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NBA Market Watch: Preview-Miami Heat

NBA Market Watch: Preview-Miami Heat
Oct 18, 2007, 07:23 pm
Off Season Overview:

Simply put, the Heat had a disastrous off-season. The team failed to land any of the major free agents they pursued, losing out on Mo Williams, Mickael Pietrus, and Charlie Bell. The only acquisition of note was the oft-maligned Smush Parker who has performed well thus far in Heat training camp.

Parker may be the only one fairing well in Miami’s grueling camp. Shaquille O’neal and Dwayne Wade are both suffering from the nicks and bruises of battle. O’neal is a shadow of himself and should serve as a testament to all young players that staying in shape when you’re younger pays dividends later on in life. Wade has been more crash than flash since last season and is recovering from surgery that will keep him out for the first few games.

Without a functional O’neal/Wade tandem the Heat lack anything close to potency on the offensive side of the ball. Antoine Walker apparently retired from active duty after the championship season two years ago and checked into camp pushing the scales around 30 pounds above coach Riley’s desired playing weight for him.

Former high school phenom Dorell Wright showed flashes of brilliance last season but disappeared from the rotation as the season wore on. The fourth year prep-to-pro is extremely talented, but still lacks in the fundamental understanding of the game that Riley demands.

The only other youth on this team capable of providing some sparks are Jeremy Richardson from the D-league and Daequan Cook, soon to be of the D-League. Wayne Simien has been injured most of his Heat career and is a likely camp cut. Earl Barron continues to be a 5th big man on the bench. There is very little in the talent pipeline.


Depth Chart:

[c]courtesy of Synergy Sports Tech: Figure represents NBA offensive percentile rank[/c]

Strengths:

Veteran experience alone should enable the Heat to stay around .500 and compete for one of the last playoff seeds. The team is loaded with playoff experienced veterans and still has an inside/outside double team threat as long as Shaq and Wade are on the court.

Miami should get solid guard play out of Jason Williams and Dwayne Wade, who can both make the game easier for their teammates by creating off the dribble. Udonis Haslem has the ability to bring energy to the game with his defense and hustle play. Alonzo Mourning seems to be as good a defender as he ever was, even if his offensive game has left him. Even an out of shape Walker has the ability to make things happen with his slashing style and all-around ability.

The Heat should be able to limit their mistakes and put up a passable effort defensively in order to stay above water and compete against the lesser experienced NBA squads.

Weaknesses:

Injuries and age coupled with a lack of promising youth have conspired to hurt this teams chances at success.

O’neal is unlikely to play another full season again in his career and his effectiveness when he is on the court is primarily as a decoy to draw doubles and free Wade up for easier trips to the basket. But Wade’s attacking style has also put his own health and longevity into question as his frequent trips to the floor cost him the bulk of last season and required surgery in the summer.

Poor advanced planning has left this team with very little promise for the future. Barron, Simien, Wright, Cook, and Quinn are hardly a starting 5 of the future and only two remotely project into rotation players, let alone starters. With Mourning and Walker on their last legs this team is woefully short of explosive talent on the offensive side of the ball and should struggle against the type of top end competition they’d face in the playoffs.

Outlook:

This is shaping up to be a rebuilding year for the Heat. It may be in their best interests to play for the lottery and not for a sure-fire first round exit from the playoffs. Its doubtful that Riley, Wade or any of the Heat players would give less than a full effort to compete, but they are certainly not title worthy at this point.

The team is pretty much without any financial wiggle room until the off-season after next. The team should fight the urge to sign mid-level stop gap type players to prop up their aging core and just focus on re-building around Wade once they get some cap relief.

For this season, it’ll take a Herculean effort by Shaq and Zo to keep this team competitive and in the playoff picture. As good as Wade is, he can’t do it alone and their really is no support scoring talent around him beyond Shaq, who is much more of a third option type at this stage. Unless Walker somehow returns from the dead and Wright busts out with a breakout season, the Heat offensive attack looks pedestrian.

Last season’s struggles should be par for the course this year as more injuries and under performance become commonplace. An 8th seed would have to be considered a success for this team in transition.

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