Predicting Miami Heat Rotation for the 2012-13 NBA Season
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With free agency winding down and the Miami Heat still deciding on what to do with their final two roster spots, it's time to decide what type of rotations and lineups the team should be running for the 2012-'13 season.
While I could just say the team has already won with their two key acquisitions, I'm not one to make guarantees—especially with the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics appearing as good as they do on paper.
The Heat will come out next year with the same roster and a few exceptions. Ronny Turiaf has already departed and it wouldn't come as a surprise if Juwan Howard and Eddy Curry end up doing the same, too. In their spots, they've been replaced by Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, with the possibility of the Heat signing their draft pick Justin Hamilton and possibly re-signing Terrel Harris.
The most important ideal, however, is the fact that they still have their key three-man core together, as well as all of the key players who contributed last year. With the possible exception of Mike Miller, who is dealing with all sorts of injuries, the Heat should roll out with a much more improved roster from the previous two seasons.
We take a look at how the team is going to be constructed by analyzing the possible rotation for the Miami Heat next year.
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However, with so much success in the small-ball lineup last year, it begs the question on what the Heat should do regarding their situation at the five. They've utilized their free agency money on two perimeter shooters (although Rashard Lewis can help down low) and will continue to play without a pure center in their starting lineup.
Chris Bosh proved near the end of the regular season, and whenever he was healthy enough to play in the playoffs, that he is completely capable of playing the five. His rebounding numbers were at their highest when he played center, and he even held his own on the defensive end, as his length and quickness created problems for opposing big men.
LeBron James showed a great deal of success playing at power forward, as well, but that should be saved for the postseason. James stated how trying it is to defend opposing power forwards. It wouldn't be in the Heat's best interest to allow James to tire himself out before the postseason even begins, so save it for when it counts.
It's more than likely that Mario Chalmers will still be featured at the one, Dwyane Wade at the two and LeBron James at the three.
Regarding Chris Bosh and where he will play, however, is a completely different story. The Heat will probably elect to utilize Bosh at center to start the season and see how it goes from there, while it'll most likely be Udonis Haslem playing power. After all, Haslem can't shoot nearly as bad as he did last year, and he's still one of the top rebounders on this team.
If Haslem doesn't find his shot, though, the spot could open up for Rashard Lewis in order to add another three-point threat next to Chalmers.
First off the Bench
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Needless to say, the Miami Heat's bench has been in complete disarray since the start of this 'Big Three' experiment.
The Heat went into the 2010-11 season with the idea that Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem would support them off the pine, but saw those dreams quickly dashed as Miller dealt with injuries throughout the year and Haslem would tear a ligament in his foot that would keep him out nearly the entire season. In the end, the inconsistencies of the bench would prove to be a major downfall of the Heat that year.
Going into the 2011-12 season, the Heat had added Shane Battier and Norris Cole, but were still dealing with Miller who was going to sit out the first few weeks of the season due to recovery from a sports hernia surgery. It didn't help that Haslem couldn't find his stroke and lost his lift, nor did it help that Battier couldn't hit a shot despite being a 39 percent shooter from deep.
Luckily for the Heat, they ended up getting big contributions from Battier, Cole and Miller in the NBA Finals.
After two years of inconsistent play from whoever came off the bench for Miami, they finally get the sixth man they've been waiting to see since 2010 in Ray Allen. Even though he's 37-years-old and an injury plagued 2011-'12 campaign, Allen managed to set a career-high in three-point shooting percentage at 46 percent.
He should have no trouble in his new role coming off the bench, and should be fully healthy after a summer's worth of rest.
With Allen being the first off the bench, the Heat will get the consistent shooter they've been waiting for and will finally possess that perimeter threat who can stretch the floor and open up the lane for the drives of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
The 7-8-9 Men
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And just like that, the Miami Heat have a really good bench.
Not only does this team now feature Ray Allen as their sixth man, but it will also NBA Finals heroes in Shane Battier and Norris Cole, as well as the recently acquired Rashard Lewis, defensive specialist Joel Anthony and the developing Dexter Pittman.
When it comes down to it, however, the 7-8-9 players will most likely be Battier, Lewis and Norris Cole.
Battier is a necessity in the rotation. His defense complements the Heat's philosophy to perfection, and he also aids in getting LeBron James rest, as he will help defend the same players that James defends. His three-point shooting will also continue to play a key role, with the hopes that it will come around earlier than the Eastern Conference Finals.
Lewis is a bit of a wild-card. You can look at his numbers and see that he's an elite shooter, but looking at last year's totals leave little to the imagination. In only 28 games with Washington, Lewis shot 24 percent from beyond the arc and 39 percent from the field to finish with a mere 7.8 points per game to go along with 3.9 boards.
The Heat will need Lewis to regain his shooting stroke, and will also be expected to contribute on the boards considering that he is now one of the tallest players on this team at 6'10". Mike Miller could just as easily replace Lewis in the rotation if healthy enough and if Rashard isn't performing up to standards.
Rounding out the 7-8-9 will be Norris Cole, who will be entering the second year of his NBA career. Unlike last year where Cole was pushed out of rotation due to poor play in the second half, it should be expected of the Heat coaching staff to allow the young point guard to get consistent minutes in order to gain the experience he needs to improve.
On the Outside Looking in
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The players I'll soon mention may be considered on the outside looking in, but they should see plenty of time in the regular season.
When the postseason comes around, it's expected the Heat will run the small-ball lineup that will mostly feature James at the four, which eliminates the need for a defensive specialist like Joel Anthony or a bruising center like Dexter Pittman.
They'd be obsolete then, unless they have something to say about it. Specifically Pittman, who has garnered a lot of faith from Heat management after a lackluster second season. The former University of Texas center, who spent the majority of his rookie season in the D-League, showcased some talent on both sides of the ball, but his proneness to drawing fouls is staggering.
Pittman simply doesn't know the meaning of letting it go. If the opposing team has prime position for the rebound, there's no need to go over the top of the player in hopes that you might strip it. It's better to just let it go and move on. Instead, Dexter picks up those cheap fouls which is why he can't see consistent playing time.
Fellow frontcourt teammate Joel Anthony should continue to see some playing time, however. His shot-blocking ability is the best on this team next to Dwyane Wade's, and he should be utilized because of his defense throughout the first half of the NBA season. Perhaps if his offensive repertoire improves, he could see some minutes.
James Jones, who may be the best three-point shooter on this team, won't see many minutes thanks to the shooting abilities of Chalmers, Allen, Lewis and Battier. There's not much room for a specialty player in a 'positionless' lineup.
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Needless to say, it's going to extremely interesting to see how the Miami Heat play their two new players with the new identity they picked up last year.
The 'positionless' lineup and small-ball became staples of the Heat, as it allowed the team to win a title. With LeBron James, as well as Shane Battier, showcasing his talents playing power forward and Chris Bosh showing how effective he is at the five, the Heat recognized that they have a roster chock full of players who can do multiple things at multiple positions.
With Allen and Lewis on the team, it also adds several new ways for the Heat to run their game at maximum efficiency.
Take for instance when Wade and Bosh exit the game near the end of the first quarter. In the past, the lineup that has been featured was a death sentence for the Heat. It featured LeBron James in a role similar to Cleveland where he would do nothing other than isolation plays and occasionally pass it out to a shooter, who would occasionally make it.
Now that the Heat have two shooters possibly coming off the bench, the Heat shouldn't have to worry too much on the second lineup that's featured at the end of the first and third quarters. James is finally going to garner some support from the likes of Allen and Lewis, and even Battier if he regains the shot he had in last year's postseason.
The Heat can also continue to thrive in the lineups featuring just LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Unlike last year when opposing power forwards or centers ignored anyone who wasn't Chris Bosh, they'll have no choice but to stick to the perimeter to defend Rashard Lewis. The idea of this lineup, however, relies on if the 6'10" forward can regain the shooting stroke he had throughout his career until last year.
The premier lineup, which is the one to come at the end of a game, would feature Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers. Those are five cold-blooded players who now how to perform late in games, even Chalmers who came up huge in the Heat's Game 4 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.