The Miami Heat's Backup Plans for These 5 Disaster Scenarios in 2012-13
What can possibly go wrong? With a roster as stacked as the Miami Heat will have in the 2012-13 season, it's a fair question to ask.
Well, how about we answer that. Let's take a look at some realistic problem scenarios (you won't see a slide titled "LeBron James Misses Entire Season") that could emerge for the Heat and how they should combat them to continue on their quest to repeat.
You'll surely see Dwyane Wade's name on a slide title, as there are many questions about how he will be able to hold up this season after offseason knee surgery.
So, let's get to it and take a look at what the Heat will do if Wade misses time and how they should react to four other negative scenarios.
Rashard Lewis Plays Like He Did During the 2011-12 Season
Rashard Lewis' play as a member of the Washington Wizards was simply and utterly atrocious during the 2011-12 season.
He averaged 7.8 points per game, 3.9 rebounds per game (at 6'10", mind you) and only one assist per game. All three of those averages were Lewis' worst since the 1999-00 season (in which he averaged only 19.2 MPG).
But the most disappointing aspect of Lewis' 2011-12 season was that he shot a putrid 23.9 percent from three-point land; this after shooting above 33.3 percent for the past 13 seasons and topping the elusive 40.0 percent mark three times in that span.
However, there is one obvious reason to believe Lewis will have a comeback season: Going from one of the league's worst teams to the reigning champion should definitely be a motivator for him.
Also, with the threats this Heat team has offensively, Lewis should see plenty of open three-point opportunities.
But what if Lewis doesn't convert those? What if Lewis performs like he did just a year ago?
Well, it certainty doesn't help the Heat. But it's far from an insurmountable issue since Lewis won't have a major role on this team. The 2012-13 Heat have their share of bench shooters, namely Ray Allen and Mike Miller, so if Lewis doesn't pan out, the team will just have to turn to them more often in the rotation.
Norris Cole Doesn't Improve as Expected
Norris Cole certainly showed flashes of being a solid rotation player during his rookie season last year. I mean, who could forget the show Cole put on in only his second NBA game, dropping 20 points and hitting clutch shots against the Boston Celtics.
But Cole struggled often as the season went along and eventually landed in Erik Spoelstra's doghouse by the end of the year. He finished the season with some not-so-great numbers: in 19.4 minutes per game, he shot only 27.6 percent from three-point land, averaged only 2.0 assists and 1.6 turnovers.
Still, all signs are pointing up for Cole. Prior to preseason play, Spoelstra said this about Cole to the Sun Sentinel:
He's arguably the most improved player right now. It shouldn't be a surprise to any one of us. He had a terrific summer in terms of commitment.
But what does it mean for the Heat if Cole's great summer doesn't translate to the regular season, when the games really count?
The Heat would be forced to rely more on Mario Chalmers, who, like Cole, needs to cut down on his turnovers. But really, with Wade and LeBron in the fold, the Heat would still be just fine when it comes to ball-handlers. Less Cole likely means more of the ever-so-frightening Wade-Allen-Battier-James-Bosh lineup.
The Heat's Rebounding Problem Worsens
The Miami Heat were far from a great rebounding team last season, finishing 21st in the team statistic at season's end, and without a true center this year, they won't be again.
Still, Chris Bosh, who the Heat will primarily use at the 5 this season, only averaged 7.9 rebounds in the regular season when he was a 4, but as a 5 he upped those averages to 9.4 in the NBA Finals.
But Bosh has never played full-time center before. It's at least somewhat possible that playing the 5 takes a physical toll on him to the point where he can't rebound night after night like he did in the Heat's series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
If that ends up being the case and it proves costly, the Heat do have some nice backup options.
Udonis Haslem is an excellent rebounder, averaging 14.2 rebounds per 48 minutes last season. The Heat could also give some playing time to newcomer Josh Harrellson, who too is great on the glass, averaging 12.8 rebounds per 48 minutes in 2011-12.
This is one of the more unlikely scenarios, given the Heat have certainly been able to mask rebounding issues in the past and because Bosh has physically prepared himself to play the 5. But if rebounding does end up costing the Heat games, they can at least bump up Harrellson's and Haslem's minutes a bit to combat it.
Ray Allen's Ankle Problems Continue
The Heat's signing of Ray Allen for a measly $3 million was its biggest move of the offseason.
Allen has been a model of consistent excellence over his career and comes to the Heat with the primary responsibility of simply knocking down open three-pointers that Wade and James have created for him. Considering Allen has shot 44.4 and 45.3 percent in the past two seasons from behind the arc, there's plenty to love about this signing for the Heat.
But, let's play devil's advocate and take a look at the flip side.
Allen is 37 years old. Granted the guy seemingly lives in the gym, but 37 years old is still 37 years old. With age comes the inevitable breaking down of the body, which we saw at the end of last season. Allen eventually required offseason ankle surgery, and at this point, he's not 100 percent recovered.
If Allen were to miss some time due to a re-aggravation of his ankle, it would be a sizable blow to the Heat's improved depth. While the Heat still have other shooters such as Miller, none of them are as reliable as Allen. An injury to Allen would force the Heat's two biggest stars, Wade and James, to drive and finish more often than they would drive and dish.
But considering Wade and James are out-of-this-world finishers, the Heat would still thrive if Allen misses some time.
Dwyane Wade's Knee Becomes an Issue
From the outcome of a recent media-witnessed drill and his performance in the preseason thus far, it looks like Dwyane Wade will be healthy and ready to go for the regular season. However, given Wade's style of play, Heat fans have to be somewhat worried that a knee problem might resurface in 2012-13.
Wade's game is heavily reliant on his freak athleticism. And although I believe his struggles in the 2012 postseason were overblown, his injury during that time revealed the degree to which Wade's game is hindered when his athleticism becomes less of an advantage.
Losing Wade for any amount of time in 2012-13 would obviously hurt the Heat, but due in part to their signing of Ray Allen, it wouldn't be fatal.
With Wade out, the Heat would simply slot Allen, the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history, into their starting lineup, setting up even more three-pointers for him in the corner, assisted by LeBron James.
Still, the Heat are planning to limit Wade's minutes this year by having Allen spell him at times anyway, so another knee injury, or at least one that keeps him out for an extended period of time, isn't as likely as many seem to think.