Just like everyone else, Pat Riley was made to wait by LeBron James last week. However, the Miami Heat president has made up for lost time by quickly filling up the many empty slots on the roster with both new additions and old faces over the past few days.
Here’s how the post-James squad is shaping up:
Likely starting lineup: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, Chris Bosh
Luol Deng, F, signed two-year, $20 million deal
Deng, who took a pay cut to join the Heat, will be relied upon heavily at both ends of the court. A defensive wizard, Deng spent the first 10-plus years of his career in Chicago before being traded to the Cavs in the middle of last season in the Andrew Bynum deal. Health has been an issue at times throughout Deng’s career and will remain a concern with how much the Heat are likely to use him. Though Deng won’t get anything close to the gaudy numbers James puts up, he will be expected to shoulder a good chunk of the offensive responsibilities and is definitely a very capable replacement whose addition makes the Heat a viable contender in the East.
Danny Granger, F, signed two-year, $4.2 million deal
Granger, a long-time Indiana Pacer until last season, is very familiar to Heat management and comes in at a nice pay rate, despite the fact his skills have diminished over the last couple of years. Even if his knees are troublesome and he’s older than most at 31, Granger can provide a nice 3-point threat for the Heat, no matter happens with the potentially-retiring Ray Allen. If Granger’s left knee doesn’t cause him to miss too much time, he could turn into a very nice option off the bench.
Josh McRoberts, F, signed four-year, $23 million deal
Before LBJ went back home, Riley agreed to bring Josh McBob, as he’s affectionately known, on board. McRoberts is a well-traveled 27-year-old power forward who played his college ball at Duke. The Heat will be his sixth team in eight seasons, but he is coming off a career campaign in Charlotte where he started all 78 games he appeared in, averaging career highs in points (8.5) and minutes (30.3) per game. McRoberts should start alongside Chris Bosh this season, filling in the Shane Battier role and being relieved at times by Chris Andersen.
Shabazz Napier, G, first-round pick, acquired via draft-day trade with Hornets
Napier was reportedly drafted at the request of James after a stellar four-year career at Connecticut, where he won two NCAA titles. As things stand, he will be the third point guard on the team behind Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, and barring any injuries, you shouldn’t expect to see too much of Napier on the court this season, especially as he’s struggled mightily with his shot in summer league action.
Heat fans will be elated to see The Birdman coming back to Miami, and he will likely be expected to fill a similar role to the one he has done since heading south. Andersen will give McRoberts and Bosh a break when they need it, and while he might not see as much of the court as he did when Battier was around, Andersen will still be a great energy option off the bench, even at the age of 36.
Chris Bosh, F/C, signed five-year, $118 million deal
When James went back to Cleveland, many expected Bosh to take the max deal he was being offered by the Rockets. However, Bosh decided to stay in Miami and has the chance to be more of the influence on the offensive end of things that he was in Toronto, where he regularly averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds a game. Last season, Bosh only managed 16 points a contest. Bosh could thrive in this new role, and you have to think being more of a focal point of the team was why he chose to remain a member of the Heat. At 30, Bosh still has a few decent years left in him and will want to help prove this squad can do more than just survive without the services of LBJ.
Mario Chalmers, G, signed two-year deal
Chalmers spent two seasons in Miami without the Big Three: his rookie campaign of 2008-09, when he started all 82 games and averaged 10 points and nearly five assists per contest, and his sophomore season when he split time with Rafer Alston and Carlos Arroyo. Once Arroyo departed following the 2010-11 campaign, Chalmers assumed the starting spot and hasn’t let it go since then. He will likely be asked to step up his scoring contribution with James gone, but whether he’s capable of that is another story. There is certainly the chance for him to take a big step forward now that James, who he didn’t get along with at times, is gone.
Norris Cole, G, under contract
The only member of the Heat who was under contract once the Big Three opted out, Cole will again be required to provide relief for starter Chalmers. He’ll be good for his 20-25 minutes and six points a game, and shouldn’t lose too much playing time to Napier initially.
Ray Allen, G
Allen, who turns 39 later this month, has become a legend in his short time with the Heat, mainly because of the massive 3-pointer he hit in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. He appears to be leaning toward retirement, but if Riley can convince him of a suitable role with this year’s squad, who knows. The thing is, Allen doesn’t have anything to prove at this point, and though he would be a great veteran presence in the locker room, he might want to go through the rigors of a long regular season with the chance of an NBA title on the slim side. However, if LeBron calls ….
Michael Beasley, F
The enigma that is Beasley has started just 29 games over the past three seasons in three different cities. Does Riley have enough patience and faith in the former second overall pick to bring him back for a fourth season? Or will Beasley get an offer from another team willing to give him a bigger offensive role? Only time will tell.
Udonis Haslem, F
Haslem has spent his entire career with the Heat, and that isn’t likely to change this upcoming season. Yes, his role has diminished greatly over the past two seasons, and McRoberts’ addition probably means an even less role this campaign, but Haslem’s value to the Heat is more than just as a bench option. He is a locker room leader and is the heart of this squad. Haslem took to Twitter this week to proclaim the Cavs will feel pain when the two teams face each other for the first time next season. Gotta love him.
Greg Oden, C
Oden was a great feel-good story last season as he finally got back on an NBA court after three years away. Sure, he only averaged 2.9 points in less than 10 minutes of action, but if Oden can continue to get better physically and prove to the Heat he can be of use off the bench, the chances of him returning in 2014-15 are good. He surely realizes Riley didn’t have to give him this opportunity and will come back for a reasonable rate.
Dwyane Wade, G
It’s a little strange that Wade has taken this long to make his mind up, but everyone expects him to remain a Heatle for the rest of his career. Wade appears ready to play more than the 54 games he did last season, as he focusing on his fitness more this summer. Losing a few pounds would certainly force him to change his game a little, as he might not be able to take as much pounding in the paint, but it would also undoubtedly help his aging knees. With James gone, Wade knows he will probably have to step up his scoring a touch if this team is to get out of the East, but the addition of Deng should help take a little of the burden off his shoulders somewhat. Even though Wade doesn’t have anything to prove at this point, he’s still one of the best competitors in the league.
Toney Douglas, Justin Hamilton, James Jones, Rashard Lewis — minimal role players who certainly could return if the price is right.