As Miami Heat training camp begins today at Hurlburt Field, just 15 miles from Eglin Air Force Base, there are still several questions that need answering surrounding the most highly-anticipated Heat team in franchise history.
1. Who will play the point?
Mario Chalmers has the job to lose. It hasn’t been an ideal offseason for the third-year man out of Kansas. He suffered a high ankle sprain limiting his workouts for a good portion of the summer. If Chalmers can bring two important skills to the table — shooting and defense — he will be the starting point guard for the foreseeable future. If he can’t knock down open perimeter shots, his value to the team diminishes.
They don’t need him to be a playmaking point in the mold of a Steve Nash or a scoring guard in the form of a Jameer Nelson. They need him to compliment the super core of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
Carlos Arroyo is the next logical solution. He’s a calm, smart player who knows how to run a team and get the stars the ball where they can use it.
Point guard is not a critical spot for this team for several reasons. First, Wade and James both can handle the point at various stages of the game. In fact, Lebron has the mentality of a point guard. The offense is going to flow through him and his incredible passing awareness regardless if a point guard is on the floor.
2. How will two elite perimeter scorers coexist?
The critics think there are going to be issues with two of the game’s most dominant perimeter scorers playing side by side. I say that’s blasphemy. These two badly wanted to play together. They can make it work. There is no reason why two star basketball players cannot coexist, escpecially considering the unique respective skill sets of James and Wade.
James’ role on this team will likely be less of a scorer and more of a facilitator. He sees the floor like a true NBA fortune teller, knowing where to deliver the pass before the opportunity presents itself. On Cleveland, Lebron had to score for them to be relevant.
Wade’s role isn’t going to change much. He’s a pure scorer and he should continue to lead the team in that category. He’s going to make a killing from mid-range. Lebron to Wade is going to be a reoccuring theme this season. Think about this. Both of these guys have been double teamed constantly for the last five-plus years. You cannot double two players on the same team unless you want to lose by fifty.
Throw Bosh into the equation and I’m nearly wetting my pants. He is going to be the recipient of more dump-off passes and alley oops than he has ever witnessed in his NBA career. I wouldn’t be shocked if Bosh, not Wade or James, leads the Heat in scoring this year.
3. How well will they defend?
Erik Spoelstra is a Pat Riley disciple. Naturally defense is going to be the emphasis. Every championship team has to be able to make stops in crunch time.
“I know Spo’s going to make sure that the first couple days are going to be defense, defense, defense, defense,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said on Monday. “And it’s something that we are excited about, because we want to be not only one of the best defensive teams in the league, but we want to make this team be one of the best defensive teams to play the game. I think we have an opportunity to do it.”
Wade and James are both elite perimeter defenders when they want to be. Bosh is an excellent pick-and-roll defender. He has some problems guarding big, powerful post players, but how many of those guys exist? One? Two? A lineup of Chalmers, Wade, James, Bosh, and Joel Anthony can be an elite defensive unit. They have the athleticism, quickness, and defensive awareness to dominate.
4. Who will be the key players off the bench?
We know Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem are going to be priorities off the bench. They are going to play starter minutes. Who after them is going to contribute on a daily basis?
Zydrunas Ilgauskus should see plenty of minutes, unless rookie Dexter Pittman has improved tremendously since summer league. Pittman might be the future in the post, but he has a ways to go.
Eddie House and James Jones should see inconsistent playing time depending on match-ups. They can be great assets with their deep perimeter shooting. House at the point will be an intriguing option if Chalmers struggles shooting the rock.
Outside of the assumed starting lineup of Anthony, Bosh, James, Wade, and Chalmers, consistent playing time should go to Haslem, Miller, House, and Big Z. Others like Juwan Howard, Jones, and Jamaal Magloire will step in based on match-ups and injuries.
5. Who takes the final roster spots?
The 12 locks: Wade, James, Bosh, Haslem, Miller, Anthony, Chalmers, Arroyo, House, Jones, Z, Pittman,
The 2 almost locks: Howard, Magloire – Both players have guaranteed contracts but could be deeemed expendable if a few of the younger players make strong impressions in camp. I would highly doubt either of these guys get cut.
The final spot(s): It’s between three players: Da’Sean Butler, Kenny Hasbrouck, and Patrick Beverley. I don’t include Shavlik Randolph because of the number of bigs already on the roster.
The one with the most potential is Butler, the rookie coming off of a torn ACL. He was a pure first round pick before the injury. Hasbrouck is the most polished scorer of the group but does Miami need another player like that? Beverley has shown some impressive defensive skills and might make the team because of it.
The ideal scenario is to keep Beverley and hope Butler would be willing to play in the NBA D-League for a while. Miami could use a defensive-oriented guard off the bench. They also don’t want to lose a talent like Butler, who could make a decent impact in a couple of seasons. But he still needs time to be at full strength.
The 15th spot: Patrick Beverley