Last season the Miami Heat (47-35) finished fifth in the East. In the postseason, the Boston Celtics eliminated them in five games of round one. That poor performance plus their thin starting lineup made Miami go back to the drawing board where they definitely redrew the team in the image of superstar LeBron James (.503 FG%, .333 3PT%, .767 FT%, 7.3 RPG, 8.6 APG, 29.7 PPG). James, who could not bring a championship to Cleveland, will now try to do so in Miami.
In the frontcourt, small forward James is a massive force. He’ll be joined by another major star power forward Chris Bosh (.518 FG%, .364 3PT%, .797 FT%, 10.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, 24.0 PPG). Bosh averaged double-doubles in points and rebounds last season with Toronto. Now he’s finally on a potential championship team and guys like Bosh usually step it up when that happens.
The frontcourt, however, is not as strong as it could be as Miami lacks a true force at center. Veteran Zyndrunas Ilgauskas (.443 FG%, .478 3PT%, .743 FT%, 5.4 RPG, 7.4 PPG) might do some of the job. But the 35-year-old center can’t be expected to play much more than 20 minutes a game. Undersized Udonis Haslem (.494 FG%, .000 3PT%, .762 FG%, 8.1 RPG, 9.9 PPG) might also try to move to the central spot. But he doesn’t have the height to command the paint. Look for the Heat to try to generate a trade in this area during the season. What they need is a solid defensive force in the paint.
The backcourtis versatile and strong. Shooting guards Mike Miller (.501 FG%, .480 3PT%, .824 FT%, 6.2 RPG, 3.9 APG, 10.9 PPG) and Dwayne Wade (.476 FG%, .300 3PT%, .761FT%, 4.8 RPG, 6.5 APG, 26.6 PPG), who was resigned to a six-year deal, offer excellent shooting chops. Miller is the best shooter on the team. He can drain it from downtown at a rate that’s close to 50%! Along with being a fine shooter, Wade has the ability to be a solid playmaker by dishing off assists.
Miller and Wade with Mario Chalmers (.401 FG%, .318 3PT%, .745 3PT%, 3.4 APG, 7.1 PPG) and Bosh and James make for a group of excellent perimeter shooters. The great thing about both Wade and James is that they won’t hog the ball. If they see someone with a better shot, they’ll get it to them. That’s an important quality to possess when you have an arsenal the likes of the Heat’s.
What can you really expect this year? First, look for Miami’s Offensive Efficiency, which was 104.5 (19th), to improve. James and Bosh will have that effect. What is especially hopeful for this team is the fact that they have three of the four top guys who led the league in player efficiency last year. The guys with top PERs were James (31.9), Wade (28.10) and Bosh (25.11). This is a team that should be able to churn out points.
They should also continue to be tough on opposing shooters. Last season they were second in the NBA in challenging 2PT FG (46.9) and Total FG (43.9) The Heat’s Defensive Efficiency was at 100.9 (4th). That may improve or at the very least stay the same. This will be a very good club on “D.”
Head coach Erik Spoelstra(90-74) starts his third year at the helm of the Heat. In both seasons, Spoelstrahas gotten the team to the postseason but they have not made it out of the first round. Quite honestly, he did some great work in the regular season with a team that was lacking. Now it’s time to show some stamina in the postseason. If he can’t get this amazing team to go deep into the playoffs, people will have to wonder about his abilities.
Miami may be the best team in the East. With three top players and a solid bench this club is going to be tough to beat, especially in the playoffs. The weakness at center is a concern, but then again the tandem of Bosh and James helps to alleviate that worry. The Heat should take their division and the conference. They may also win their second NBA Championship. They won their first in 2006 with Pat Riley at the helm. It may just be time.
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