29 August 2007

The Southeast Division Outlook, Part Three: Miami Heat

The so-called Dog Days of Summer are here, which means the NBA season is still an eternity away -- and by 'an eternity', I mean 'two months'. Free-agents have been allowed to sign with teams for over a month, and there aren't any stars left in the pool. In other words, barring trades, most NBA teams have their core group of players in place, which means it's not unreasonable to start evaluating them.

Bearing that in mind, I thought I'd review the moves the Magic and their Southeast rivals made this summer and how those moves change the complexion of the division.

The Division Outlook series will run through this week and in alphabetical order by city. Today's post features the Miami Heat.

Miami Heat

Last season: 44-38, first in Southeast

  • Guard Daequan Cook (via draft)
  • Guard Penny Hardaway (via free-agency from career limbo)
  • Forward Alexander Johnson (via free-agency from Memphis)
  • Guard Smush Parker (via free-agency from the Los Angeles Lakers)
  • Guard Eddie Jones (via free-agency to Dallas)
  • Forward Jason Kapono (via free-agency to Toronto)
  • Forward James Posey (via free-agency to Boston)
The lingering health issues of Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal are only the first of many concerns the Heat should have entering this season. In addition to injuries to their franchise cornerstones, the Heat face the reality of a supporting cast of has-beens with deteriorating skills (Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton, Jason Williams, and Antoine Walker), the departure of three solid wing contributors (Jones, Kapono, and Posey), and a dearth of young talent (Chris Quinn? Daequan Cook? Dorell Wright?). It's not all lost, though; they still have Udonis Haslem, a solid complement to Shaquille O'Neal, in the starting lineup at the four. Other than that, what's the good news?

Well, they are just one year removed from, you know, winning an NBA title with mostly the same core of guys. Then again, they're also just a few months removed from getting swept out of the first round of the playoffs... with mostly the same core of guys. However, it's difficult to bet against a team with the deadly combo of Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal, provided that both players are healthy. However, with the possibility that Wade may miss the start of the season, the Heat may have to dig themselves out of a hole if they hope to repeat as division champs.

Given the new dynamics in the Southeast division this summer, it's not farfetched to imagine that Shaq will be hitting the golf links earlier than he is used to next season; the Heat are no longer playoff locks.
Photo by David Dow, NBA Entertainment

From an additon/subtraction standpoint, the Heat lost more than they gained. If they're banking on Hardaway to replicate Jones' numbers (9.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists), they're going to be disappointed. Penny hasn't had a season like that since 2002/2003; his best years are well behind him. Parker should be an adequate replacement for Gary Payton should he choose to retire; the same could be said for Alexander Johnson, who could play for Alonzo Mourning if 'Zo gets fatigued. What the Heat can't replace is Jason Kapono's three-point shooting (.514 %, first in the league) and James Posey's hustle.

Is another division title out of the question? Absolutely not. But the Heat's grip on the Southeast loosened considerably this summer, making the possibility of Orlando or Washington seizing it much more likely.

1 comment:


The Heat have 1 thing going for them; Wade.

However, as I predicted a few years ago, it will be really tough for him to stay healthy. No player can fall, over and over, regardless if it's on his own doing, or a defender puts him there, and expect to stay healthy. The odds are against him.

Beyond Wade, Shaq is the next best thing they have; and he's more of a star today because of his name, rather than what he does on the floor.

In the past 3 years, he's played 73, 59, and 40 games. All his numbers have continued to decline. It's well known that Shaq isn't a "workaholic", and he's no where close to young. The moment the Pistons dominated him in the Finals, I personally considered the SHAQ everyone knew and loved, no more. Sure he can still help a team out, but he can't be a 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd option.

It's kind of sad to watch him play (when he actually does play), because he used to be so great. But I guess you could say that for most of the players on the Heat roster.

Honestly, I think the Bobcats are a better team.

And the only way the Heat is going to make the playoffs is if Wade is healthy, and plays all year. But I said before, the odds are against him, not only for how he plays the game, but because of what happened this off season with NBA Officials. Because if there were ever a season for "star treatment" to be at an all time low, it will be this coming one.