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Competition Discussion: Miami Heat

The season is still a few days away, but most of the rosters are set, barring the requisite Michael Jordan comeback rumor (just kidding, but only a little).  We have an idea where our team stands, but we can't really know unless we discuss everyone else.  In that spirit, I'm going to throw up a "competition discussion" thread for each of the other 29 teams over the next month or so.  We'll go in alphabetical order from A to Z.  Today's team: Miami.

Last year's record: 15-67

In: Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, Yakhouba Diawara, James Jones, Shaun Livingston, Jamaal Magloire, healthy Dwayne Wade
Out: Ricky Davis, Jason Williams, Kaseeb Powell, Blake Ahern

Projected starting lineup: Chris Quinn, Dwayne Wade, Shawn Marion, Michael Beasley, Mark Blount

Key themes:

  • Will Dwayne Wade be healthy?
  • Will the Dwayne Wade from the Olympics carry over to the NBA season?
  • What's the future of Shawn Marion?  Does he get traded?  If he does, can Miami be a playoff team without him?
  • What can we expect from Michael Beasley?
  • Will anyone emerge at the center and point guard positions?
  • Will new coach Erik Spolestra buck the trend and play a Marion/Beasley/Udonis Haslem frontcourt?
  • Speaking of Spolestra, how much power will he have this season with Pat Riley still watching from the front office?
  • Can we expect anything from Shaun Livingston this year?

I think its a safe assumption that Miami is going to make the biggest jump in the win column this year.  That'll happen when you win 15 games, get a healthy Dwayne Wade back, draft Michael Beasley and have a full year of Shawn Marion instead of an old Shaq.  We all forget that Wade was on the same level as Kobe and LeBron from 2005 to 2006, and while Beasley is a bit undersized, a space cadet and a poor defender, he was also one of the most productive college freshmen in years.  If they can ever find a proper role for Marion, that may be one of the most devastating trios in the league.

Alas, there are several things that can derail that.  Most notably, the supporting cast around those three is just awful.  Chris Quinn was a revelation for the Heat last year, posting a strong 56% true shooting percentage, but his middling assist ration proves that he doesn't really possess point guard skills.  You also have to wonder whether his late surge had more to do with the fact that someone had to play decently on that team by the end of the season.  Mario Chalmers was a draft-day steal, but he is still a rookie.  Marcus Banks has disappointed teams for years and Shaun Livingston, while making strides, is still a long way away from being completely healthy (and he wasn't that great to begin with). 

The center position is in even worse shape.  Mark Blount is the same soft jump-shooting poor-rebounding center he's always been, while Jamaal Magloire was done three years ago.  Peninsula is Mightier is high on Joel Anthony, but I'm not going to go crazy over a guy that posted an 8.8 PER last season.  The other option is to start Udonis Haslem, but alongside an already small frontcourt, that unit will get eaten alive up front.  

There's also no guarantee that the three studs play well.  Wade may suffer another injury, or he may find that, without Shaq to give him space, his driving lanes are not going to be there.  Beasley is chafing to a bench role and has not demonstrated that he can come even close to defending bigger forwards thus far.  Marion, meanwhile, has been a square peg the Heat have tried to pound into a round hole, particularly when he's situated right next to Beasley.  There's also the matter of Marion's potential extension next summer, as I doubt Miami's going to want to break the bank for him.

In short, expect improvement, but I think Miami ultimately loses out for the eighth and final playoff spot.  I wouldn't be surprised if they made it, but I'm thinking they'll just miss.

Prediction: 37-45, third in Southeast, ninth in East

Previously (predictions are me/Jake/Truth)...