The Miami Heat's Point Guard Problem Is Bigger Than This Season

Michael PintoSenior Writer IMarch 10, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 13:  Rafer Alston #11 of the Miami Heat shoots against Cartier Martin #20 and Andris Biedrins #15 of the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game at Oracle Arena on January 13, 2010 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Rafer Alston's unexpected departure and suspension last week has drawn speculation that the Miami Heat will target free agent point guard Mike James as his replacement.

James was released from the Washington Wizards on March 1 after averaging 4.5 points and 1.3 assists in the four games he played this season. At 34 and coming off the 10th team of his eight-year career, the journeyman point guard is hardly an appealing option.

But that's just the thing. The Heat haven't had a truly appealing option at point guard since Dwyane Wade had the honor his rookie season in 2003-04.

Damon Jones, Keyon Dooling, Jason Williams, Gary Payton, Smush Parker, Chris Quinn, Marcus Banks, Blake Ahern, Mario Chalmers, Carlos Arroyo, and Alston have all taken the helm for the Heat in the last six seasons since then.

It's been band-aids on gunshot wounds for years.

Heat President Pat Riley attempted to address the situation in 2007 by offering a five-year contract at the full mid-level to Milwaukee Bucks point guard Mo Williams.

After visiting Miami for a couple days and possibly coming to a verbal agreement—as the rumors go—Williams went home and re-signed with the Bucks for nearly $20 million more than the Heat could offer.

At the time, his spurning was disappointing, but the front office, players, media, and fans all assumed the Heat would "get 'em" next time.

Now we're three years removed from losing out on Williams and Miami has been rotating between Arroyo, Chalmers, and Alston with limited success all season. Williams has an All-Star appearance under his belt and currently is playing second fiddle to LeBron James in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers, at 50-15, hold the best record in the NBA and a big part of their success is the solid play of their starting point guard.

Miami on the other hand, has struggled to find any consistency at the position for what seems like a lifetime. Everyone who's taken over the role has struggled defensively, or shot badly, or made poor decisions offensively, or rubbed the coaching staff the wrong way, or in Alston's case, just gone home.

Now, Mike James name is surfacing. Why? James has had one impressive season in his career, and that was five years ago. Since then his play has regressed to the point that its questionable whether he even belongs in the league anymore.

But yet the Heat continue to churn the roster with talent like him in hopes of at least plugging their issues at point guard.

What's truly concerning is that there won't be a different plan for next season. Miami isn't going to have the money to offer much of anything in terms of dollars. Any point guard that comes will likely be brought in for about the veteran's minimum.

If the Heat are looking to add a second max free agent to pair with Wade, there won't be much money left over to bring in additional players.

After extending Chalmers and potentially re-signing Joel Anthony and Dorell Wright, it would be difficult for the team to even find room for incumbent co-captain and locker room leader Udonis Haslem.

Where does a point guard fit into those plans? It doesn't. Pat Riley is going to have to do the same thing he's been doing for the last few years; churn through the veteran free agent market and pick the next stop-gage until a better solution emerges.

Mario Chalmers was expected to be the answer after starting all 82 games at point guard his rookie season. This year he lost his starting job to Arroyo, who in turn lost it to Alston, who in turn lost it back to Arroyo. Chalmers has solidified himself as the backup, and should maintain that role going forward.

The second-year man out of Kansas struggles defensively and when his shooting goes cold it can be brutal to watch. If he can't beat out Arroyo, a player who wasn't in the league a year ago, then it's obvious Chalmers can't be looked at as the answer for the future.

So as you ask yourself what Miami is going to do now that it appears Alston is out the door, the real question you should be pondering is how the situation next season is going to be any different.