Miami Heat: Five Things to Watch as Preseason Tips Off
Miami Heat: Five Things to Watch as Preseason Tips Off
Even though the Miami Heat are considered the heavy favorites to return to the NBA Finals, the road to the penultimate championship will be a most difficult one. There are laundry lists of issues that every NBA franchise faces when battling through the regular and postseason, even the defending champs.
The last two series of the 2013 NBA Playoffs exposed the Heat’s weaknesses as a team. Both the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs played aggressive zone defense, plus had a quality big man to defend the rim. Being that the Heat primarily play “small,” in terms of offense, players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade struggled to get to the rim consistently, and this made it difficult to go on the dominant runs that the defending champs are known for. A blueprint has now been laid out as to how to beat the Heat successfully, and NBA teams are taking notice.
During the offseason, many teams began rebuilding their rosters, focusing on some of the weaknesses the Heat currently have, in an attempt to snatch the trophy away from the defending champs. Although the Heat kept the majority of their championship roster intact, the “subtle” additions of Greg Oden and Michael Beasley show that the Heat are aware of their shortcomings, and are working to protect the longevity of their franchise’s success by tinkering with the roster.
With the 2013 preseason starting for the Heat in four days, here are five things to watch as preseason tips off.
Will Chris Bosh Get Comfortable at the Center Position?
Although the Miami Heat organization has openly embraced the “small-ball” approach to their playbook, teams playing traditional lineups, which can be a weakness for the Heat, still largely dominate the NBA. After losing the 2011 NBA Finals, Chris Bosh openly stated that he needed to play bigger. Over the course of the last two seasons, Bosh’s blocks average has more than doubled, and his rebounding has only taken a slight hit, due to his slight decrease in minutes averaged.
This season, it is imperative that Bosh continues to work on his post-presence. The signings of Greg Oden and Michael Beasley should only give Bosh added motivation to be the best big man on the Heat’s roster. Bosh’s comfort level at center is key to the Heat winning a third championship.
Will Greg Oden Become a Factor?
When the Miami Heat signed Greg Oden this offseason, it was for one reason: to gain much needed size in the paint during the playoffs. Because of Oden’s horrendous history of knee injuries, it will take a lot of time, practice, and therapy to get him back to the place where he could even be a solid contributor off the bench. If the Heat's training staff can limit Oden’s minutes throughout the regular season, it is plausible to see him becoming a factor in the Heat’s quest for a third straight title. In the 82 games that Oden played for the Portland Trailblazers, he averaged 9.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. When healthy, Oden is an extremely talented player. Hopefully his health allows him to prove his worth to the defending champs.
Who Will Make the Final 15-Man Roster?
Quality role players are essential to any team looking to rise to title contention, and the Heat has had their fair share of good and bad role players. Some free agent signings like Jerry Stackhouse or Eddy Curry didn’t pan out, while others like Chris “Birdman” Andersen helped bring a second consecutive championship back to Biscayne Bay. This is the current list of Heat players that could be potentially let go by the start of the regular season:
Larry Drew II
Roger Mason Jr.
Who the Heat end up signing to the final 15-man roster could determine how far they go in the playoffs. Will they go the route of veteran experience, or decide to stock up on young players? Either way, on paper, the Heat have one of the best rosters in NBA history.
What LeBron James Adds to His Arsenal
Every offseason, LeBron James works on his craft. After losing the 2011 NBA Finals in disappointing fashion, James vigorously worked on his post-game, and it became the main factor in dismantling the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2012 NBA Finals, en route to James' first championship. Last offseason, James decided to improve his three-point shooting percentage, and not only did his average for the season jump from 36 to 41 percent, but his three point shot in Game 6 of the NBA Finals help keep the Heat from the brink of elimination. After winning his second title, James has decided to work on his free throw shooting percentage.
“Eighty percent is the goal,” James said. “Hopefully what I've been able to do in the offseason can translate to the game. I’m very focused on it and it’s something that I want to improve, but we’ll see what happens.” (ESPN, Haberstroh)
If James can improve his free throw shooting percentage drastically, it will be hard to find a flaw in James’s game. This will make beating the Heat that much more difficult.
Dwyane Wade's Health
Dwyane Wade recently admitted to the Associated Press during training camp at Paradise Island, Bahamas that his knee issues stem from his surgery at Marquette University he received to remove the meniscus out of his knee. Although this happened more than 11 years ago, Wade has constantly battled health issues since being drafted into the NBA, which has put his status as one of the greatest shooting guards to ever play the game into question. This offseason, Wade has lost a significant amount of weight, and has also received a second round of Ossatron Shockwave therapy in order to keep his knee in good shape throughout the season. Hopefully, this will be enough to give the Miami Heat a healthy Wade in the 2014 playoffs. Otherwise, we could see an early exit for the defending champs.