The Miami Heat have set their 15-man roster for the 2013-14 season, and it looks like pretty much what everyone expected it to look like.
The Heat have some guys you may have heard of in their starting lineup. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, for example. Do those names ring any bells? Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers round out the starting five, and the bench contains some veterans who know how to get it done in big spots.
So, of course, it's time to grade the Heat roster. While some of the grades aren't really open to too much interpretation, there are several areas that are a bit questionable. Miami's Big Three has been top-heavy enough to gloss over those holes over the past two years, but it's worth debating whether or not that can happen again this season.
Let's see how prepared the Heat are to defend their title(s).
Note: Grades will be based upon productivity and how well each player fits his designated role.
It's very hard to figure out Chalmers.
He is a lifetime 42.1 percent shooter (which is fairly poor) and a 37 percent shooter from distance (which is very solid, but not spectacular). Yet, he owns a career true shooting percentage of 55.3 percent. He has also compiled true shooting percentages of over 57 percent the last two seasons while posting effective field-goal percentages of over 54 percent.
Then, sometimes he looks like a very solid perimeter defender, and other times he looks lost. Sometimes he'll drop 25 points, and sometimes he'll score five and spend a lot of quality time with the bench.
Finally, despite his strangely solid efficiency and his frequently pesky defense, he owns an underwhelming career average of .098 win shares per 48 minutes (although, to be fair, he tallied .120 win shares per 48 minutes in 2012-13).
So, what is the point of mentioning all of these stats, you ask?
Well, it's to demonstrate that Chalmers is one of the more polarizing players in the league. It's truly hard to determine whether he's good or not. He certainly isn't an elite point guard—that's for sure—but is he above-average? Is he merely pedestrian? Are his occasional offensive outbursts merely a result of the fact that he is playing with James, Wade and Bosh?
It seems like we will never know for sure, but the thought here is that he is an average player who is surrounded by outstanding talent. The Heat's Big Three hide his warts, even if the Heat publicly make him their personal whipping boy in seemingly every game.
Even if Wade is on the decline, he is still a top-three shooting guard and a top-15 (at least) player in this league.
We know how good Wade is when he is healthy, but that is the question: Will he be able to stay healthy all season? That is one of the main obstacles in the way of a potential Heat three-peat. If Wade is gimpy heading into the playoffs, the chances of Miami making it three straight championships seem very slim in a vastly improved Eastern Conference.
It will be interesting to see how Erik Spoelstra monitors Wade's minutes throughout the regular season and whether or not he considers resting him on the second night of back-to-backs (might not be a bad idea).
If you're Wade and the Heat, you shouldn't be gung-ho on earning home-court advantage. Not at the expense of Wade's health. Miami has proven that it can win big games on the road in the postseason, so getting a No. 2 seed would not be the end of the world.
Do not be surprised if you see Wade's efficiency dip just a tad this year. The reason for that is he may end up taking more jump shots than usual to preserve his knees for the long haul, and to be perfectly honest, D-Wade probably should do that to ensure that he is ready to go in late April.
Of course, he is still Dwyane Wade, and just about every other team in the league would kill to have him in its starting lineup, balky knees or not.
There really isn't much to say about the best player in the NBA.
He has won two straight titles, so he doesn't really have much left to prove. We know he is a triple-double machine. We know he is one of the game's most efficient players. We know he is a great perimeter defender. We know he has incredible floor vision.
Is there really anything else to pontificate when it comes to James?
I guess the only thing worth watching from LeBron during the regular season is whether or not he is capable of further improving his already tremendous shooting percentages.
Other than that, wake me up in May.
Udonis Haslem is a good locker-room guy and is the Heat's version of an "enforcer." However, the days of him being a consistently productive player are long gone.
There was a time when Haslem was more than serviceable. He'd put up 10 points and eight rebounds (if not better) on a nightly basis and would play fine interior defense. He also brought a very reliable mid-range jumper to the table, and thanks to the amount of positives he displayed night in and night out, he would play over 30 minutes a game.
Well, Haslem is now 33 years old and far past his prime.
He played a career-low 18.9 minutes per game in 2012-13 and averaged career lows in points (3.9) and rebounds (5.4). Haslem also posted a lifetime-worst PER of 9.9, far below Basketball-Reference's approximated league average of 15.
To be blunt, Haslem should not be in any team's starting five, let alone the lineup of a title contender like Miami. Still, like Chalmers, he has enough of a supporting cast to hide his deficiencies, and it's not like he's actually playing starter minutes anyway.
I'm not sure there is a more heavily chastised player than Chris Bosh. No matter what he does, he always seems to be the butt of jokes. If he has a poor game, people will make fun of his salary. If he plays well, people will ridicule the emotion that he often exhibits.
That being said, those who criticize his level of performance frequently do have a point.
Let's face reality here: Bosh did not exactly play well during the 2013 postseason. He was thoroughly dominated by the Indiana Pacers frontcourt, and Tim Duncan abused him for the good majority of the finals. Not only that, but he also scored zero points in Game 7 of the finals. That's right. Zero.
However, all things considered, there is no denying that Bosh is in the upper echelon of big men in the league. He is a fine offensive player and a very solid defender, and what he lacks in brute force he makes up for with craftiness and finesse.
Still, what holds Bosh back is the fact that he is playing out of position. A couple of years ago, power forward and center were essentially interchangeable, but in 2013, that is no longer the case. The NBA is slowly shifting back to a league where positions are more traditional. The center is making a comeback with behemoths like Dwight Howard, Roy Hibbert, Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez, Nikola Pekovic, etc.
Obviously, Bosh has trouble against those types of players. Some natural power forwards (like Duncan and Kevin Garnett, for example) have demonstrated that they have the strength and the toughness to deal with those big men. Bosh simply doesn't possess those qualities, and that is not entirely his fault.
So, the grade that I am giving Bosh is not solely based upon his overall skill. It is also based on how fit he is to play the center position, and for a guy who averaged 6.8 rebounds per game in 2012-13 (7.3 per 36 minutes), it's difficult to say that he is an elite center.
Again, Bosh is a very good big man, but he is not a great center. There is a difference.
Ray Allen did not have a spectacular season in 2012-13, but like he has done so many times throughout his illustrious career, he came up big when it mattered most. Had it not been for his historic three-pointer in Game 6 of the finals, the Heat would not have a chance to three-peat this year.
That being said, Allen is another year older at 38, and while he was able to stay on the floor last season, you have to wonder just how much longer his body is going to hold up. Let's remember that he missed 20 games during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign and was inhibited during those playoffs due to ankle problems.
Regardless, Miami must be happy to have one of the greatest shooters of all time as its sixth man. Talk about a luxury.
If Allen is able to remain healthy, he is going to be incredibly efficient (he owns a career true shooting percentage of 58 percent and has recorded effective field-goal percentages of over 55 percent for the last five years) and will continue to make clutch shots.
Yes, he is a liability defensively, and that can absolutely cause problems, but as long as Allen does what the Heat ask of him, he should still be a reliable source off the pine.
Miami just has to hope he avoids injury.
This is where it gets a bit dicey for the Heat.
Outside of Allen, do they really have anyone off the bench whom they can truly depend upon?
Shane Battier is a smart, wily veteran who is great at getting under his opponent's skin (translation: he's a good flopper), but he became mired in a terrible slump in the playoffs and saw his minutes drastically cut because of it. Sure, he had a monster Game 7 of the finals and Miami probably wouldn't have won that game without his contributions, but can the Heat rely on the 35-year-old in 2013-14?
Norris Cole can provide a spark on occasion, but more often than not, he will drive you up a wall with his erratic play and poor decision making. This is a guy who posted exactly zero win shares per 48 minutes in his rookie season and then .019 last year, and he is disgustingly inefficient.
Chris Andersen is definitely a great energy guy, but he is not someone whom you can call upon to get you buckets late in games.
Greg Oden? You're just hoping he sees the floor.
The wild card here is Michael Beasley. He has demonstrated the ability to be a solid scorer in the past, so if he can give Miami something off the bench, things will begin to look a lot better for the pine. If not, then the Heat might have to make a move.
Like it or not, the Heat are lacking some depth. Fortunately, they have an outstanding starting lineup to mask that weakness, but they'll be in trouble if the injury bug strikes.