Coach: Erik Spoelstra
2008-09 Record: 43-39
Pythagorean Record for 08-09: 42-20
Offensive Rating: 107.8 (20th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 107.6 (11th)
Possessions per 48: 89.9 (22nd)
|Offensive||50.0 (16th)||.121 (4th)||.246 (25th)||.212 (26th)|
|Defensive||50.1 (16th)||.145 (4th)||.729 (19th)||.251 (21st)|
Roster (Red indicates new acquisition, Blue indicates rookie) Click to enlarge
Man, you think Dwyane Wade won a few fantasy leagues for his owners last season? After missing 31 games each of the previous two seasons, Wade played 79 games last year. Not only that, but he came back and played easily his career-best season, and would’ve had a great shot at the MVP award if LeBron hadn’t turned in a season for the ages. Surrounded by some seriously offensively deficient teammates, Wade had to create basically all the offense for his team, and he did so brilliantly. His usage rate of 36.2% was by far the highest in the league, and was actually the fourth highest rate ever recorded. To take on that kind of load and have even an average efficiency would be impressive, but Wade’s offensive rating of 115 was well above average. Wade basically did everything we’ve come to expect of him, he just did it more often. He lowered his shoulder and went flying to the rim time and again, either finishing at the rim (66% FG) or drawing contact to get to the line. He created a bunch of shots for his teammates as well, with the 5th highest assist percentage in the league. In addition to that massive offensive load, Wade also managed to make huge contributions on the defensive end. He’s always been great at jumping the passing lanes, but last year he also became a shotblocking force, flying in to reject 1.3 shots per game. Not only was it the best block rate of any guard in the league, but no one else was even in the same zip code as Wade. It’s hard to predict what we’re going to get from Wade this year, because you just can’t trust his health. Despite the fact that he missed only 2 games last season, there are still plenty of reasons to be skeptical. He’s missed 64 games over the last 3 years, and his style of play (throwing himself into contact like a masochistic linebacker) doesn’t lend itself to longevity.
The rest of this roster…ugh. Jermaine O’Neal would be overpaid if he were getting $5 mil a year, much less $22 mil. At this point in his career, his knees just can’t hold up over the course of an 82-game season. He isn’t a good offensive player, he isn’t athletic enough to be a good rebounder anymore, and his only real value at this point is as a quality defender. He’s not even a great defender anymore; he has good timing and knows how to play defense, so he still racks up charges drawn and blocks, but he just doesn’t have the mobility to be a true game-changer. In all likelihood, he’ll miss 20+ games again, take a lot of bad shots, and play good defense. That’s ok if you’re coming off the bench, but if you’re a starter making the third-highest salary in the league — not so much.
Other than Wade, Mario Chalmers was the other real bright spot last year. While he certainly wasn’t spectacular, he played 32 minutes a game as the starting point guard for a 5th-seeded playoff team, and he didn’t embarrass himself. That’s not bad for a rookie second-rounder. Chalmers’ biggest downside was that he turned the ball over at a high rate and wasn’t particularly effective distributing the ball. He’s probably not ever going to have a ton of assists, not playing next to Wade, but his turnovers should drop (most rookies see their turnover rate fall the following season). As long as Chalmers can take care of the ball and knock down some jumpers (he shot 36.7% from deep last year), he has value because of his defense. While he doesn’t have great size, Chalmers is a relentless ball hawk with lightning quick hands, and that led to him having the third-highest steal rate in the league. Between he and Wade, the Heat backcourt is a nightmare to handle the ball against.
On most teams, Udonis Haslem is probably a backup power forward. On this team, he was probably the third best player last year. If that doesn’t make you respect Dwyane Wade, I don’t know what will. Haslem is a good mid-range shooter and a tough, physical defender…and that’s pretty much it. He brings very little to the table offensively and, though he’s a very strong defender, he occasionally gets abused in the post because of his size. Basically, he’s Chuck Hayes with a mid-range jumper. I don’t mean to disparage that, he’d actually be a really good backup post, but when he’s asked to play around 35 minutes a night, and fill in for O’Neal at center when he’s hurt, that’s just too much to ask. He probably won’t be back with the team after his contract expires this year, but he’ll play a prominent role this season since the Heat have such a massive vacuum in the post.
X-Factor: Michael Beasley – I know Beasley has had a tumultuous offseason, to say the least, and a lot of people weren’t impressed by his rookie season, but consider this before you write him off. In the past 20 years, only 6 players have played 2000+ minutes and matched or bettered Beasley’s 27.7 USG% in their rookie year: Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Ben Gordon and Glenn Robinson. Of those 6, only Iverson had a better offensive rating than Beasley. Now, Beasley certainly had his share of problems last season, and there are still question marks swirling around the kid, but there’s no denying that he’s an absurdly talented player. It’s entirely possible that his immaturity keeps him from ever fulfilling his potential. It’s also possible that he gets his head on straight and blows up, Durant-like, in his second season. If that happens, it not only makes Miami a much more formidable team, with two top-notch scorers, but it also makes it that much more likely that Wade decides to stick around to team up with his young partner. A lot rides on Beasley’s fragile shoulders, and he may be the X-Factor for not only this season, but for the future of the franchise as well.
This is a big season for the Heat, because it’s the last one before Dwyane Wade hits the market, and how well they perform may well have a lot to do with whether he resigns or not. If they’re good enough that Wade thinks he can win another title here, then Miami is in good shape. If not…well, that young Chicago team is awfully tempting. The advantage that the Heat have is that they’re probably going to have the cap space to not only resign Wade, but also pursue another max free agent. If Beasley turns into a star and they can entice a guy like Chris Bosh to sign on, that would be tough to walk away from. As for this season, it basically all depends on two guys. Wade and Beasley are the only real offensive options the team has, and both of them are needed if Miami actually wants to make some noise this year. It’s almost comical how bad the rest of the roster is offensively. For example, with all the fouls Wade draws, how can this team still be the fifth-worst team in the league at getting to the free throw line? Unbelievable. We know Wade is going to be brilliant, but we don’t know if he can stay healthy. We have no idea what we’ll see from Beasley. They’ll most likely make the playoffs again, but it’ll be tougher this year, and Wade can only carry them so far on his own.