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Miami Heat's All-Time Dream Team

John FrielAnalyst IJanuary 12, 2017

Miami Heat's All-Time Dream Team

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    For an NBA franchise that is celebrating only its 25-year anniversary this season, the Miami Heat have compiled a roster that could compete with any other franchise's best.

    Hall of Famers, All-Stars, defensive stalwarts, MVP's, sharpshooters and crossover kings have adorned the red, white and black in a short time; at least by NBA standards, this team has been around. Even in the "old" days, the Heat were making the playoffs four years into their creation and winning divisions after only nine years.

    The Miami Heat organization has set the standard for how manageable success can be if you play your cards right. They used drafted talent to acquire the key components that enabled their late-'90s runs.

    When that talent ran dry, the Heat went through a brief two-year period of mediocrity before, once again, developing young talent to the point where they could compete for a championship. Once that well was tapped, the Heat organization went right back to drawing the blueprints for another squad that was going to win championships—and win them now.

    Sure enough that's what the Heat received. To think that it was only five years ago when this team won 15 games, had just traded its All-Star center, and was putting all their hopes on the injured shoulders of a 6'4" guard from Robbins, Illinois.

    Because ownership has been so persistent when it comes to winning, Miami has seen some of the league's greatest players step through the halls of the Miami Arena and American Airlines Arena.

    Since this is so, it has made compiling an all-time roster of 12 players all the more difficult.

Starting PG: Tim Hardaway

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    There wasn't much competition for Tim Hardaway's starting point guard position on the all-time Miami Heat roster.

    What? You were expecting Chris Quinn?

    Propped up by the recent news that he will be in the Hall of Fame, Hardaway is by far the best pure point guard to play in a Heat uniform.

    Even though his best individual years came with the Golden State Warriors, leaving Heat and Warriors fans to debate over which team he truly belongs to, Hardaway ended up finishing as high as fourth in MVP voting with Miami and leading the Heat to a franchise-record 61 wins.

    Hardaway was traded to the Heat along with Chris Gatling, while the Heat gave up Bimbo Coles and Kevin Willis in return.

    In the year he was a legitimate option for MVP (1997), Hardaway averaged 20.3 points, 8.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds. The Heat's record improved 19 games from the following season, and he, as well as Alonzo Mourning, helped Miami win their first division title and make the first Conference Finals in franchise history.

    Hardaway would play with the Heat up until 2001, but not before leaving lasting memories.

    His battles with the New York Knicks in the postseason, including this memorable stretch of jumpers and his famed "UTEP Two-Step," brought a great deal of popularity to basketball in Miami, a town that was football-crazy at the time.

Starting SG: Dwyane Wade

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    It's safe to say the Heat ended up making the right decision by taking Dwyane Wade and not Chris Kaman in the 2003 NBA draft.

    Chris Kaman isn't enticing Shaquille O'Neal to play in Miami.

    Chris Kaman isn't scoring 35 points per game in the 2006 NBA Finals, leading his team to an improbable 4-2 series victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

    Chris Kaman also isn't convincing LeBron James and Chris Bosh to leave their franchises in hopes that they can avoid the scrutiny of being "ringless."

    Alright, there may be too much picking on Chris Kaman here, but it's all in the purpose of making a point. That point is appreciating Dwyane Wade and everything he has done for the franchise, while also realizing just how close the team came to being another run-of-the-mill, second-tier organization.

    Without Wade, the Heat aren't in position to win their third title since 2006. Neither are they in position to win a few more in the coming years, as long as his health permits.

    In his decade-long career with the Heat, Wade has set the franchise record for games played, points, assists, steals, field goals, free throws, points per game and steals per game.

    He led the Heat to their first championship in 2006, won the scoring title in 2009 after averaging 30.2 points per, and came up a point short in setting the franchise record for points by an individual after scoring 55 against the New York Knicks.

Starting SF: LeBron James

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    You won't find many other players who could create such an impact and emit such an influence in two years like LeBron James has in Miami.

    It feels like the Miami Heat community has gone to hell and back. The organization is in unfamiliar territory as the team to beat, something they didn't even feel the year after they won their first title in '06, and they're clogging up just as much ESPN time as some "carnival barker" who can't stop talking about quarterbacks who can't throw.

    The Heat have become the team you either love or hate, and it's all because of LeBron. He dragged his criticism, past failures and hours upon hours of media coverage with him upon departing the dreary skies of Cleveland for the punishing warmth of Miami.

    In not even three years, LeBron has brought the Heat their longest stretch of success since the days of Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning. Although they have yet to create a new franchise record for wins as so many envisioned, the Heat were still able to erase the trouble of having to win at least one ring in this new era of Miami basketball.

    James averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists per in the Heat's 2012 NBA Finals series with the Oklahoma City Thunder, a series they needed only five games to win. Before then, however, LeBron ended up having the game of his Hall of Fame-worthy career, posting up a crucial and necessary 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a win-or-go-home setting in Game 6 at Boston.

    The 2012 victory relieved the sting of losing a 2011 NBA Finals that appeared to be in hand for the Heat. However, without losing the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, it would be tough to believe that LeBron spends his entire offseason improving his post game, and his all-around game, for the future.

    LeBron is also the first Heat player to win a league MVP, averaging 27.1 points on 53-percent shooting, 7.9 boards and 6.2 assists last year, and could be the first Heat player to ever win two league MVPs.

Starting PF: Chris Bosh

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    Allow me to guess what everyone is thinking: "Where is Alonzo Mourning?"

    Well, consider this construction of the all-time Miami Heat roster as an actual team that's going to be sent out to compete against the all-time rosters of other NBA franchises. When you reach the center position shortly, you'll see why Chris Bosh, not Mourning, would be a better fit in this starting lineup.

    It's for all the same reasons why it's possible to tolerate Bosh when he's currently recording a career-low 7.1 rebounds per game as a 6'11" center: that silky, smooth jump shot of his.

    At the moment, Bosh is knocking down an unprecedented 55 percent of his jumpers between 16 and 25 feet. To put that in perspective, Dirk Nowitzki never shot higher than 52 percent from that range. Bosh's mid-range game is essential to the fluidity of the Heat offense, keeping opposing bigs out of the paint and out of their comfort zone.

    Mourning could shoot, but he was a post player before anything else. It would be tough to figure out how LeBron James and Dwyane Wade get to the rim with Mourning and the Heat's all-time starting center clogging up the paint.

    With Bosh, the Heat don't run into that problem. They get an unconventional big who can shoot the ball within the perimeter better than anyone else in the league. Bosh staying away from the rim keeps the lane open for the drives of the Heat's superstars.

    Bosh will be remembered not for his 40-point outing against the Denver Nuggets earlier this season, but for his vastly underrated Game 7 against the Boston Celtics.

    All credits to LeBron for keeping the Heat alive, but the Heat may not make it to the Finals without an ailing Bosh converting a career-high three three-pointers in the final game of the Conference Finals.

Starting C: Shaquille O'Neal

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    The fashion in which Shaquille O'Neal departed the Miami Heat will always leave a lasting, bitter taste in the mouths of everyone who was a part of those years during the Wade-Shaq era.

    Do they appreciate and remember O'Neal for helping to bring a title, even though he only averaged 13 points and nine rebounds in the 2006 NBA Finals? Or do they remember him for becoming the injury-plagued, whiny shell that he became shortly after?

    It was a heroic fall for O'Neal. He came a few percentage points away from winning his second league MVP in 2005 after averaging 22.9 points, 10.4 boards and 2.3 blocks per game. He might have also been a part of the first Heat team to secure a championship berth in 2005, had Dwyane Wade not gotten hurt late in the Heat's Conference Finals series against the Detroit Pistons.

    O'Neal's stats steadily declined over his final three years with the team, but he was still a dominant force, even if he joined the Heat as a 32-year-old. Even when he wasn't scoring, O'Neal did enough as a terrifying presence in the paint to allow Wade to get what he wanted.

    That's why even though O'Neal's stats don't indicate him being too significant of a contributor in the '06 Finals, he still made his presence felt just by being out on the court.

    Shaq also did an excellent job at propping up Wade and allowing him to become the superstar he is today. While O'Neal might have left on unhappy terms with the likes of the Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic, there is certainly no faulting Shaq when it comes to getting the best out of his teammates.

    Unfortunately for the Heat, they just couldn't get a healthy Shaq. He played in only 59 games in the championship season and 40 in the next. He played 33 games the following year before being traded to the Phoenix Suns for Shawn Marion and, yikes, Marcus Banks.

Alonzo Mourning

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    The original Miami Heat warrior, Alonzo Mourning was a force to be reckoned with in his time with the Miami Heat.

    And even when we thought it would come to an untimely and depressing end, Mourning gave us all one last surprise at the biggest stage of his NBA career.

    Before then, however, Mourning was the second-overall pick in the 1992 draft by the Charlotte Hornets. Because of a feud with teammate Larry Johnson, however, the Hornets sent Mourning to the Heat for Glen Rice a few days prior to the start of the 1995-'96 season.

    Mourning would naturally record career highs across the board in his first season with Miami, his fourth year overall, garnering highs in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, and in field-goal percentage. The 23.2 points he averaged that season would end up being his career high in that category.

    The combination of Mourning and Tim Hardaway would lead the Heat to four consecutive Atlantic Division crowns. However, they advanced past the first round on only two occasions in the ensuing postseasons, while getting to only one Conference Finals, where they fell in five games to a 69-win Chicago Bulls team.

    While team achievements weren't being delivered, Mourning was building up an impressive individual resume. He finished second in MVP voting in 1999 and third in 2000, winning Defensive Player of the Year in both seasons after averaging a league-leading 3.9 blocks per game in '99 and 3.7 in '00.

    Mourning's career appeared ready to be cut short due to a rare kidney ailment, but even being near death couldn't keep 'Zo out of the league for too long. After a short stint in New Jersey, Mourning returned to the Heat for the 2004-'05 season and created some memories in the beginning of his second tenure with Miami.

    What he'll be most remembered for, however, was how he shut down the interior in the Heat's championship-clinching Game 6 road victory over Dallas in 2006. As a 35-year-old, Mourning recorded six game-changing blocks in a game the Heat only won by three.

Glen Rice

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    The Miami Heat's first dynamic and electric star, Glen Rice was the original Heat player creating highlights and bringing about notoriety for his still-developing franchise.

    Rice was a first-round pick of Miami's in 1989, selected fourth overall. He had a solid showing in his rookie season averaging 13.6 points and 4.6 boards per game, but set the foundation for what would be an excellent individual career.

    By his third year in the league, Rice was already averaging 22.3 points, becoming the first Heat player to average at least 20, and converting two three-pointers per game on 39-percent shooting. He would also score 22.3 points per game in his final season with the Heat, matching his highest point total in a Heat uniform.

    It wouldn't be until he was traded to the Charlotte Hornets—in the deal that sent Mourning to the Heat—when he would put up truly impressive numbers in the prime of his career. He wound up averaging 26.8 points and shot an NBA-best 47 percent from beyond the arc in the 1996-'97 campaign, the same year he won All-Star game MVP.

    Rice ended his career shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc.

Sherman Douglas

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    Quite the drop-off from starter to reserve, huh?

    That's not a knock on Sherman Douglas. It's more of a testament to how well Tim Hardaway played in his Heat tenure, as well as the overall lack of quality point guards who have played for Miami.

    Sherman was a second-round pick of the Heat in 1989. Nevertheless, he wound up on the All-Rookie first team after averaging 14.3 points, 7.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

    Douglas would spend his first two seasons and five games into his third season with the Heat.

    Surprisingly, "The Little General" had the most productive individual seasons of his career in his rookie and sophomore years of professional basketball. The 18.5 points per game he averaged in his second season would end up being a career high.

    He also averaged 8.5 assists that season, a career high up until a 1993-'94 campaign with the Boston Celtics where he posted up 8.8 assists.

    The diminutive Douglas, standing at only 6'0", managed to shoot 48 percent from the field, despite his height and poor three-point shooting percentage.

    Also, as good of a facilitator he was, Douglas was also an excellent defender and had a defensive win share of 2.1 in his rookie season.

Udonis Haslem

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    More specifically, the Udonis Haslem before he tore a ligament in his foot in November 2010.

    Haslem hasn't had the same lift since, and he also hasn't recovered the jump shot that garnered him a significant role in the rotation for his first seven years in the league.

    Udonis is currently averaging 3.7 points and 5.4 boards per game and netting a career-low 19 minutes of action per game. Before the years of the "Big Three," however, Haslem was one of the league's most consistent mid-range shooters and rebounders.

    The "Warrior," as he's become known as for his arduous work ethic, was averaging 10.9 points on 54 percent shooting and nine boards per game in only his second season as a starter on a championship-caliber team. Haslem would average at least 10 points per game in four of his first six seasons.

    He also grabbed at least eight boards in six of his first eight seasons.

    Udonis is the ultimate team player. Even though he was a starter for his first six years in the league, Haslem gave up his starting spot to rookie Michael Beasley when asked by his coaches. He responded by going to the bench and becoming the Heat's sixth man without a single complaint.

    And when free agency came around and Haslem was being offered lucrative deals by other teams? He took less money to continue playing with the Heat. Loyalty is a tremendous attribute of Haslem, who was picked up by the Heat as a free agent after going undrafted in 2002.

    He is now back to being the Heat's starting power forward, even if his numbers and overall game have taken a turn for the worse.

Eddie Jones

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    There was a dark period in Heat history that doesn't receive too much press or attention—and for good reason.

    No, I'm not speaking of the disaster that was the 2007-'08 season. I'm speaking of the years in between the Hardaway-Mourning era and the years of Wade. A two-year period where the Heat failed to make the playoffs and couldn't boast more than 36 wins in either year.

    In fact, the 25 wins they garnered in 2003 directly resulted in the Heat getting a high draft pick and eventually netting Wade.

    Leading the way in those dark years was Eddie Jones, a swingman who had gained some notoriety as an athletic sharpshooter with the Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte Hornets. Although he failed to make the All-Star game as he did with those two squads, Jones still had some productive seasons left in him after joining the Heat.

    In the five years of his first Heat tenure—he rejoined the Heat in the 2006-'07 season—Jones never shot less than 37 percent from beyond the arc and averaged at least two three-pointers per game in two of those years. He was consistent in his scoring, averaging between 17 and 19 points per game in his first four years with the team.

    Jones had an excellent shooting touch, putting himself alongside fellow former Heat stars who were also sharpshooters in Tim Hardaway and Glen Rice.

    His defense was also noteworthy, enabling him to three All-Defensive Second Teams before joining the Heat.

Rony Seikaly

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    How ironic that a Heat team with no pure center to rely on at the moment has had some of the better centers in NBA history don the red, white and black.

    The first draft pick of the Heat, Rony Seikaly was a product of Lebanon who surprised everyone when he averaged a double-double in five of his first six NBA seasons. He posted up career highs in the 1992-93 campaign when he averaged 17.1 points and 11.8 boards.

    Seikaly was the first Heat player to achieve an award, winning the league's Most Improved Player award in 1990. He bumped up his rookie averages of 10.9 and seven boards to 16.6 points and 10.4 boards in his second year, also shooting above 50 percent.

    Rony became a quick fan favorite in Miami. He was the first face of the Heat franchise and would garner the nickname "The Spin Doctor" thanks to a patented low-post move with which he mastered the art of scoring with some elite footwork.

    He also holds the Heat franchise record for blocks (8) and rebounds (34).

    34 rebounds? Can the Heat sign this guy anytime soon?

Steve Smith

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    Spending the first three years of his NBA career and a forgettable final year with the Miami Heat, Steve Smith set the foundation for what would be a solid career that included an All-Star appearance and an NBA championship with the 2003 San Antonio Spurs.

    Before then, Smith was just getting his feet wet with the Heat. He was the fifth-overall pick of the 1992 draft and made an immediate impression on a young team that also included the likes of Glen Rice and Rony Seikaly.

    By his third season, Smith was already averaging 17.3 points, 5.1 assists and 4.5 assists. His final two seasons with the Heat represented the only times Smith averaged at least 15 points, five assists and four rebounds.

    The 40 percent he shot from beyond the arc in his second year represents only one of the three times in Smith's career where he had such a percentage from the perimeter.

    Upon joining the Atlanta Hawks, Smith would possess more of a scorer's mentality and would average as much as 20 points per game.

    Smith was an incredibly gifted offensive player, including possessing an excellent spin move and footwork in the post for a 6'7" shooting guard.

Reserves

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     Anthony Mason

    There have been seven different All-Stars in Heat history. It's easy to guess the first six: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal.

    The seventh? Well, that's a little bit more difficult to guess, since that player was only with the Heat for a single season.

    Anthony Mason's only All-Star appearance came as a member of the Heat. In that season, as a 34-year-old in the 2000-'01 season, he averaged 16.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per.

    According to basketball-reference.com, Mason was converting 41 percent of his jumpers and 57 percent of his shots around the rim in his lone season.

     

    Grant Long

    He was Udonis Haslem before there was a Udonis Haslem to speak of. Grant Long was a hard-nosed forward that prided himself on being aggressive around the rim and hitting the mid-range jumper.

    Long was a second-round pick of Miami's in 1988. Despite being a second-round pick, Long was impressive in averaging 11.9 points and 6.7 boards in his rookie season. His numbers would drop over the next two seasons, but he would then go through the best stretch of his career.

    In his fourth year, Long averaged career highs in points (14.8) and rebounds (8.4). He would eventually break the rebounding mark later on with Atlanta, but the scoring mark still stands.

     

    Jamal Mashburn

    Although he was plagued with injuries in a short tenure with the Heat that lasted a little more than three years, playing a combined 72 games in his first two full seasons, Jamal Mashburn played a key role on a number of championship-caliber teams.

    As a role player with the Heat, Mashburn, a 6'8" small forward, was capable of doing it all on the floor. He could beat a defender on drives, while also beating opponents from the perimeter. Mashburn shot 43 and 40 percent, respectively, from beyond the arc in his final two years with Miami.

    Before becoming a valuable role player on the Heat, however, Mashburn was a star with the Dallas Mavericks and averaged a career-high 24.1 points in only his second season.

    Even at the end of his career, when he became a primary scoring option with Charlotte/New Orleans, Mashburn finished out his career averaging at least 20 points per game for four straight years.

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