Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Your 2009 Miami Heat Season Preview

The Miami Heat open their season tonight against the oh-so-hated New York Knicks. Here's what you need to know about the team this year, and what to expect from them.

Oh, 2006, you seem like such a distant memory...

The Basics:
- 2008 Record:
43-39, 5th seed in the East, lost in 1st round of playoffs to the Atlanta Hawks
- Coach: Erik Spoelstra, second season.
- Opening Night Starting Five: PG Mario Chalmers, SG Dwyane Wade, SF Quentin Richardson, PF Michael Beasley, C Jermaine O'Neal.
- Key Additions: SF Quentin Richardson, PG Carlos Arroyo
- Key Losses: SF Jamario Moon

The Analysis: The Miami Heat’s 2008-2009 season ended in the first round of the NBA playoffs in a seventh and decisive game against the Atlanta Hawks. The Heat did not really make any power moves, and this is because the organization failed in trying to bring Lamar Odom or Carlos Boozer to town is trying to have as much salary cap space as possible for the very much hyped summer of 2010. As it stands now, the Heat will have the most cap space in what is sure to be a legendary summer of free agent signings. That’s right, they will even have more than the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets. Another perk that goes in the Heat’s favor is that they can pay Dwyane Wade more than any other team can. The Heat would also have enough money to bring in another, or maybe even two, superstars!

…wait, we still have to get through the 2009 NBA regular season? Oh, okay. Sorry about that loyal failures (because you are readers of our blog not because you are inept in life), where was I? Oh right, let’s get back on track shall we?

The Miami Heat didn’t make any major changes, but there were plenty of subtle ones. Jamario Moon left the Heat to sign with the Cleveland Lebrons in hopes of winning a title this season. The South Florida franchise parted ways with Mark Blount and traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Luther Head decided to sign with the Pacers as a free agent. Don’t get the wrong idea though - the Heat did manage to sign some role players as well. The Heat’s biggest move was the addition of Quentin Richardson in the aforementioned Blount trade, and it looks as though Q-Rich will finally being staying put after a surely hectic offseason. Q-Rich will be starting at the 3 spot for the Heat come tonight against the hated Knicks, and his 3-point shooting ability will definitely be a big help (35.4% from Eric Reid Kaboom-land in his career). The Heat also signed Shavlik Randolph, a forward in his fourth year out of Duke. I don’t really see this player doing much for the Heat this season, but he’s 6-10 236 so I won’t say no. Finally, the Miami Heat signed FIU product Carlos Arroyo (he of Puerto Rican Olympic basketball fame) only two short weeks ago. I think Arroyo will see a solid amount of time backing up Mario Chalmers with Chris Quinn. I wouldn’t doubt it if he’s in games late to ice them with his career 80% from the FT line. Now, let’s talk about the returning pieces of the puzzle.

Let’s start with the bench players and work our way up into the role players, shall we? Dorell Wright, five years later and we still don’t know what to say about this kid. He undoubtedly has potential, but he has never been able to tap into it and become the star we have been hoping for. Maybe this year could be that year that Dorell steps it up, but prior history would say that he will remain with limited minutes in a limited role. The Heat used Jamaal Magloire for his presence on defense as well as to be able to be the player to commit fouls when necessary, and I do not see his role expanding from that this year either. The Miami native, James Jones, will continue to have somewhat of a role as a shooting specialist this season, but I would not be surprised if we saw more of him. Yahkouba Diawara will continue to have his role on the court for his length, so expect Coach Spo’ to put him in for specialized defensive situations. The same role can also be attributed to Joel Anthony, who will be seeing time as Jermaine O’Neal’s back up. Joel Anthony’s role on the team could be expanded very easily due to the major question mark that is O’Neal’s health (knock on wood). Quinn will still get substantial time as a back up to Super Mario this season, and I will allow it due to his heart and hustle [Ed. Note: some would say he’s scrappy!]. Daequan Cook will be seeing a lot of time this season in a more expanded version of James Jones role on the team. Cook has shown clutch ability and can easily sink the shot from downtown. He is one Ohio State Buckeye in a Miami franchise that I CAN stomach from night-to-night (I’m looking at you, Ted Ginn). The sixth man on the team, along with the starters, will get a more in-depth look.

The Heat made a kind of surprising move in putting their captain, Udonis Haslem, on the bench. Both the Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald have reported that the coaching staff of the Heat has elected to start their young investment, Michael Beasley, over the Heat’s blue-collar veteran captain. This came as a surprise to me because I had heard that Beasley was going to be moved to the 3 spot this season, and that he would be playing behind Richardson. However, we now know that that is not the case. This move will undoubtedly show the character of Haslem, and every true Heat fan knows that the Heat’s great leader is always willing to do what the franchise thinks is best. Haslem will still see plenty of time this season, and he will only end up working even harder without having to worry about fatigue as much.

The Heat will have the former-Kansas Jayhawk icon, Mario Chalmers, starting at the point this year; and I am very curious to see how much this 2nd year player has improved over his first professional offseason. There are two things I will be looking for in Chalmers this year. First, I would like to see how he has developed as a point guard in the facet of making the right decisions. I am interested to see if Erik Spoelstra and company have been able to get Chalmers to act more like a floor general instead of just a pure scorer like he once was. If Chalmers, can balance being a floor general and still maintain his ability to put points on the board then it would be safe to say that the Heat have found their point guard for the future. He can solidify his spot as being the Heat’s point guard moving forward if he has improved in my other quandary about him - has his defense improved? Chalmers was among the best in the league in steals per game, and if he has gotten even better at position defense then he could very well be one of the top defensive point guards in the league as soon as this season.

Q-Rich was already touched on slightly, but I still have a few things I would like to see. I would simply like to see how quickly and how well he can fit in with the rest of his new teammates in Miami. If he struggles early, I would not be surprised if Coach Spo' decided to go forward with moving Beasley to the 3, and thus returning Udonis Haslem to the starting line-up at the 4. We know the guy can score, but we just don’t know how he will fit into the Miami Heat system just yet.

Jermaine O’Neal claims that he is 100% and feeling like an all-star once again. O’Neal claims to be playing with a chip on his shoulder to prove all of his doubters wrong, sort of like how D-Wade had to last season. Anytime that O’Neal even limps people will be skeptical about his health, but that is to be expected. O’Neal will have questions about his health surrounding him in every pre- and post-game conference, and he will simply have to do what he feels he is able to do this season. I personally like to see this fire out of the Heat’s big man, and I wouldn’t mind seeing that Pacers player that always seemed to dominate the Heat only a few years ago.

To me, Beasley will be the biggest X-factor of the Heat’s season this year. Dwyane Wade will continue to be Dwyane Wade, but as we saw last year, that can only take the Heat so far. I am interested in seeing how Beasley bounces back this season. I have heard nothing but good news about his development as a basketball player. Everyone around the organization has said that he has gotten stronger and improved on his skill set. However, like Jermaine O’Neal, there will be questions surrounding Beasley all season. This, of course, is due to Beasley’s stint in rehab over the summer that was related to drug and alcohol problems. Beasley has said that he is now sober, and the team has supported him the whole way through this ordeal. I think the Heat will continue to support him because they have invested so much in him, and I think that he could be up for the Most Improved Player award by season’s end. If Beasley can become that 20-10 (pts-rebs) player that some people are suggesting he could be this season then I would have to say that the Heat could do some damage past the regular season.

The Heat went 43-39 last year with this new team together for the first time. Many members of that team have returned, and there is undoubtedly more chemistry between them due to having one year under their belt. Dwyane Wade will continue to be a stud and MVP candidate, but that only got them their record from last year. I think that if Jermaine can stay healthy, Chalmers can impress me on both of my aforementioned fronts, and if Beasley can be that stud people are saying he could be as soon as this season then it would be hard to say that the Heat would not improve. I personally don’t think Chalmers and Beasley will accomplish what I’m looking for them to accomplish immediately, but the Heat will definitely be a better team after the All-Star break.

The Prediction: 48-34 (five-win improvement over last season), which I think translates to the 5-seed in the East. Yes, a 5-seed. I think the East improves somewhat this season. The real question will be whether or not this record will be enough to convince Wade to stay in Miami beyond this season. Only time will tell.

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