We continue previewing the Southeast Division with the Miami Heat. You can read past previews here.

by Cliff Terhune aka Eboy

So I got the shoulder tap on the bench to get in and take on another Heat season preview for my home away from home, SLAMOnline. Just call me Vinn-”E” Johnson.

Hopefully this year the accuracy will be a thousand times more prescient than last year’s, and I can do any other Heat fans (six?) proud. Plus, I’m going straight forward with this preview, since writing some dream-like/open letter to/brilliant sitcom-like script wouldn’t fit this squad since they barely mattered last season. Maybe next year though!

Key Additions:
Michael Beasley
Mario Chalmers
Yakhouba Diawara
James Jones
Shaun Livingston
Jamaal Magloire

Let’s start with the most important addition to the Miami Heat franchise since Dwyane Wade was drafted in ‘03. Yes, even more important than that of a water gun-wielding megalomaniac that arrived in a tractor trailer in ‘06. Michael Beasley needs to do what most expect of him to make his no. 2 overall pick worthwhile –16-18 points and 8-10 rebounds per game. A beast in the college game, he immediately is the Heat’s second-best offensive player and that is going to be critical to helping DWade get through the season with good health and solid play.

Beasley’s “maturity” may be questionable and almost always NBA rookies hit “the wall” somewhere in January or February, so as long as he stays solid with his smooth jumper, drop step and dribble drive game, he’ll be the frontcourt savior the Heat and their fans have been waiting for. His D is the one thing Heat fans have concerns about, but the more difficult assignments will fall into Marion and Haslem’s laps most nights. I’ll overlook his “marketing potential” (thanks Adidas) and his 50 stack fine for the moment. For now.

Mario Chalmers comes to the Heat with some off-court baggage (see also: rookie transition program) and a potential for good things on the court. A strong defender and a nice finisher at the rim, Mario can challenge for the starting point guard spot from the beginning, and it’s my hope he gets the shot.

As the new Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said: “I’ve defined it as somebody who will defend and keep the ball in front of him, number one. Number two, to be able to lead and direct the team. And that means organize us and get us into offense, be on the same page with myself, so whatever I have organized for the team, he’ll be able to take it from the bench out there to the team, and be able to get the team organized and running at a specific pace that I want.”
Defense is the name of the game, so Mario has the edge going in.

Also, if his time at Kansas is any indication, he won’t be afraid to make plays in big moments, and DWade hasn’t had that type of backcourt mate since the days of Damon Jo…well, since the first year of Jason Williams. His summer league performance still has me excited for his potential to fill that role. His biggest adjustment will be the ability to get Wade, Beasley and Marion the ball in the right spots and handle ball pressure from guys just as quick and as skilled as him in opposing uniforms.

Alright, besides the two rookie additions, the other names listed sure don’t seem like a world-changing group of talent for a team that couldn’t even hit 16 wins last season. I think the Heat’s true hopes were to: a) take on talent at a cheaper than market value rate and b) take some chances on some third-tier players to see if they can play a role in a rebuilding team concept — a role, as it stands, is really all the Heat need these guys to play. Jones and Diawara will be called upon for their collective perimeter defense, and Jones’ three-point shooting. Really, what else can be looked for from them? Used properly, Jones can flourish in his bench role and get some time with the starting group and Diawara is going to push perennial bench warmer, Dorell Wright, to possibly be moved after languishing in Miami since his drafting.

Shaun Livingston — this is intriguing. As a fan, I hope for the absolute best for Shaun as a player and as a potential piece to the Heat’s future fortunes. He signed a two-year deal that gives him time to get into basketball shape and a couple options. First, he can build his game back for a team that for the foreseeable future shouldn’t be title challenging. That give’s him time to build a resume for another team in two years time that his services may fit better. The second option is he gets his game tight, plays himself into a starting role in Miami eventually and builds a core with Wade and Beasley that can challenge for Eastern Conference supremacy at some point in the future. I hope for the latter but am mindful of the former. I just wish him luck and look forward to seeing him night in and night out.

Jamaal Magloire has a ton to prove and a ton of weight to go right along with it. After fermenting on the benches of the Nets and the Mavs last season and posting almost non-existent numbers, the Heat are hoping he can bring six points and five rebounds per game in limited minutes. Any effort on the defensive end would be gravy (no biscuits, Jamaal) and perhaps a combination of the environment, a lack of expectations and some daily contact with Alonzo Mourning will give him some much needed push. We’ll see.

Key Losses:
Ricky Davis
Jason Williams

Ricky, we hardly knew ya…again. I will give credit where credit is due though, dude played every game in that nightmare season and really didn’t do anything boneheaded through it all. Good luck in LA, Tricky. As for my screen-name-sake, J-Will declined over the last three seasons, the nagging injuries kept piling up and the goodness of White Chocolate caught a bit of salmonella, taking away his highlight reel ability he possessed early in his career. Give him credit for his role as starting point guard for the Heat’s title team and to him, enjoy your retirement Whit Eboy.

Starting Five:

PG — Mario Chalmers
SG — Dwyane Wade
SF — Shawn Marion
PF — Michael Beasley
C — Udonis Haslem

Yes, there is some uncertainty at the point and center spots so for my money, I think this lineup would be the most solid group the Heat can put out. Chalmers’ defense can be a bright spot with this group, and Haslem — while always undersized — battles night in and night out and you know his effort is never questioned. In theory, the trio of Wade, Beasley and Marion should be terrifying, but there are a few issues. Wade’s health still is a question mark.

Yes, I know his Olympic play should have me dancing through the streets of South Beach like I was trying out for America’s Best Dance Crew, but I’ll be patient and give him some time to prove himself. I see Dwyane coming back this season with numbers in the 25/5/6 range. If he can cut down on his horrible turnover ratio from last season and stay healthy he’ll be one of the Top 5 players in the League, again. No pressure, Dwyane.

Marion is in a contract year and nothing would make me happier to see him move before the trade deadline in order to fortify one of the excessive weak spots. Yes, I know, Shawn is a stat stuffer and can be game-changing when motivated. Well, the motivation shouldn’t be an issue if he’s trying to get his paper right but being the third option again as he was in his Suns days never seemed to sit well with him, and I think he either needs to swallow his pride or get his bags ready for a quick trip to Miami International if a solid center or point guard option becomes available. A fairly solid group with the ability to be really strong with one strong addition to the ranks.

Rest of the Bench:
Joel Anthony
Marcus Banks
Mark Blount
Daequan Cook
Chris Quinn
Dorell Wright
(Alonzo Mourning)

Anthony brings energy and shot-blocking from the bench but his offensive game is erratic; good for 8-10 minutes; probably is the Heat’s best shot-blocker while Zo is in $5,000 suits. Banks is inconsistent with the ball in his hand and really going to have a hard time getting minutes. Blount is my least favorite player on the roster. Soft, mushy, like a wet turd. Turrible.

Daequan Cook can be the off-the-bench shooter that is really coveted, but his overall game needs to expand to give him a true spot in the 8-9 man rotation. Zo is still a question mark in his potential return attempt, but if there is one guy who can come back from his injury and be productive it would be Alonzo. I’m pulling for him to finish his career on his feet instead of crumpled on the floor. Chris Quinn (wait for it)…actually played well in his time as a starter last season. Makes few mistakes, can shoot the three and has a solid grasp of the offense. His lack of foot-speed and suspect D are major drawbacks though.

If you could magically transport Bank’s speed and defensive ability to him, you’d have yourself a NBA-caliber starting point guard. Dorell, wish I could give you some love, but you’ve been like the hot girl at the desk next to you in high school who I always wished to get out of the school environment, but whenever the time seemed right, you had a headache or laughed at me when you were walking home with your friends or had some weak-ass excuse that kept me from making the big move. Time to bounce, kid, enough of the c*cktease.

Coaching/Intangibles:

Out with the old, in with the new. Pat Riley sits up in his plush suite with Mickey Arison while Eric Spoelstra takes over the reigns of a young, untested team. This is not going to be a simple task but Eric has the makeup to be the right choice. A former college ball player, a seven-year assistant for the Heat and a Riley disciple, he’ll have this team playing hard from the start, and he’ll surprise many with his savvy in certain situations. He’ll actually enjoy running the squad instead of feeling it a burden like Riley’s on again/off again affair with the coach’s chair. In the end, the season and any chance at the team being respectful all falls on Dwyane’s tender shoulder.

Prediction:

I see the potential for being better, I understand the roster stands in better shape today as it did at the end of last season and that a healthy Dwyane Wade can drag a mediocre team a long way in the Eastern Conference. But I’m also a realist. If they sneak into the playoffs as the eight seed, I’d be thrilled, but I’m thinking they’ll wind up more with a 33-35 win total and be just on the outside looking in. A journey starts with a single step, and the completion of a journey is filled with pitfalls and moments of pleasure. The Heat’s future seasons of respectability starts at the beginning of this one, and I think the pitfalls will outweigh the pleasure for the time being. That’s some Zen sh*t for your asses!