When Will the Miami Heat Contend Again?

Tony Lopez@ToneszoneContributor IMarch 28, 2009

CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 12: Michael Beasley #30 of the Miami Heat puts up a shot against the Chicago Bulls on February 12, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Heat defeated the Bulls 95-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agreees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

I remember being happy when the trade for Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon went down but in the last two weeks I find myself feeling different. Initially when the trade was announced, I thought it would make the Heat a more complete team.

With acquiring a big man who could rebound and chip in some points from the post and swapping one athletic swing man in Marion for another in Moon.

It looked great on paper and has even looked good in a couple games since the All-Star break, but something is still missing on this team.

When I look at O’Neal’s play, I just don’t understand why he is not pulling down more rebounds. I mean, it has to be from his lack of effort, because dinosaur Magloire is pulling down just as many if not more boards in limited minutes.

But to tell you the truth, O’Neal is not even the problem with this team, it’s the downgrade that Moon has been from Marion.

Even though they are similar players, Marion is just that much better at what he does then Moon is. Defensively he’s more active, on the glass he’s more active, and off the dribble he’s just that more effective.

The only part of Moon’s game that is superior than Marion’s is his three-point shot, which is still streaky at best.

Hindsight is 20-20 but it just seems to me this team would have benefited more from a trade with Sacramento that would have brought back John Salmons and Brad Miller, just look how that trade has worked out for Chicago.

But the real reason I say this, is because this team is mostly perimeter oriented with D-Wade, Chalmers, and Beasley and needs a small forward that can create off the dribble and ease the play-making load D-Wade carries.

With Haslem being a guy who does the dirty work, all he needed was someone to help him clean the glass. Salmons’ ball handling and creativity would have been the perfect compliment to D-Wade’s game and Miller would have helped Haslem with his size, rebounding, and above average passing skills for a big man.

With the way this league is set up now, all you want from your center is to be a presence defensively and rebound. Let your power forward be your scoring presence down low, while you have guards and small forwards that can penetrate the lane, finish, or find guys open looks.

We have all those pieces in place except for the small forward, which we have lacked since Caron Butler was traded.

But like I said earlier hindsight is 20-20, and hopefully O’Neal can hit a groove on the glass and Moon can find some consistency in his spot up shooting to make a nice run in the playoffs. But make no mistakes; this team as is has no title aspirations.

So what can the Heat do this off season to improve their chances of competing for a title?

First and foremost find a wing player that can complement Wade’s game. James Jones is a nice specialist off the bench if he ever finds his stroke again, same with Deaquan Cook, but neither is the answer.

The wing player needed has to be someone who can create his own shot and not depend on someone else to get him an open look, such as Butler. So what’s really available to the Heat this off season?

No one right now because after the trade we don’t have any cap room to pursue players such as Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford. Unless the Heat finds some way to get Mark Blount or Jermaine O’Neal to pass on the big bucks due to them next year and opt out of their contracts.

Which we know won’t happen because I don’t know anyone who would pass up guaranteed millions.

So that leaves the possibility of a sign and trade or a straight trade. We have a few expiring contracts that could be appealing to some teams targeting the off season of 2010.

Those expiring contracts belong to Blount, O’Neal, and Haslem. Preferably the Heat would rather trade either Haslem or Blount’s expiring contracts in return for that small forward who can compliment Wade’s game.

Think about it, with a year under Beasley’s belt, Haslem’s days as the starting power forward for the Heat are numbered. And with the presence of O’Neal we have a big man who can clog the lane and with more effort, clean the glass.

So trade Haslem’s expiring contract which is more valuable than Blount’s because Haslem can actually contribute to a team’s success and bring in a ball handling, creative small forward that would really balance this team out.

With a trade like that we could trot out a team that features Chalmers and Wade in the back-court, Beasley and O’Neal as the bigs and a new small forward whose game would complete the starting five. Leaving guys like Cook, Moon, and Jones coming off the bench where they should be.

If not just remain a playoff whooping boy until 2010 when Blount’s, O’Neal’s. and Haslem’s deals come off the books and find a way to resign Wade while finding answers at center and small forward.

This is cool with me if they can resign Wade and somehow convince Joe Johnson and Marcus Camby to come join Miami in the same off season. But we’ll have to wait and see when I can write another article where hindsight is 20-20.