NBA 30 Teams/30 Days Preview: Life after LeBron for Heat
Editor's note: This is the 22nd of Sam Amico's 30 NBA team previews entering the 2014-15 season.
C Chris Bosh; PF Josh McRoberts; SF Luol Deng; SG Dwyane Wade; PG Mario Chalmers.
PF Udonis Haslem; C Chris Andersen; PG Norris Cole; SF Danny Granger; G Toney Douglas; PG Shabazz Napier; SG Shannon Brown; SF James Ennis; C Justin Hamilton; SF Shawne Williams.
Erik Spoelstra, seventh year (all with Heat). It's not easy coaching three of the NBA's best players in their prime. That's no joke — Spoelstra had to find a way to make LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade work together. Spoelstra did a fine job, and let there be no doubt, the man can coach. But now his task becomes considerably tougher. LeBron is gone. Wade is fading. Bosh has to evolve from third option back to top dog. This is Erik Spoelstra's proving ground. Let's see how it goes.
Wade, Bosh and now Deng are experienced in meaningful games, with Wade and Bosh advancing to four straight Finals. That type of winning experience and leadership counts for a lot in this league. ... Chalmers is far from the consummate NBA point guard, but he, too, has won a lot and hits big shots. ... Overall, the Heat are a veteran bunch, possess plenty of familiarity on offense and remain an intelligent and dedicated defensive team. ... Cole and Napier form a strong duo of reserve point guards. Perhaps the only issue will be finding time for both. ... Haslem, McRoberts and even Granger are underrated hustlers who understand their roles.
At times, the Heat may look old, slow and wearing down. The durability of Wade, Deng and Granger is almost always in question these days. ... Chalmers and Cole will have to step up their distribution skills with James no longer around. Neither has displayed them as a strong point (or anything close) in the past. ... This is a weak rebounding team, and it's hard to imagine it getting any better without James. The Heat need to drastically improve in that area, and they'll need to do it collectively.
No one fears the Heat anymore, but you better not overlook them, either. Yes, a lot of their key players are 30 and older, and that can indeed be a hindrance. But it can be beneficial, too — especially when those players have won as much as these guys. Are the Heat championship material? Probably not. Are they a bad team? Definitely not. If they can remain healthy entering the postseason, anything is possible. Most of the returnees have been there and done that, and value the idea of proving the critics wrong. LeBron or not, that truly means something.