Ranking the Miami Heat's Offseason Acquisitions
The Miami Heat did not have a great offseason. Losing the best player in the world will do that.
Although losing LeBron James was a big blow, it's hard not to be impressed with how well Miami recovered.
On top of retaining the services of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, the Heat managed to position themselves well by virtue of the NBA draft and several key free-agent signings. Miami is bringing in a whopping nine new players, and yet it's still a lock to be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
That says a lot about the current state of the Eastern Conference, but also a good deal about the new acquisitions the Heat have made. Let's take a look at Miami's new players and break down just how important each signing is.
No. 9: Shawne Williams
Shawne Williams will likely end up as nothing more than a body for the Heat, but he's an OK filler signing.
Williams, a combo 3/4, has been mostly forgettable in his six-year NBA career. To be fair, he averaged nearly 21 minutes a game and shot 40 percent from three for the 2010-11 New York Knicks, so it's not as though he can't play at all. But that kind of shooting seems to be an outlier—he's hit 29 percent from downtown since—and he can't do much else offensively.
Williams is big enough to defend multiple positions, and that may be enough for him to squeak onto the back end of the roster. But it would be best not to expect much.
No. 8: Shannon Brown
Shannon Brown is a vet and a very good athlete who will fit well into the Heat's aggressive defense. But other than that, he brings little to the table, and it's hard to imagine one of the younger guys not being a better option moving forward.
To be blunt, Brown isn't a productive player on either side of the ball. Advanced metrics rate him poorly on the defensive end, and though he shoots quite a bit, he boasts a career 50 percent true shooting percentage, per Basketball-Reference.
Again, Brown is a great athlete and can be a handful in transition. But that's not nearly enough to cover up his other flaws, and Miami would be better suited to hand any legitimate minutes to its younger wing options.
No. 7: Reggie Williams
Of the one-year fliers the Heat have handed out this summer, this is the one with the most potential.
Williams has played little more than garbage time over the past three years, but he was a legitimately good offensive player in his first two NBA seasons. From 2009-11, Williams averaged about 16 points and three assists per 36 minutes on nearly 59 percent true shooting. He shot 40 percent from deep, was efficient at the rim and got to the line at a solid rate. All good stuff.
Williams has had his struggles since then (namely on some terrible Charlotte teams), but the main reason he can't find consistent playing time is his defense, which ranges from bad to staggeringly so. When Williams is on the floor, his teams have been mauled defensively, per Basketball-Reference, and that's not about to change in Miami.
The good news is that the Heat have a stable of versatile defenders (Luol Deng, Norris Cole, Chris Bosh, etc.) who should do a reasonable job of hiding Williams. The Heat need shot creation, and that's something Williams can provide.
Williams' very real defensive issues may prevent him from seeing the court, but his skill set fits what the Heat need offensively. It wouldn't be surprising to see him get legitimate minutes next season.
No. 6: Tyler Johnson
If you haven't heard much about Tyler Johnson, you're not alone. An undrafted 22-year-old guard out of Fresno State, Johnson seemingly came out of nowhere to blow up at the Orlando Summer League.
Johnson was all over the court in Orlando. He got to the rim at will, made plays like this on a regular basis and looked like the best player on the team at times.
It's easy to see why teams passed on Johnson in the draft—DraftExpress lists him as 6'2” without shoes with a gimpy 6'6” wingspan. But he has NBA athleticism, and there's a lot to like about his play at Fresno State.
In college, Johnson got to the rim a good bit, was an excellent finisher there, per Hoop-Math.com, and he shot 43 percent from outside his senior year.
It would be silly to draw sweeping conclusions from summer league, of course, and Johnson's size is definitely a problem. Still, there's a lot to like here.
No. 5: Shabazz Napier
Shabazz Napier beats out Tyler Johnson in these rankings, but only by a narrow margin.
Napier just doesn't quite fit with what the Heat need. With LeBron James gone, the Heat are desperately lacking shot creation. For the first time, they may actually need a traditional point guard—someone who can create shots for himself and for others.
That's not Napier. He got to the rim at a decent clip in college but finished poorly, per Hoop-Math.com, and things won't get any easier in the NBA. Most of Napier's shots (over 40 percent) came from behind the three-point line, in the form of Stephen Curry-esque off-the-dribble threes.
If Napier's efficiency on those shots translates to the NBA, then great, but if not, he doesn't have a lot of offensive options. Napier is a good shooter and a decent passer, and those alone could make him a nice player at the next level.
Unfortunately, his lack of size and athleticism will really hamper him as a defender, and it's hard to see him being a better option at guard than Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole right now.
No. 4: James Ennis
James Ennis is another rookie who impressed in summer league play, and he looks to be an intriguing wing option for Miami.
The Heat drafted Ennis out of Long Beach State in the second round of the 2013 NBA draft. He spent last season with the Australian Basketball League's Perth Wildcats. Ennis was a big scorer with the Wildcats and at Long Beach State, and he figures to settle in as a catch-and-shoot option in Miami.
Ennis shot around 36 percent from deep with Perth and Long Beach State, but he's got a quick release and takes a ton of threes—over 50 percent of his shots over the last two years have been from outside, per Hoop-Math.com. He got to the rim quite a bit at college, but his handle's not the greatest, and he's not likely to bring a lot of immediate off-the-bounce juice to the NBA.
Ennis is a terrific athlete, and his height and length will serve him well on the defensive end. He'll no doubt struggle to pick up Miami's defensive scheme at first, but athletically, he's a perfect fit for what they do and should rack up a lot of deflections and fast-break opportunities.
If Ennis is able to increase his spot-up percentages and/or his ability to create shots, he could be a useful player as soon as next season.
No. 3: Danny Granger
For $2 million a year, per ShamSports.com, it's hard not to like the Danny Granger signing.
Granger is obviously no longer the player he once was, but he could still be productive in the right role, namely as a spot-up shooter. He may have shot just 34 percent from deep last year, but that's almost certainly an outlier considering his career 38 percent three-point mark.
Plus, though his overall shooting fell, he still hit 40 percent from the corners (in an admittedly small sample). The Heat have lost a lot of shooting over the past few years, and of all the new signees, Granger might be their best chance of replacing that.
The one potential problem with Granger is shot selection.
He's accustomed to creating his own shot, but he just doesn't have the ability to do that on a consistent basis anymore. At times last season, he hurt the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers by forcing shots that just weren't there, and the Heat can't afford for that to happen. That's not to say he can't do any creating, but emphasizing it would be a mistake.
No. 2: Josh McRoberts
Josh McRoberts may not be the flashiest name, but he's going to be a blast in Miami.
McRoberts brings tons of flexibility to the table for the Heat. Miami will likely start him at the 4 next to Chris Bosh, but if they opt to go with a more traditional starting lineup with Chris Andersen at the 5, McRoberts could be just as effective coming off the bench.
McRoberts is actually similar to Bosh on the offensive end. He's a solid outside shooter (36 percent from deep last year), is a very strong ball-handler for his size and he's one of the best passing bigs in the league. Last season, just three players listed at 6'10” or taller posted an assist rate of 20 percent or higher, per Basketball-Reference—Kevin Love, Joakim Noah and McRoberts.
The Heat will have a lot of offensive options when McRoberts and Bosh are on the court together. Both players can space the floor, and McRoberts' high post game should benefit Bosh, who's likely to be given more freedom to post up and play like he did with the Toronto Raptors.
McRoberts is also a plus defender. He doesn't fix Miami's rim-protection problem, but he's quick and lengthy and fits nicely into Miami's blitzing defense. He could even play the 5 if the Heat want to give Bosh a spell, something he did in small spurts with the Charlotte Bobcats last season, per 82games.com.
McRoberts gives the Heat a lot of unique lineup options, and he's being paid just the mid-level exception, per ShamSports.com. Terrific signing.
No. 1: Luol Deng
As far as LeBron replacements go, the Heat couldn't have done much better.
Obviously, Deng isn't in LeBron's league as a shot-creator or as a scorer. A huge number of his shots come from mid-range, and most of them are assisted. He's not a bad shooter from mid-range, but even so, it's not an efficient way to score, and he doesn't put much pressure on defenses when the ball's in his hands.
Deng is also a strong, willing passer who will benefit hugely from the extra spacing the Heat's roster provides. He won't be creating much offense, but his efficiency should really jump, and he's a nice third scorer to pair with Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
Defensively, Deng brings the same kind of versatility that James did. The Heat won't be throwing him onto point guards (nor will they need to), but he can defend most 2s through 4s in the league, and that's a huge plus for a team whose philosophy centers around positionless basketball.
At nearly $10 million a year, per ShamSports.com, Deng is overpaid, but the small forward market isn't exactly brimming with talent. While Pat Riley might have exaggerated Deng's importance just a tad, he really is a great get for Miami.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com unless specifically stated otherwise.