Miami Heat 2013-14 Preview

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LeBron James

Sep 30, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during media day at American Airlines Arena. Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

After winning the Eastern Conference title in 2010-11 and back-to-back NBA Championships in the last two seasons, the Heat have obviously decided to not tinker too much with what’s working. The 2012-13 team remains intact with the exception of Mike Miller and Juwan Howard who have been replaced by Michael Beasley and Greg Oden. Juwan Howard is actually still there, now as an assistant coach.

The Heat have a bench stacked with veterans and, while age and decline could be an issue, the team is built around rotating guys around LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. It’s a strategy that has worked well but it has also left the Heat with one of the oldest teams in the league. Of course, the goal isn’t to win in the future, it’s to win their third straight title and a veteran bench gives you the opportunity to do just that.

The Heat won 66 games last season, let’s look at what we can expect to see from them in 2013-14.

2012-13 Ranks:

Wins: 66

Points Per Game: 5th

FG%: 1st

Points Allowed Per Game: 5th

Rebounds Per Game: 30th

Notable Additions: Michael Beasley, Greg Oden

Notable Losses: Mike Miller, Juwan Howard

Point Guards: Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole – Grade: C+

Chalmers is a good three-point shooter, a true ball thief, and a strong defender. At the same time, he’s likely not a true NBA starter. With no more than 3.5 APG over his last three seasons, and just 8.6 PPG last year, you’d like to see a real point guard here but LeBron and Wade dish the ball most of the time. It’s possible that he loses his starting job to Cole but the Heat have certainly shown that they’re comfortable with Chalmers as the one-guard.

Like Chalmers, Cole isn’t the greatest scorer but he has three-point abilities and averaged 10.1 points, 3.7 assists, 1.3 steals per 36 minutes last year. He and Chalmers are very similar players but Cole is considerably smaller and doesn’t have the three-point percentage that Chalmers has.

Shooting Guards: Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen – Grade: A

Wade is as solid as solid gets. He shot a career-high 52 percent last year and averaged 21 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.1 APG, and 1.9 SPG. He’s a true All-Star who, despite being 31, is still in the peak of his career. Expect more of the same this season.

Allen has been in the league since 1996 but continues to shoot well over 40 percent from three-point range. Last season was the first time in Allen’s career he didn’t start a single game and transitioned to a rotation role nicely, shooting 42 percent from three-point range and averaging 11 PPG. He was a killer in the postseason and remains a big time long-range threat on the Heat bench.

Small Forwards: LeBron James, Shane Battier, Michael Beasley – A+

James has won back-to-back MVPs and now has four MVP awards in his last five seasons. That pretty much sums up LeBron. His career-high .565 field goal percentage last season is monstrous and he added a career-high .406 percentage from three-point range. He added another 7.6 RPG, 6.9 APG, and 1.6 SPG and remains the best player in the game.

Like Allen, Battier doesn’t do much expect shoot threes and play great defense. His shot a career-high 43 percent from behind the arc, higher than his 42 percent shooting from the field. Of course, he attempted very few shots that weren’t from deep. He’s a key role player for the Heat and a devastating shooter that can put games out of reach late with just a few shots.

Beasley was downright miserable last season, averaging 17.6 PPG but shooting just 40.5 percent from the field, the worst of any small forward in the league. He can grab some rebounds but he’ll need to get his shooting back to above 45 percent if he wants to be part of the rotation. I expect a solid turnaround from Beasley this season in a much better situation than he was in last season on the Suns.

Power Forwards: Udonis Haslem, Rashard Lewis, Jarvis Varnado – Grade: C

Haslem has been a staple of the Heat since long before LeBron got there but, at 33, he’s shown significant signs of decline the last three seasons. His points per 36 minutes dropped from 12.7 in 2009-10 to 10.9 in 2010-11, 8.7 in 2011-12, and 7.4 in 2012-13. On the other hand, he put up his best field goal percentage in five years with a .514 and remains a fearsome and physical rebounder. His minutes have diminished in the last couple of years but he’s a reliable weapon to have in the rotation.

Lewis is a rare big man that can shoot from long range but he doesn’t posses the rebounding and defensive skills that Haslem has and shot just .414 from the floor last season. He’ll likely continue to see his court time diminish as well.

Varnado is something of a sleeper, if he gets a chance. He’s played mostly in Europe and in the D-League since being drafted in the second-round in 2010 but has defensive abilities for days. He’s the only player outside of David Robinson to put up 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 500 blocks in college and finished as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year for three consecutive years. He has decent offensive abilities but his defense is flat out special. With just two old guys in the twilight of their career ahead of him on the depth chart, Varnado could finally get some opportunities to show off that stellar defense this season.

Centers: Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen, Joel Anthony, Greg Oden – B

Like so many other players on this team, Bosh posted a career-high field-goal percentage last season, shooting 53.5 percent from the floor. He averaged a strong 16.6 PPG and 1.4 BPG but brought down just 6.8 RPG, the lowest average of his career. He’s not the producer that he was in Toronto anymore but he’s exactly what the Heat need at the four and five.

Andersen has been an underrated defender for a very long time and his first year in Miami finally gave him a chance to shine. He averaged 4.9 PPG, 1.0 BPG, and 4.1 RPG despite playing just 15 MPG. He shot a fantastic 58 percent from the floor and averaged 9.9 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and 12 points per 36 minutes. He proved key in the playoffs and is another great role player that fits perfectly into Erik Spoelstra’s system.

Anthony is another strong defender but one that doesn’t figure to see a lot of court time once again. He has excellent rebounding and shot blocking ability but doesn’t offer much else so there are plenty of other guys that Spoelstra would rather look to.

Oden is the wild card. Out of the NBA since 2009, Oden is attempting to come back from multiple knee surgeries that forced him to retire at just 22-years-old. In the 82 games that he did play over his first two seasons after being drafted first-overall in 2007, he shot a fantastic 58 percent and averaged 12 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes. Clearly it’s unlikely that he’s still that player but he’s always had the talent to be a top NBA center, we’ll see if the he can work past the injuries.

Coach: Erik Spoelstra – B+

It’s been six years since Spoelstra took over the team and it’s still hard to say whether he’s a good coach or not. Before LeBron and Bosh, he coached the Heat to two seasons with 43+ wins but, obviously, everything changed in 2010. At this point, Spoelstra has the easiest job in the world but that’s not to dismiss what he does. He’s great at rotating players to reflect the game situation and Pat Riley has given him a great veteran bench to work with and has kept the core unit intact. In any case, he’s won the NBA Championship in back-to-back seasons and, while we’re not crowning him Phil Jackson, he’s the most successful coach in the NBA right now.

Team Grade: A

Igor Derysh is Editor-at-Large at XN Sports and has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sun-Sentinel, and FantasyPros. He has previously covered sports for COED Magazine, Fantasy Alarm, and Manwall.com.
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