Ranking Potential Miami Heat Starting Lineups for 2014-15 Season
The Miami Heat's starting lineup will very obviously have a new look this upcoming season.
LeBron James (77 starts in 2013-14) and Shane Battier (56 starts) have left the team, and quality players such as Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and Shabazz Napier have entered the mix.
As a result of all the moves, we're going to break down the best realistic Heat starting lineup combinations and rank them from least-to-most formidable.
Before we get started, it's important to note that three players are essentially guaranteed starting roles next season (Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng), so our rosters will always feature the three of them.
The battle for the starting point guard spot should be one of the more interesting subplots of Heat training camp.
Miami will return Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, but both are coming off abysmal performances in the NBA Finals, which gives first-round pick Shabazz Napier an opportunity to supplant one or both of them.
The reason this is our lowest ranked starting lineup is because Napier is bit of a wild card, due to him being a rookie. Yes, the guard shined last season as a member of the Connecticut Huskies and displayed numerous traits (shot creation, three-point ability, handles, etc.) that are valued on this Heat team.
However, his struggles throughout summer league play indicate it might take him some time to get comfortable with the NBA game.
Napier will likely have a successful NBA career, but Miami has more known commodities that it can lean on at this point.
As we talked about, Wade, Deng and Bosh are locks to start and McRoberts, due to his versatility and floor-spacing ability, is the Heat's best option at the 4.
The only difference between this and our last lineup is that Norris Cole has replaced Napier as that starting point guard.
If Chalmers struggles throughout camp and loses his job, Cole will likely be the big winner.
As we mentioned, Cole struggled throughout the 2014 NBA Finals; however, he's still an improving player and somebody that's been in the Heat's system for three seasons.
Cole still needs to cut down on his turnovers and become a more consistent three-point shooter, but he displayed growth as a distributor this past season.
Also, with Deng replacing James, the Heat's floor-spacing is going to take a hit, meaning defense will need to be a bigger priority for this year's team. Cole can help in that respect, as he's proven to be a solid on-ball defender.
Cole averaged 6.4 points and 3.0 assists per game last season.
This lineup features the addition of Chalmers and Udonis Haslem.
For all the flack Chalmers receives from fans and the media, he's still an above average point guard and is Miami's best starting option.
Chalmers has developed into a highly effective spot-up shooter and actually finished the 2013-14 campaign with the best three-point shooting percentage on the Heat (38.5). Chalmers also knows how to get the ball in the hands of Miami's star players (4.9 APG in 2013-14) and played the best defense of his career this past year.
Haslem, on the other hand, is an underdog to start. He averaged just 3.8 points and 3.8 rebonds per game in 2013-14, and it's clear that the 34-year-old is on the decline in just about every aspect of his game. Perhaps most importantly, Haslem's days as a floor-spacing threat are few and far between.
However, he's been with the team for 11 years and Spoelstra could opt for comfort as Miami undergoes its transition to life without James.
Fan-favorite Chris "Birdman" Andersen gets his crack at the starting lineup here.
Miami actually experimented with a Birdman-Bosh pairing fairly often last season and experienced great success.
From Wes Goldberg of AllUCanHeat.com:
Chris and Chris were the best defensive pair of all two-man lineups that logged at least 300 minutes, and were plus-13.4 points per 100 possessions (third among pairs on the team).
Although this is a lineup that should be utilized next season, it's not Miami's best starting group.
While Andersen is an effective offensive player, he's not a floor-spacer. With the Heat starting two non-outside threats in Deng and Wade, Miami needs to load up with three floor-spacers in its remaining slots if its to reach its offensive potential.
Also, Birdman has never started a game with Miami, so it's clear Coach Spoelstra is more comfortable using Andersen in a spark-off-the-bench role.
This is the Heat's most complete lineup.
With McRoberts, Bosh and Chalmers all possessing range on their jumpers, Miami has three floor-spacers around Wade and Deng, so this team should still move the ball well. This group also allows the Heat to stick with their small-ball identity while maintaining a strong defensive structure.
Lastly, this is the best collection of talent the new-look Heat can put together in a starting lineup, which is obviously an important quality when creating a five-man set.
This lineup might not stack up to last season's Heat group that featured James, but it does compare quite well to the majority of current Eastern Conference teams.
Miami in all likelihood won't win a title next year, but, with this starting five, this team is certainly capable of making a deep postseason run in 2014-15.
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