By: Rob Surbrook
They signed Ray Allen, the best shooter of their nemesis, and possibly the best shooter in the world. They signed Rashard Lewis, who is largely garbage, but again, he can shoot and stretch the floor for the new-new-look small ball Heat. As Bill Simmons likes to say, the scariest thing about the Heat is their willingness to stray away from the traditional basketball positional setup of two big men, two wings, and a point. Instead, they find themselves unstoppable when Chris Bosh is their biggest player on the floor, and they have shooters spacing the floor and giving Dwyane Wade and LeBron room to do their thing. And it’s all held together by the positionless wonder himself, LBJ. Defensively, he’ll guard any player at any position, and offensively he’s found a way to play point guard from the post.
But with the improvements of nearly every Western Conference championship contender, the Heat need to figure a way to sustain the play they achieved in the playoffs, and in my opinion, that starts with keeping the starting lineup from last spring:
Mario Chalmers: Chalmers hasn’t exactly developed like the Heat hoped he would have coming out of college, but he is overall a stable player for his position. He improved his dribble-drive game against the highest competition in the playoffs and doesn’t hurt the team with his shooting and decision making, although refinement of both should continue to happen.
Dwayne Wade: Still one of the best players in the game, Wade really started to accept his role as second-banana in terms of offensive usage and it really helped the flow of the team and its offensive efficiency. He’s lost a step to age and injury, but he’s still one of the game’s best difference-makers on defense as well. His ability to stay healthy in the wake of surgery is probably the team’s biggest question mark, and honestly, it isn’t that questionable.
LeBron James: What can I say that hasn’t been said before? It becomes harder and harder to figure out the holes in Bron’s game as the years go on. I guess the biggest thing he needs to do is make sure he doesn’t revert back to the days before he perfected his inside-outside game. I’m a little scared to see what we’ll see out of him this year.
Shane Battier: When Erik Spoelstra slotted him in to start at “power forward” during the playoffs last year, the Heat really found their identity as a small-ball club. His defense against bigger post players was something that I didn’t personally see coming, but hey, if it works, it works. As long as he can keep defying age and hitting open threes to go with that defense, the Detroit Country Day grad should find himself a starting gig once again.
Chris Bosh: The unsung hero of this team, the half in the Two-and-a-half men joke proved his worth to every doubter last year when he came back from injury just in time to save the Heat from another early playoff exit. He plays better than advertised defense, and can hit a jumper like KG in his prime. He definitely should have shut up the trade talks by now.
Bench: Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, and Mike Miller’s reanimated corpse (is this joke still funny?) can all hit threes, although Allen gives you no defense or rebounding, and Lewis gives you no defense. Norris Cole showed signs of being able to thrive in the type of offense the Heat would like to run, but he can get a little out of control at times. He’ll mature. Dexter Pittman will be gone soon if he doesn’t start giving some positive minutes, and Mickell Gladness is another non-factor, but he has a new deal, so they must see something in him. Joel Anthony is undersized and athletic, but doesn’t add much to the Heat’s scheme. He’s a good paint defender. Udonis Haslem is like the cool uncle of the team. He is usually awesome and adds positivity when he’s around, but occasionally he shows up drunk. Not literally, sometimes he just plays like he is.