As we inch ever closer to the 2013-14 NBA season, the two-time defending champion Miami Heat are poised to win yet another title. The Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh make Miami a truly elite team, but without key role players, they’d be nowhere.
Guys like Ray Allen and Shane Battier continue to hold down the fort, but they’ll be a combined 74 years old by the 2014 postseason. We’ll have to wait and see if they have enough left in the tank to be the X-factors they were a season ago.
As expected, the Heat didn’t make many changes during the 2013 offseason. Among 13 guaranteed contracts on the roster, Greg Oden is the only fresh face. He’ll aim to make a successful NBA comeback, as he hasn’t played in the Association since 2009-10 when he started all 21 of his games.
A handful of hopefuls with non-guaranteed contracts will try and make the final roster, but their chances at playing time are minimal at best.
LBJ is the unquestioned best player and alpha dog of this team. So where do other Heat players find themselves in the individual power rankings?
After a dreadful season with the Phoenix Suns, Michael Beasley will attempt to make the Miami Heat's roster.
15. Roger Mason Jr., SG
Roger Mason’s best NBA season came during the 2008-09 campaign when he was a member of the San Antonio Spurs. He played all 82 games (71 starts), averaged 11.8 points per game and knocked down 42.1 percent of his threes.
He has a skill set that complements what Miami likes to do, but Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Shane Battier already fill a similar niche.
Nevertheless, Mason has knocked down 60 percent of his three-point attempts while averaging 13.5 points per game in preseason. Unfortunately, he’s missed two preseason games due to a quad strain.
He’ll only make the roster if the coaching staff truly covets his shooting ability, which has looked impressive.
14. Michael Beasley, SF/PF
Although many Heat fans believe that Michael Beasley is suddenly going to morph into a productive player following an abysmal year with the Phoenix Suns (check out the poll on this article), I just don’t see it happening.
Beasley finished the 2012-13 campaign with negative-1.5 total win shares. He shot a career-low 40.5 percent from the field and couldn’t keep a starting job over P.J. Tucker—who played in the D-League, Israel, Ukraine, Greece, Italy, Puerto Rico and Germany since 2007 in an attempt to get back to the NBA.
As if that’s not enough, Beasley punched himself in the head after traveling in a preseason game and reportedly needed medical treatment for it after the game, according to Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald.
B-Easy makes the roster, but he’s one off-court incident away from getting cut.
13. James Jones, SF
James Jones was contemplating retirement from the NBA as recently as June of last year, according to Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Given his poor production, maybe he should have called it quits before the 2012-13 year.
In 38 games played for the Miami Heat last season (mostly in garbage time), Jones shot 34.4 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from three-point range. Those were his lowest shooting percentages since his rookie year when he played just six games for the Indiana Pacers.
Considering that Jones is a career 39.9 percent three-point shooter, it was a major red flag to see him shoot just 30.2 percent from deep last year.
12. Joel Anthony, PF/C
Much like James Jones, Joel Anthony’s role on the Miami Heat diminished drastically last season.
After averaging 16.5 minutes in 2009-10, 19.5 minutes in 2010-11 and 21.1 minutes in 2011-12, Anthony’s court time plummeted to 9.1 minutes per game during the 2012-13 campaign.
Chris “Birdman” Andersen swooped in and acquired the bulk of Anthony’s minutes. His opportunities will diminish even more now that Greg Oden is on the roster.
11. Rashard Lewis
At this juncture, it’s hard to believe that Rashard Lewis averaged 20 or more points per game in three straight seasons from 2004-05 to 2006-07. At 34 years old, it’s fair to say his best days are behind him.
With that said, Lewis still managed to knock down 38.9 percent of his three-point attempts with Miami last season. That was the lanky forward’s best percentage from distance since 2009-10, when he played for the Orlando Magic.
He adds an interesting dynamic to this team, even if he isn’t projected to receive much court time.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 5.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.1 blocks
Despite the fact that Norris Cole has developed into one of the league’s more reliable backup point guards, the Miami Heat have reportedly been fielding offers for the 25-year-old.
According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, Miami has explored what Cole’s market value is around the league. He’s still a member of the Heat, though. So that either means the Heat weren't thrilled with what they could get in return, or they’re waiting for the right offer.
In any case, Cole isn’t letting those rumors deter his focus. According to Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Cole said the following about the swirling trade rumors:
I can’t control that. The only thing I can do is control what I can control and that’s to make sure I’m in the best shape, make sure I’m ready to perform and make sure when I get out there I show what I can do. Anything else, I can’t control that, so I don’t worry my mind about that.
Unless Miami’s front office is able to find a trade offer to their liking, Cole will continue to be the steady backup behind Mario Chalmers.
Last season, he recorded career highs in field-goal percentage (42.1 percent) and three-point percentage (35.7 percent).
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: N/A
Even though Greg Oden impressed teammates at his first full practice and said afterward, “It felt good to get out there and get some up-and-down,” according to ESPN’s Michael Wallace, the big man is still a complete unknown.
The former No. 1 overall pick is attempting to make a comeback, but he hasn’t played a single minute in the NBA since the 2009-10 season with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Given Oden’s long, troublesome injury history, tempering expectations is a must. Nevertheless, the big man should still be a productive player even if he only plays 10-18 minutes per contest.
For further evidence of that, the big man ranked eighth in the NBA with a 23.14 player efficiency rating in 2009-10. He posted that PER in just 23.9 minutes per game.
The Heat don’t need Oden to be a franchise-changing center. If he can deliver in limited minutes by altering shots and grabbing some rebounds, he’ll be the perfect complement to a championship-caliber team.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 3.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.2 blocks
Along with Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem is the longest-tenured player on the Miami Heat. He's spent the past 10 seasons in South Beach. His numbers took a big dip last season due to playing significantly fewer minutes, but he’s still a reliable veteran who brings toughness to the roster.
During the 2012-13 season, Haslem shot 72 percent at the rim and 44.1 percent from 16 feet or further from the basket, according to Basketball Reference. He wasn’t one of the team’s main offensive options, but he was still very efficient both at the basket and spreading the floor with jump shots.
Haslem’s ability to knock down long two-pointers makes him a perfect fit within the offense. He complements the play of Wade and LeBron James because he doesn’t have to clog the lane to be efficient, which opens up driving lanes for the two superstars.
He certainly isn’t one of the best power forwards in the game, but he’ll continue to contribute as long as he stays healthy.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 4.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 steals, 1.0 blocks
Chris “Birdman” Andersen continues to be hustle personified.
In the 42 games that Andersen appeared in during the regular season, Miami’s record was an astonishing 39-3 for a winning percentage of .929. He played in every game during the Heat’s historic 27-game win streak and helped to further solidify team chemistry.
Additionally, Birdman posted a PER of 17.44 in just 14.9 minutes per game. His player efficiency rating last season was better than that of Pau Gasol, Jrue Holiday, Paul George, Roy Hibbert and others.
The veteran big man became a big part of the Heat's identity a season ago. Look for him to continue doing all the little things that help Miami win games.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 8.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.2 blocks
Mario Chalmers rarely gets the credit he deserves because he's surrounded by such phenomenal players, but he truly is the perfect fit for this team at point guard.
Instead of being required to bring the ball up the court, set up the offense and orchestrate pick-and-roll plays, Chalmers can yield point guard duties to LeBron James.
While the four-time MVP draws the eyes of the defense, Chalmers embraces his role as dead-eye shooter.
Last season, the former Kansas Jayhawk shot a career-high 40.9 percent from beyond the arc. That ranked him 25th in the entire NBA.
As good as his percentage was, three of his teammates (Mike Miller, Ray Allen and Shane Battier) were more efficient from deep. That shows just how lethal the Heat were from long range a season ago.
As long as Chalmers continues to drain shots from distance, he’ll be a very valuable asset within Miami’s offense.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.2 blocks
Were it not for Ray Allen’s heroic three-point shot to tie Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat would not be on the hunt for a three-peat in 2012-13.
If the San Antonio Spurs could have secured the rebound on LeBron James’ missed three-pointer, they would have won their fifth championship since 1999, and Tim Duncan would have rings 14 years apart.
Instead, the Heat are back-to-back champions.
Allen’s defense isn’t anything to write home about at this stage of his career, but his ability to knock down the three-ball consistently, and in big moments, can’t be overstated. He’ll continue to bring scoring punch off the bench even as a 38-year-old.
Simply put, the future Hall of Famer knows what it takes to win.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 6.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.8 blocks
If you’re surprised to see Shane Battier this high on the Miami Heat’s power rankings, you shouldn’t be.
The veteran from Duke may have only averaged 6.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per game last season, but he’s done everything the coaching staff has asked him to do on both ends of the court.
In addition to draining a career-high 43 percent of his three-point attempts, which ranked him sixth in the NBA, Battier played out of position at power forward for much of the season and still played tremendous defense.
While he has a reputation as a dirty player, his uncanny ability to take charges and frustrate opponents has endeared him to teammates throughout his career.
Battier is entering the final year of his current contract, and according to Alex Kennedy of USA Today, he says there’s “a good possibility” he’ll retire in 2014.
You can bet that a competitor like Battier will want to go out on top.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.4 blocks
They don’t call it the “Big Three” for no reason.
Chris Bosh has regressed statistically in three straight seasons since joining the Miami Heat in terms of points and rebounds, but he’s still the team’s third-best player.
The lanky big man is often criticized for taking too many outside shots and playing too far away from the basket, but he’s actually extremely effective in that area. During the 2012-13 season, Bosh shot 49.5 percent on 432 attempts from mid-range, according to Vorped.com. He took a ton of spot-up jumpers, but he made them at nearly a 50 percent clip.
Where Bosh needs to improve—or perhaps regain his old form—is on the defensive end. Specifically, the former Toronto Raptor must grab more rebounds.
He hauled in a career-low 6.8 rebounds per game a season ago. Even as a rookie, Bosh averaged 7.4 boards per contest. His sudden inability to make a difference on the glass was a major reason why the Heat finished dead last in the league with 38.6 rebounds per game.
Perhaps the most compelling stat of Bosh’s season, though, was the 4.3 rebound-per-game average he posted in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. Indy bullied Bosh on the block and dominated the Heat in the process.
Perhaps Miami’s big man can build off the NBA Finals, when he recorded double-digit rebounds in four of the seven games. If he doesn’t, Miami’s Achilles' heel will continue to be rebounding.
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.8 blocks
D-Wade responded to KD’s comments via Instagram, saying that he needs to make Durant respect his place in history.
Let's just say that the Miami Heat/Oklahoma City Thunder rivalry will be even more interesting this year.
LeBron James’ wingman may have hobbled his way through the past two seasons, but the 31-year-old is still a three-time NBA champion.
He finished eighth in the league in points and seventh in PER. He was one of only four players to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game (joining James, Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook).
As long as Wade is reasonably healthy in 2013-14, he’ll continue to be one of the best shooting guards in the game.
Position: SF—or Anywhere
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 blocks
What more needs to be said about LeBron James?
He won his fourth MVP award for his performance during the 2012-13 season. During the year he shot a career-high 56.5 percent from the field and a career-high 40.6 percent from three-point range. He finished the campaign by winning his second title.
He’s the best player in the NBA, so obviously he checks in at No. 1 on the Miami Heat’s power rankings.
Honestly, the only area where LBJ needs to improve is at the free-throw line. He’s never shot higher than 78 percent from the charity stripe in his career and regressed down to 75.3 percent from the foul line last season.
It’s rather humorous that James was able to shoot better than 40 percent from long range and couldn’t even crack 76 percent from the free-throw line. But with so few holes in his overall game, it’s safe to assume he’s been working to improve that one small weakness.
As the alpha dog of the NBA’s best team, he’ll look to build his legacy by winning a third championship in as many years.