After a long and grueling 2007 campaign, the Miami Heat are ready to erase last year's memories and start fresh. A 15-67 season with the league's worst record calls for a change and a new outlook.
This new outlook will begin with their newest draft pick, Michael Beasley. The Heat took the Kansas State Power Forward with the second overall pick in this summer's draft. Beasley, who is widely considered the most talented person in the draft, is ready to contribute to the team immediately and will compete with veteran Udonis Haslem for the starting spot at PF.
While Beasley was Miami's main off-season acquisition, the Heat were able to pick up several other impact players and resign core players from last year's squad. After loosing 3-point specialists James Posey and Jason Kapono in last year's offseason, the Heat were in need of a shooter.
They fulfilled that need with the signing of sharpshooter James Jones, who they inked to a 5-year deal. The small forward is from Miami and is happy to return home and help the team to victory.
In addition to Jones, the Heat signed defensive specialist Yakhouba Diawara and center Jamaal Magloire. Magloire is looking to revive his career in Miami after falling off in recent years from his lone all-star appearance in 2003.
In addition to those acquisitions, the Heat were able to retain small forward Dorell Wright and point guard Chris Quinn. Wright resigned for two years and will hopefully turn into the player that many scouts predicted him to be after he had a strong finish to the season last year. Quinn also resigned for two years and will provide depth at point guard.
Another big story in Miami's off-season was the stepping down of hall of fame coach Pat Riley. Riley decided to step down as the teams head coach but keep his job as President of the team, while naming long time assistant Erik Spoelstra as his replacement.
Spoelstra, who is currently the NBA's youngest head coach, has a defensive mindset and is ready to lead the team.
But, Spoelstra will be facing many questions as the team prepares to begin training camp on September 27th. One of the main issues will be the starting lineup. The point guard, power forward, and center positions are all a question mark as of now.
Spoelstra will have to decide whether he will start Magloire or Mark Blount at center, Marcus Banks or Quinn at point guard, and Haslem or Beasley at power forward. These will all be tough decisions as the Heat enters the season.
While veteran Mark Blount has the ability to score, Coach Spoelstra might prefer the defensive-minded Magloire as the starting center. Magloire is definitely a question mark as his last few seasons have been marked by injuries and a decline in skills.
As for the point guard position, Spoelstra will have a few options. Banks has the advantage of being an explosive scorer at times but is still unproven. Notre Dame product Quinn was one of the few bright spots for the team last season as he finished the final 17 games averaging 14.4 points and 5.9 assists.
The Heat could also turn to their other draft pick, Mario Chalmers from Kansas. But the rookie has already had problems as he was kicked out of the NBA's rookie transition program for suspected marijuana use.
Finally, the Heat will have a tough decision when it comes to the power forward position. Udonis Haslem has been the starter for the last five seasons but with newcomer Michael Beasley in the mix, the former Gator might have competition for his job.
Even if Beasley does win the spot, Haslem will still be used at the five when the team uses a small lineup.
Although the Heat do have a lot of question marks, the team has the advantage of having depth that includes one of the best players in the league.
Dwyane Wade is fully recovered from his off-season knee and shoulder injuries and proved that with an impressive performance in this summer's Olympic games in China.
Wade led the Americans to their first gold medal since 2000 by averaging a team leading 16 PPG and shot an outstanding 67 percent from the field. Wade is ready to get the Heat back to championship form and will pair up with Shawn Marion in what will hopefully be one of the best duos in the NBA.
Marion, along with Banks, were acquried in the mid-season blockbuster trade that shipped disgruntled center Shaquille O'Neal to the Phoenix Suns. Marion, who is in the final year of his contract will be kept this year or used as trade bait.
If he is kept, the Heat will have massive salary cap space in 2009 and will be able to be a huge player in the free agent market. Either way, the Heat look like they can be a dangerous team in 2008 that will at least be playoff contenders in a weak Eastern Conference.
Miami will have a formidable trio in Wade, Marion, and Beasley. Those three, combined with a strong bench, the possible return of Heat legend Alonzo Mourning, and a new head coach could propel the team to success.
The team will most certainly compete for the Southeast Division title if not the conference. Watch out for this team as Wade is ready to get back to his 2006 championship form and lead this franchise back to its glory days.