Previewing Miami Heat's Biggest Training Camp Battles
By bringing back much of the gang from their 2013 championship team, the Miami Heat will head into training camp with plenty of certainty about how minutes will be distributed among their players.
At the same time, due to the few key offseason moves Miami did make (amnestying Mike Miller and signing Greg Oden) and the potential for its best young player to emerge, the Heat still have some exciting training camp battles upcoming.
Let's explore each of them in depth.
The Fight for Mike Miller's Vacated Minutes
The 15.3 minutes per game Miller averaged last season are up for grabs. With the Heat not signing another role-worthy wing player this offseason, James Jones and Rashard Lewis are left as the top candidates to replace Miller in Miami's rotation.
Miller's former role doesn't require a lot of heavy lifting. With the Heat's offensive system based on surrounding LeBron James and Dwyane Wade with shooters, Miller's replacement needs to be able to stand in the corner and hit open threes.
Given that's what James Jones has made a career out of, he would seem to be the front-runner for the job.
But Jones, albeit in a very small sample size, converted just 30.2 percent of his outside shots in the 2012-13 season. If he wants Miller's minutes, he may need to return to his career averages in preseason play.
Lewis can also be an effective sharpshooter if Jones can't get the job done. He's a career 38.8 percent outside shooter and shot 38.9 percent in his first season with the Heat. Like Jones, he's not much of an asset in any of the game's other areas. But, again, that's fine with Miami. It's all about the threes for this role.
Whether it's Jones or Lewis, whoever is hitting from the outside will replace Miller.
Who Will Be Miami's No. 3 Center?
Once Greg Oden signed with Miami, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel speculated that Joel Anthony could be on his way out of town. Anthony is still with the Heat, though, which means Oden does have some competition for the No. 3 center spot behind Chris Andersen and Chris Bosh.
The job is clearly Oden's to lose. Anthony wasn't a rotation player last season and is extremely limited offensively. On top of that, he's a horrible rebounder for his position (averages 6.7 rebounds per 36 minutes in his career).
On the other side, Oden has gobs of potential. Granted it was three years ago, but during Oden's last NBA stint (2009-10 season) he averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 23.9 minutes per game.
If Oden can show he's still anything resembling that guy in camp, then Anthony should be prepared for a long season on the bench.
Can Norris Cole Supplant Mario Chalmers?
To say the least, Cole taking Chalmers' job as the Heat's starting point guard is a long shot.
However, given Cole's emergence in the 2013 playoffs and the likelihood that he's going to be better in his third season than he was in his second, there's at least the slightest possibility he can jump Chalmers on the depth chart.
In the playoffs, Cole was Miami's best three-point shooter (53.1 percent). He showed better decision-making and finishing-at-the-rim skills. And he was, of course, his usual tenacious defensive self.
But Chalmers has more experience in the Heat's system, has a more proven track record as an outside threat (he's shot 0.48 percent better on threes in his career than Cole has), is less turnover-prone (he averaged fewer turnovers per 36 minutes last season), and he's still a better decision-maker.
Cole is really going to have to show a ton of growth in camp, especially on offense, to give Chalmers a run for his money.
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