As a collective, the Miami Heat's second championship title in a row is certainly encouraging going forward, but individually, who can we expect to blow up big time this upcoming season?
Every season should be treated as if it was in a vacuum—a title last season doesn't guarantee another next season, and a down year for a specific player doesn't necessarily mean that individual can expect another bad campaign unless they allow it.
Okay, sure, freak injuries are uncontrollable, but still, players have a lot of power over their performances.
Keeping this mind, is Dwyane Wade's scoring average going to continue its decline, or will Mr. Wade deal with that bum knee and give us vintage Flash?
Will any of the young guys step up in a big way, and will a certain acquisition make his presence known?
It's way too early to say, but we can certainly do our best to estimate who on this squad will take their game to the next level going forward.
Dwyane Wade in his prime was arguably the most entertaining player in the league. He was the perfect mix of flair and practicality. He was like a pinball in the pick-and-roll—a well-placed screen allowed him to slingshot his way to the rim, or a rotating defender would be left looking silly after Wade drops it off to his man for an easy finish.
His brilliance in terms of IQ combined with his raw athleticism made him an unstoppable force, but as he's gotten older, injuries and battle scars of many NBA campaigns have taken their toll.
Taking a look at his career stats, it should be noted that his scoring average has gradually decreased as well as his attempts per game.
The ascension of LeBron James from awkward dance partner to undisputed leader of the team has finally been achieved, this could partly explain why his numbers have gone down.
However, as we mentioned, his injuries definitely have had a negative effect on Dwyane's game. He doesn't cut the same way he used to, sometimes he seems hobbled and sluggish, and his lack of a consistent jumper has reduced him to playing a lot of offball or finishing off cuts or transition opportunities.
While we see flashes of Flash, it's clear he has adapted to his reduced role as a Robin-like sidekick to LeBron as Batman.
Wade is much more selective, and most of the time, he's attempting great shots rather than forcing or creating tough ones—part of why he shot the best percentage of his career from the floor last season at 52 percent.
Knowing Wade, however, it's unlikely this trend of dipping scoring averages to continue. While Wade won't nearly be as assertive, expect him to improve his game so he can be just as deadly without everything having to be predicated off speed and athleticism.
The man is an ultra-competitor—don't let the skin-tight blazers and cropped trousers fool you; Wade isn't going to just let his game continue to fall off.
Expect to see a renewed Wade, especially health-wise. Less cutting and changing direction off the dribble means less stress on his knee ligaments, and less slashing means he's less likely to get banged up.
While Wade has already established himself in this league as an elite player, his dipped averages had a lot of people questioning whether or not he was on his way out.
Don't worry, to the doubters, the haters, the naysayers, Wade is coming back with something to prove.
While the durability question mark is big for Dwyane Wade, there's no question it doesn't come close to the colossal questioning newly acquired center Greg Oden is facing.
Let's face it, most NBA fans are doubtful Greg Oden will last this full season with the Heat, and frankly, you can't blame them.
It's been a couple seasons since he's played in the league, and injuries aside, there is a lot he's going to have to readjust himself with.
Back-to-backs, getting his conditioning back up, battling younger, stronger guys and most of all, overcoming the mental hurdle of anticipating an impending injury—assuming it occurs, of course.
Will Greg be less likely to bang on the block or play-intense defense because he's concerned he'll crack his knee again?
While some might say yes, the beauty of Miami is a good enough reason to fade the public and put your money on Greg Oden having a big season.
The Heat are incredibly deep, and they are incredibly talented. Greg Oden is an enhancement and nothing more. The Heat don't need Greg to be Bill Russell, and they don't need him to be a one-man defensive anchor. With this in mind, he'll probably have less pressure on his mind being a guy no one expects to last long on a championship team rather than the failed No. 1 pick for a franchise desperately needing a star (sorry, Portland).
However, if Greggy does magically stave off a horrific injury, Miami could be the most frustrating team to deal with in the NBA. He just needs to clean up the boards, change or block some shots and play competent defense. Nothing more, nothing less.
Statistically, don't expect Oden to put up Wilt Chamberlain-like numbers. His career line of nine points and seven boards per game with a block is hardly something to stand up and applaud. Stuffing the statsheet was never his prowess, but being a big-time presence for an undersized team like Miami would be ridiculous for the rest of the league if it pans out.
Expect Oden to add an extra dimension to Miami's game, especially on the defensive end, and while he won't put up huge numbers, count on him reminding people why he went No. 1 a couple years ago.
Ever since Norris Cole was drafted back in 2011, it was clear Miami was trying to solidify a backcourt that already featured a future Hall of Famer in D-Wade and young Mario Chalmers. While they might've expected him to be nothing more than a no-name bench guy, Cole has emerged as a legitimate spark plug in their reserve unit.
His smothering defense, his ability to shoot the ball with ease and his deceptive speed and strength have made him into a scrappy, well-balanced wingman to the likes of LBJ, Wade and Chris Bosh.
While Chalmers is the de facto starter due to his seniority, it would be fun to wager that Norris proves to be so productive that he eventually replaces Chalmers as the full-time starter.
Still skeptical? Well, don't be. Check out these head-to-head stats, courtesy of basketball-reference.com.
Despite averaging almost eight minutes less than Chalmers, Cole was virtually identical point-wise, with only a two-point difference separating them, but Chalmers did out-shoot him beyond the arc and from the floor, but the differential is very close (42 percent to 40 percent from the floor, 37 percent to 32 percent from deep).
Who among the following players will have the biggest individual impact in 2013-14?
Sure, head coach Erik Spoelstra and company wouldn't want to shake up the rotation, but in all honesty, Cole would probably do just fine in starting role.
Yes, Chalmers is the better shooter, but Cole's all-around game is better, and versatility is what matters most.
However, in the eyes of the Heat, they probably want a better shooter running with the main unit to spread the floor.
Even if he doesn't get the increased playing time he deserves, don't sleep on Cole; he's going to continue to be a huge part of their bench rotation, and he's without question one of the better young point men in the league.