With the 2012-13 NBA Schedule already unveiled and the large majority of NBA trade transactions already completed, now is the time to break down the rosters of the league's main contenders.
The Miami Heat will be looking to repeat as champions and as such made moves over the off-season to doing so, signing veteran three-point marksman Ray Allen from the Boston Celtics in a move that is sure to strengthen an already potent offense.
Miami's roster is one of the most fluid in the league, as we are about to find out.
Mario Chalmers finally came good for the Heat during the 2012 NBA Finals, helping to run the offense and knocking down several key shots at key moments during the series.
Chalmers will rightfully start next season for the Heat barring an unlikely breakthrough from Norris Cole.
Norris Cole may become a starting point guard some day, but for now the guard, heading into his second year in the NBA, is a vital piece of the Heat's bench.
When Chalmers begins to struggle or needs a break, or coach Erik Spoelstra feels the Heat's offense is flagging, he calls up Cole to bring his spark plug-like explosiveness to the game and add some energy to his offense.
A terrific asset to have coming off the bench, Cole remains a player who can come into the game and change its momentum.
How could anyone else start at shooting guard?
Dwyane Wade is the Miami Heat's soul. He led the team to their first-ever title back in 2006 and stuck with them through the lean years that followed as they geared towards the summer of 2010, where his recruiting helped land LeBron James and Chris Bosh, creating what could be the league's next great dynasty.
Truthfully, this could be one of Wade's last seasons as a true offensive threat and big-time ball handler. His body has played a lot of minutes and injuries have started to become a little more frequent. Time will tell if this past lockout-shortened, hectic season was a blip or if this is the start of Wade's decline.
If Wade does end up injured, having Ray Allen step into the starting five is not much of a problem.
Allen is the NBA's all-time leading three-point scorer and possibly the greatest pure shooter the sport has ever seen.
His signature is a massive statement from the Miami Heat that they fully expect to repeat as champions and intend on doing so in the most emphatic style.
With a healthy team, Allen should come off the bench, though Spoelstra could give the basketball world a treat by fielding a lineup of Wade-Allen-Battier-James-Bosh, a match-up nightmare that would terrorize every other team in the league.
LeBron James may be the best basketball player of all time. He certainly is the most complete and astonishing athlete the NBA has ever known and is capable of simply terrifying performances (see Game Six vs Boston Celtics in the East Finals).
This is where the Heat's roster gets a little fluid. LeBron is more of a point forward, eliminating the need for a point guard, allowing the Heat to field another small forward like Mike Miller or Shane Battier.
Then there are the periods where LeBron can play power forward as the Heat go small, eliminating the need for a center.
It's tough to class some players in the Heat's rotation as it is more of a 'next man up' system, with LeBron and Chris Bosh being so versatile. Even Wade and Allen can play point guard.
Shane Battier is the Heat's second small forward, though with Spoelstra and the Heat's versatility, whether he plays there or as a power forward between Bosh and James is anyone's guess.
Battier remains a standout defender and in Game Five of the NBA Finals was the Heat's hot hand as he knocked down three after three in what became a blowout victory to secure the franchise's second NBA Championship.
Udonis Haslem, like Dwyane Wade, stuck with the Heat through the lean years before LeBron's arrival.
Now he has a second ring to show for his patience.
Haslem, a defensive monster and decent force on offense, could find himself starting as power forward alongside Chris Bosh at center next season as the Heat have finally realized that they do not need to conform to the traditions of the five positions of an NBA team.
Yes, Chris Bosh. Stick with me.
Bosh will start at center, though he will also spend some time playing at his original power forward position as players like Haslem (who starts) get rest. He'll go to power forward and someone like Dexter Pittman (yikes!) will step into the middle to fill the void and Miami will look more like a regular team.
Remember, this is a team on which LeBron James has played center at times.
Chris Bosh, as I mentioned, will start at center next season. He played more minutes there as the season progressed and Erik Spoelstra discovered that the match-up issues he caused on offense for Miami's opponents were far bigger than the problems Miami faced when Bosh came up against legitimate centers.
There are very few true centers in the NBA today, only Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler and Andrew Bynum can really lay claim to such a title. Big men like Andrea Bargnani and Ryan Anderson are playing more like wings with their distance shooting, very few play back-to-the-basket in the modern game.
This combined with the offensive nightmare he poses on defense is why he, along with Boston's Kevin Garnett, are able to carve out niches for themselves as undersized yet effective centers.
Joel Anthony may not be much of an offensive threat, but he is still a high-level defender capable of making life very difficult for those who choose to venture into the Miami Heat's painted area.
Anthony is a competent backup, though nothing more.