One Bold Prediction for Every Miami Heat Player for Next Season
Predictions for the Miami Heat's title defense are a dime a dozen. Calls for a third straight finals appearance and even a repeat championship in August are the flavor of the summer, but how their individual players will fare and rotation get sorted is a different story altogether.
Sure, LeBron is playing the best basketball of his career, but will he have another transcendent season in wake of a full Olympic slate? Does he need one? Will Miami get the same production out of their players who stayed at home, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade? We haven't even gotten to the new additions and supporting cast.
With NBA tipoff only a month and a half away, it is prediction season in Miami. An influx of talent resides in South Beach but how they'll fare amongst a crowded rotation is one tough conundrum.
LeBron James- Will Not Win League MVP
While he's played the best basketball of his career this past year, the bar has been set too high for the Chosen One in 2012. While his team should have unparalleled success as defending champions, the need for LeBron to be special on a Tuesday on the road against Detroit has been minimized.
LeBron will play much more of a facilitator role during the regular season, setting up his teammates from the block. Add in Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Dwyane Wade with two knees; the load of LeBron's back just vanished in thin air.
He will not be posting gaudy scoring numbers like a Kevin Durant, which is why his modest all-around numbers will fail to impress the MVP voters for a third straight time.
The voters themselves are already in search of somebody to knock James off of another MVP. A season without repeat numbers will be considered a regression.
Chris Bosh- Will Start at Center All Season
The impact of Bosh’s playoff run has altered the Heat’s emphasis on small-ball this offseason from lukewarm to boiling hot. They plan on trotting out more lineups with Bosh at the 5, banking on his magnificent help defense in the finals was no fluke.
Alongside Bosh at center, LeBron James will be seeing an ample amount of time next to Bosh at power forward. When the two played alongside each other as a 4-5 combination, their defensive points per 100 possessions was a 98 or lower.
It may take some growing pains, but Bosh will get acquainted with the center position in due time. If the NBA Finals was any indication, he'll be blocking defenders at the rim like a flyswatter in no time.
Dwyane Wade- Will Average Career High in Assists
With an abundance of shooters on the roster, Wade has more three point marksmen than he's ever has since 2006, when the Heat won the NBA championship.
That same year, Wade accumulated over 500 assists. Expect even better results in 2012.
The additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, in particular, will add another element from downtown that Wade can rely on when he cannot penetrate all the way to the rim.
He may not be able to convert on jump shots at a impressive rate, but his teammates sure will.
Mike Miller- Will Play in Less than 60 Games This Season
Miller's back raised concerns about his availability as soon as the Heat's playoff run began last year. Now that more shooters occupy the Heat roster, the need for Miller to be available on call has lowered dramatically.
Even so, there's a reason no news about Miller has been mentioned this offseason. A back injury requires an obscene amount of recovery, one that will extend into the regular season. Miller will be riding the pine for extended periods this season and for good reason.
Udonis Haslem- Will Shoot over 40 Percent from 10 to 15 Feet
Haslem shot some of his worst shooting numbers of his career last season, including under 40 percent from 10 to 15 feet.
Old habits never die, though. Udonis will be back to form next season with a full offseason at his disposal. Expect those elbow jumpers to be easy money.
Considering the Heat won the championship when Haslem wasn't playing his best offense, that makes Miami even scarier headed into next season.
Mario Chalmers- Will Play in the Crunch Time Lineup
All the hype about Ray Allen joining the Heat has been centered on his shooting prowess. Let's not forget about the NBA Champions' top three point shooter last season. Chalmers was not only a 45 percent shooter, but he provided a bunch of late game heroics on his own.
Game 4 of the NBA Finals, in particular, was the evolution of Chalmer's game merely as a open shooter, to a viable playmaker in the crunch time lineup.
That won't change as Miami tries a small ball lineup for the long haul. Their point guard should join Wade, Allen, James and Bosh for top offense efficiency in late game situations.
Joel Anthony- Will Average the Best Defensive Efficiency Besides LeBron
Anthony was the fourth most efficient defender in Miami last season, and it showed on the floor. When he had an ample amount of playing time,
No. 50 was well coached in playing the right angles on pick and rolls, not to mention laying his body out on help defense. He has become any defensive liability's best friend when they're in trouble (ahem Mike Miller).
With the Heat's offseason focus on small ball, the defense will be even more predicated on aggression and steady contention from their big men. It doesn't get easier for Anthony but he has been thriving in this role ever since James came to Miami.
There's no reason to believe that upward trend is stopping anytime soon.
James Jones- Will Not Crack the Rotation
You may not find a bigger James Jones advocate than this writer, but there are simply to many other options available for him to get involved in the annual rotation.
He already didn't get much playing time in last year's championship run. Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis's arrivals will not give Jones any more chances.
He has a deadly three-point shot, but he doesn't do much else. Since Allen is merely a better shooter by reputation and Lewis provides more options defensive with his size (never thought I'd ever write those words), Jones will be relegated to the bench a lot more often.
Shane Battier- Will Play More Power Forward Than Small Forward
Battier took the responsibility of fronting power forwards, which gave David West and Brandon Bass fits in the postseason. Therefore, Battier's ability frees LeBron to guard the opposing teams best wing player.
That defensive versatility is unmatched to any other NBA roster, therefore will be a prominent part of the Heat's opening strategy.
The offense Miami gets from Battier is an added bonus; team defenses almost have to surrender Battier's open three attempts when guarding Miami.
Since Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony are not reliable offensively in that regard, Battier provides a combination on both ends of the floor that suits the Heat in the early going, even at the four spot.
Ray Allen- Will Shoot over 45 Percent from Three Point Range
Allen shot his highest three point percentage in his career last season in Boston. There is no reason to believe that can't happen in his inaugural year in Miami.
Let's throw away the mere fact that he's the greatest three point shooter of all-time (volume-wise). Allen will be getting the cleanest looks this season that he's gotten his entire career. He will not have to work for shots off the dribble like in Milwaukee or Seattle, nor will he have to fight off multiple screens ala Boston.
The sheer presence of LeBron James in the same uniform will guarantee Allen a few wide open shots per game. He has never had a penetrator and skillful passer on that level. Then again, we are talking about LeBron James; Allen basically took a pay cut to play alongside him.
All number 34 has to do is knock them down. Talk about a foregone conclusion.
Rashard Lewis- Will Post His Best Shooting Numbers in Four Years
Perhaps because of a hefty contract and a lack of trying, Lewis has been in a slump the past several years. That explains why he came to Miami at such an easy price on the books.
The main reason for Lewis's resurgence is simple: Heat won’t be asking him to do much more offensively than to hit jumpers from 10 feet and out. Getting to the gym and hoisting up 10,000 shots will be easier knowing he doesn’t have to carry his team inside.
He won’t need to carry his team at all, for that matter. When much of the burden to succeed was placed on Lewis, it equaled mixed results.
When his Magic snagged championship berth in 2009, he was the third or fourth option in crunch time. Those are the situations the Heat will put him in regularly. Easy enough.
Norris Cole- Will Have More Fourth Quarter Heroics This Season
Cole arguably had last season's best moment for any rookie when he made clutch shots down the stretch at home early in the season versus Boston.
At that point the Heat knew they had an offensive player who was a fearless shot-taker, regardless of what age it said on the roster sheet. That knack for end-game brilliance does not just go away.
In addition, Cole should have a lot more of those with his first offseason under his belt due to last year's lockout. Many forget that the second-year player came into Miami cold turkey last season; that is what makes his performance a few games in against the Celtics even more gratifying.
Cole will get his share of chances, even with upgraded personnel alongside him. Head coach Erik Spoelstra isn't afraid to go with the hot hand late in games.
Dexter Pittman- Will Not Be on Team by Season's End
If the Heat summer league campaign was an indication, Pittman will be back in the NBDL to polish his game rather than sit on the back of the bench all season.
My distaste for Pittman has been documented on this website numerous times this summer, so I'll spare the harangue and give the Cliff Notes. He is a 7-footer who has shown no willingness to attack the glass, exhibited by his four rebound average in summer league play. Even Adam Morrison had a better time crashing the boards.
In addition, he has a post game predicated on brute strength rather than footwork; that won't fly in the NBA, where every big man is either bigger or smarter that next guy to be overpowered on the hardwood.
Yet Pittman in his third year and he has yet to show any significant improvement, making him an easy mark for later on. When an attractive veteran option hits the wire midseason, Pittman will surely be the first to go.