyond Dwayne Wade. Now that the objectives are way bigger, will he be up to the task?  Let’s be honest in here, if the team has some troubles early on how long will Pat Riley wait to take over this team?!

The Heat are poised to simply dominate in the regular season. but when the playoffs come let’s see how they figure out. Hate it or love it, the Miami Heat is the main responsible for an impressive hype that the league didn’t have since the time of the great MJ.