NBA Eastern Conference Preview: No. 5 Miami Heat

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Updated: October 20, 2014
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Last season: 54-28

Projected record: 46-36

When you lose the best player in the game, your team is guaranteed to take a step back. LeBron James decided to leave the Miami Heat this offseason — after four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals — and head back home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

While there were many who didn’t agree with James’ decision, the Heat couldn’t dwell on it too long – they had to move on.

Even though they weren’t able to re-sign James, they were able to bring back both Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Unlike the past four years, the majority of the scoring load will fall on Bosh and Wade this season.

They’ve both had stints during their NBA careers where they were considered the go-to player on their respective teams; but do they even remember how it feels to assume that role? This season will tell us a lot about where they both stand at this point in their careers.

Wade will be turning 33 this season, and has been victimized by injuries in recent years. He’s missed 58 regular-season games over the past three years, and has struggled to play during back-to-backs.

Bosh has become more of a complimentary player since joining the Heat, as his points and rebounds per game averages have consistently dropped each year. But, that also has a lot to do with James’ presence.

What they have going for them

They can’t replace James, but the Heat have done a great job this offseason with building the rest of their roster. They’ve added a plethora of role players in places where they lacked the depth last season.

During a time in the offseason when the Heat were optimistic that James would return, they signed forward Josh McRoberts to a four-year deal. Miami plans to get a versatile big man in the 6-foot-10 McRoberts, and someone who is a good fit next to Bosh.

One of the areas where the Heat struggled over the past few seasons was on the glass. By adding McRoberts and re-signing Chris Andersen, they should be an improved rebounding team.

They also have a lot of depth at the point guard position. They re-signed Mario Chalmers – surprisingly – and they drafted Shabazz Napier. Not to mention, Norris Cole is still on the roster as well. With the Napier addition, they’ll never miss a beat on offense when Chalmers or Cole is out. Actually, I could see Miami going with a two-point guard lineup at times.

Key offseason additions

Once James committed to signing with the Cavaliers, the Heat immediately went out to find someone who could “try” to replace him. They eventually signed Luol Deng, who will now be the starting small forward.

Deng was a perfect pickup in my opinion. He is a great defender, and is actually one of the few players in the NBA that does a decent job at guarding James.

Miami also signed Danny Granger to a two-year deal, another player who adds depth and value to the team. If he can get anywhere close to the player he was three to four years ago, the Heat will benefit tremendously.

Shannon Brown was signed as well, as the Heat will no longer have Ray Allen this season. Brown gives Miami a backup to Wade at the shooting guard position.

Outlook

They won’t be as competitive as they’ve been over the past four years, but I do believe they’ll be a playoff team. Pat Riley is a very determined individual, and he’ll do all in his power to assemble a winning team.

This season will also give head coach Erik Spoelstra an opportunity to prove his value. Miami won’t be heavily favored this season, and it’ll be Spoelstra’s job to keep this team relevant.

Projected starting five (last season’s stats):

PG Mario Chalmers (9.8 ppg, 4.9 apg)

SG Dwyane Wade (19.0 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.5 rpg)

SF Luol Deng (16.0, 5.7 rpg)

PF Josh McRoberts (8.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg)

C Chris Bosh (16.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg)

 

Josiah Turner

Follow me on Twitter — @JsiahSports

Photo Cred (David Dow/Getty Images)

Josiah Turner

Josiah Turner

Josiah is the founder and editor-in-chief at Sideline Sports Report. He is a former writer for ESPN, and has written for Rant Sports and FanSided covering the Washington Redskins. He has also covered high school basketball for Rivals.com and the Mechanicsville Local newspaper. Josiah is from Chesapeake, Va., and a college graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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