Last season: 54-28, 1st Southeast Division (2nd Eastern Conference), Lost to SAS, 4-1 in NBA Finals
Notable Acquisitions: F Luol Deng (free agent, CLE), F Josh McRoberts (free agent, CHA), F Danny Granger (free agent, LAC), G/F James Ennis (2013 draft pick), G Shannon Brown (free agent, NYK)
Draft Picks: G Shabazz Napier (UConn, 24th overall)
Notable Losses: F LeBron James (CLE), F James Jones (CLE), F Shane Battier (retirement), F Rashard Lewis (free agent)
Burning Question: What is Miami’s realistic ceiling in 2015?
Without LeBron, Miami is no longer a true title contender. However, they have enough experience and talent to win a playoff series or two in the East.
Life goes on. The Miami Heat will live by that mantra the entire season as they will try to move on from LeBron James. But don’t feel sorry for them, it’s a unique situation, to be honest.
It wasn’t one of those classic,”lose my number” breakups, both LeBron and Miami split on good terms and decided to still “be friends.” Okay, we won’t go that far (right, Pat Riley?) but you get the idea. The King reclaimed his throne in Cleveland and the Heat rebounded the only way they know how: by revamping the roster.
Chris Bosh (5 years/$118 million), Chris “Birdman” Andersen, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers returned and are added to a new core that includes two former All-Stars, Danny Granger and Luol Deng, a 2x NCAA Champion (Shabazz Napier) and versatile forward Josh McRoberts.
In the East, the Miami Heat have enough veteran experience to both win their division and a playoff series. Deng should fit in perfectly in Coach Erik Spoelstra’s defense-first system, Chris Bosh will try to re-establish himself as an All-NBA performer and Dwyane Wade is itching to put the doubters to sleep.
It seems like a lifetime ago when Wade was viewed as a top 10 player in the NBA as well as the undisputed leader of the Heat. Now, he will get the chance to show why American Airlines Arena is still “his house.”
Wade dropped 20 pounds over the summer and is motivated to have a healthy, successful season in Miami. While he may not average 30 points/game like in previous years, he could definitely challenge for All-NBA honors in 2015. Yes, this guy.
No one is predicting Miami to return to the Finals for the fifth consecutive season. Certainly not without LeBron. But if we’ve learned anything these past few seasons, you can never underestimate the will and determination of champions. Coach Spo is still one of the league’s top coaches and is determined to show he can get it done without the league’s best player.
You better believe that Miami, led by D. Wade, won’t go down without a fight in the playoffs.
After all, there is still a lot of talent left in South Beach.
Projected Starting 5:
Cole World v. Super Mario:
Both Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers have strong cases as Miami’s starting point guard. So far, Cole has been given the nod in preseason but Chalmers is still in the running. Let’s see who might get the nod:
-Scoring: Both Cole and Chalmers are shoot-first point guards. Cole, the quicker of the two, is more aggressive attacking the basket and has respectable range out to the three-point line.
Chalmers, while inconsistent, is a very good three-point shooter who also can put the ball on he floor and rise up for floaters when the defense collapses. His shooting ability gives him the slight advantage.
-Passing: Cole, although not a “traditional” point, can be effective in half court sets. In the past, he’s shown the ability to set up teammates but usually looks to score.
Chalmers is not exactly Rajon Rondo either. But he moves the ball very well and is able to penetrate and dish to open teammates for easy looks (avg. 5 assists last year).
-Defense & Intangibles: Cole has been a key contributor on two Finals teams, is effective on both sides of the ball and brings a hunger and competitive edge to the position.
He hounds the opposition and never makes anything easy.
Chalmers, on the other hand, was a starter on two championship teams and has had huge playoff games. It remains to be seen, however, how much last year’s poor performance hurt his psyche and mental toughness.
-Verdict: Cole and Chalmers are both viable options for the Heat to move forward. Right now, Chalmers’ ability to score slightly better makes him the favorite to start on opening night.
The New Big 3:
Luol Deng never expected to be a member of the Miami Heat, especially since his Chicago Bulls always battled them in the postseason. The former All-NBA defender will plug into the starting small forward spot previously occupied by James and, along with Wade and Bosh, is a part of a new “Big 3.”
On paper, the three of them should hold their own on both ends. Deng thrives playing off exceptional talent and Wade and Bosh can return to their “Alpha Dog” roles.
F Danny Granger: Granger signed with Miami after up and down stints with the Pacers and Clippers last year. The 10-year vet still has a lot left in the tank and should be inspired with a fresh start.
He’s worth monitoring if you need points and threes.
Best Case: D. Wade and Bosh play like its ’07, Coach Spo wins Coach of the Year, and Miami upsets Cleveland in the second round.
Worst Case: Miami’s old guys play, well, old, they sneak into the playoffs but get swept by “you-know-who” and the Cavs.
1st, Southeast Division (4th Eastern Conference), First-Round Exit
“This is my house!”- Dwyane Wade