2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Miami Heat

Miami Heat

2011-2012 Record: 46-20, 1st in Southeast
Stat Leaders: LeBron James, 27.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 6.2 apg. Joel Anthony, 1.3 bpg.

C - Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf (PO)
PF - Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem
SF - LeBron James, Shane Battier, James Jones
SG - Dwyane Wade, Mike Miller
PG - Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole

Unrestricted Free Agents: C Eddy Curry, G Terrel Harris, F Juwan Howard, C Dexter Pittman

James deserved plenty of criticism, but the lengths that his
detractors went to discredit him was ridiculous and
pathetic. It made me a LeBron fan. Congrats.
The Good: LeBron James is the best player in the world and he finally silenced his over analytical critics by leading the Heat to the 2011-2012 NBA Championship. James won his third MVP award in four years, and finally got over the hump, as he can add 2011-2012 NBA Finals MVP to his resume. He had his best playoff run since 2009, averaging over 30 points per game and dominating during the NBA Finals. He is virtually unguardable, and is Miami's best defender, rebounder and passer as well. In summary, there is very little he can do and now he has the ring to silence all critics. The 30 year old Dwyane Wade may have had one of his worst seasons when you look at the numbers, but he really stepped up as the playoffs went on, playing a great second fiddle. The team struggled at times during the playoffs, but found a way to win it all, even with Chris Bosh out for a large chunk of the playoffs. Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers were very good role players for the team.

The Bad: It is hard to nitpick, since Miami is a good scoring team and even better defensively, but they do have holes. Most notably, Miami needs to somehow find a big man who can hold down the paint defensively and grab some rebounds. In theory, Joel Anthony can do that, but he is so inept offensively it is hard to leave him on the court for more then 20 minutes per game. Chris Bosh is a fantastic player, but I still have doubts as to how well he fits with this current roster. Theoretically, the team might be smart to move him for a veteran power forward and center, but coming off a championship they are not going to do that.

Key Free Agents: Juwan Howard is a 73 year old end of the bench cheerleader that finally piggybacked his way to a ring. He will probably ride out into the sunset as a champion. Dexter Pittman has had two very unimpressive seasons and can easily be replaced by a second round or undrafted rookie.

Projected Cap Space: -$20,522,600. With raises to Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the Heat will only fall further and further into the luxury tax hole. Each player is making 17 million in 2012-2013. The salaries will jump to 19 million the following year. After that, each player will have two player option years at 20 million and 22 million respectively. For now, the Heat are easily making up that difference with jersey sales and sponsorships, but it will be interesting to see if they have to trade Bosh or Wade to soften the luxury blow.

Amnesty Possibilities: The Heat are so far over the salary cap that using the amnesty on someone other then the big three won't really solve anything. No one else makes over 5 million a year. They could choose to part with Mike Miller if he refuses to retire.

Free Agent Possibilities: The Heat have absolutely no money to spend, but a veteran or two who is in the ring chasing stage of their careers could sign for the veteran minimum. Someone like Tracy McGrady or Gilbert Arenas. I don't think the likes of Ray Allen, Kenyon Martin or Antawn Jamison are ready to settle for the minimum.

Draft Possibilities: The best chance for Miami to develop their bench is to use their draft picks wisely. Fab Melo and Festus Ezeli are two intriguing big men who could be had late in the first round. Melo is a big time project but has the skills to develop into a fine starting center along side the big three. He has great rebounding and shot blocking potential, and that is all he will have to do for the Heat. Ezeli is 22 years old and has had past injury problems and is still considered raw. He also has rebounding and shot blocking potential. If the Heat just want to go best player available to add to their bench a veteran like Jeffrey Taylor or Draymond Green would make sense. Both guys are grizzled college veterans and could step in right away and provide minutes. A backup wing player could be a good target with the futures of James Jones and Mike Miller uncertain.

Contending, Rebuilding or Status Quo?: The Heat just won the NBA title, and LeBron James is smack dab in the middle of his prime as the best basketball player on the planet. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh make tremendous second and third options. The Heat will contend for titles as long as the big three are together. Keeping solid players around them is key, however. Mario Chalmers has developed into a nice fourth option, but they need to find some big men to help get them through the grind. Miami took advantage of a weak Eastern Conference on their way to the Finals, and the going might be more difficult next season. However, Miami will definitely enter the season projected to repeat.

All logos courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net/

Jonathan Carrano

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