5 Moves LeBron James and the Miami Heat Have to Make
Although critics are having a field day, and rightfully so, the Heat do have ways to put themselves in a better position next year.
The Dallas Mavericks taught them a lesson, playing as a team and having a "Big 12" that prevailed over the flashiness of a "Big three".
The Heat's off-season begins now, and here are five moves they should make to help correct this epic failure.
5. Point Guard Problems
Mario Chalmers was arguably the Heat's best player in the Finals this year. Chalmers was effective coming off the bench in the first five games of the series, and continued to play well when Spoelstra moved him into the starting lineup in place of Mike Bibby for game six.
With majority starter Mike Bibby and Eddie House set to be free agents this summer, the Heat need to define a starter and find some depth at point guard.
The free agency pool offers only limited options.
Unrestricted free agent J.J. Barea, a native of Miami, will be available this summer—is that too soon?
Because the unrestricted free agent pool is fairly shallow, the Heat could make a run at restricted free agents Goran Dragic or Aaron Brooks. However, this will cost a lot of money that the Heat may not be willing to spend with so many other holes in the roster.
Therefore, the Heat will most likely stay in house. If they do, it comes down to consistency.
Early this season the Heat started Carlos Arroyo. Then they took a run with Bibby, and before the end of the season we saw Chalmers.
Ultimately, the Heat need to define their starter and provide him some depth. If they stay in house with Bibby and Chalmers, Chalmers should be the clear starter going into training camp.
4. Getting Better Veterans That Can Contribute
The Heat need to find veteran pieces that can complement the core of the Big Three in Wade, Bosh, and LeBron.
This past summer, the Heat gutted their roster down to two players before signing the Big Three. After that, they scrapped to get any players they could, even picking up their starting point guard Mike Bibby very late in the season after he was waived.
The Heat gave out one-year minimum contracts to veterans like Erick Dampier, Juwan Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Jamaal Magloire.
These guys, who wouldn't have gotten minutes anywhere else, were brought in to double as both role players and roster fillers. That's not a winning formula.
Although it will be hard with the upcoming collective bargaining agreement, the Heat's flashy style, "Hollywood" life, and Miami scene should be enough to attract some talented players (see: Mike Bibby's sacrifice); players that could actually contribute rather than plug holes so LeBron, Wade, and Bosh could get the ball and run the offense.
The dominant Mavericks taught the Heat a lesson this year: team basketball wins championships. The Heat didn't have a team this year. They had three guys and a bunch of fillers that were expected to perform much higher than they were capable of.
With all of those one-year contract guys coming off the books , the Heat should not take this flexibility for granted again.
3. Coaching Dilemma
Although Rick Carlisle has had his share of coaching mishaps (See: 2010 Playoffs Round 1, Dallas versus San Antonio) he spanked Erik Spoelstra in the Finals.
While Carlilse was making great adjustments—whether it be inserting JJ Barea into the starting lineup, moving Brian Cardinal ahead of Peja on the rotation, effectively using timeouts to control the game, or adding healthy doses of zone defense—Spoelstra refused to do anything.
Spoelstra's confusing loyalty to both Joel Anthony and Mike Bibby made no sense through the first five games of the Finals. Anthony was ineffective on Nowitzki compared to Udonis Haslem, and Bibby was far inferior to Chalmers on both ends of the floor. While Carlisle was acting, Spoelstra barely even reacted.
In addition, Spoelstra never really put either one of his superstars in good positions. We all saw that the Bosh pick-and-roll was effective, yet not used enough. Even more puzzling, was his inability to put LeBron James in post-up situations. LeBron would either score an easy lay-up or pass to a wide-open shooter when in the post. Yet, Spoelstra never went there.
Although LeBron truly became the face of the anti-clutch for the NBA in the fourth quarter, a lot of blame has to go to Spoelstra.
The Heat coach could not get his team a bucket when they needed one. No team should collapse as bad as Miami did, no good coach should allow that to happen repeatedly.
How long is it until we hear Pat Riley's name come about? Riley denies any rumors of desiring a return to the sideline, but this type of team has Pat Riley written all over it.
2. Finding a Big Man
This is the team's biggest weakness.
Since James and Wade crash the boards like they are 7'0" tall, much of the Heat's rebounding problems were masked.
Since James and Wade provide such stellar perimeter defense, much of the Heat's lack of reliable interior defense was also masked.
Joel Anthony, 6'9", was the Heat's majority starter this year. Joel Anthony, although considered one of the more athletic centers with great lateral movement, should not be your big man in the middle. Anthony is not true center, and with the liability he provides on the offensive end—he should be a much better rebounder.
The numbers show it all. Anthony only averaged 3.5 RPG in almost 20 minutes of burn for the Heat during the regular season. Adjusted per 36 minutes, Anthony still only pulled down 6.5 RPG. This makes him one of the worst rebounding centers in the NBA.
Don't get me wrong, Anthony has shown that he has a place on any NBA roster—ranking in the top 10 in blocks this past year. However, the Heat simply need size and better rebounding. Anthony should be the Heat's backup, not starter.
Speaking of the Heat's backup—Erick Dampier. Analyis: NO!!!
The Heat need a true big man. They need a large-framed body who is relentless on the court; a solid rebounding center that can rip down defensive boards and allow Wade and LeBron to leak out and create fast-break opportunities.
As we saw this past season, the fast-break is where the Heat are simply unstoppable. Wade and James in the open floor is a thing of beauty.
Marc Gasol is a restricted free-agent and Samuel Dalembert is an unrestricted free-agent. Tyson Chandler, who man-handled the Heat in the Finals, could also be available. However, most wouldn't expect Mark Cuban to let the best player at his position in Mavericks franchise history slip away to free agency... again (See: Steve Nash lesson).
Nevertheless, all three of these players are guys the Heat should be willing to spend their full Mid-level exception on.
The Heat's Big Three can only give provide the hologram on a complete team for so long, as the Mavericks have proven. A Big Man is their biggest need.
1. Become Mature on and off the Court
Although this is not a move, it was one of the Heat's biggest problems in the playoffs.
After being dismantled at the hands of the mighty Dallas Mavericks, the Heat learned that they are missing maturity when it matters most.
Off the court, as a Heat fan it must have been hard to watch.
In the world of social media, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade got way too caught up in what they did behind the camera, rather than behind the microphone. Their mocking of Dirk Nowitzki, the superstar who was murdering their team, was a low-point for the Heat. Simply immature.
LeBron James's post-game comments that threw fans under the bus was undisciplined. Don't get me started on his twitter account. Simply immature.
And it continued on the court.
Wade's eff-you three pointer in front of Miami's bench was a foot-in-mouth moment for the Heat. It reminded everyone of the days LeBron would be dancing on the sideline in Cleveland in games that were well in reach for the opponent. Simply immature.
When the scuffle occured in game six of the Finals between DeShawn Stevenson of the Mavs and Udonis Haslem of the Heat, young Mario Chalmers butted in unnecessarily and cost his team a point for the extra technical foul. Simply immature.
The Heat had chances to sweep the Dallas Mavericks. Up by 15 with six minutes left in the game, they blew it. Up again in the fourth quarter in games four and five, they blew it.
The Heat looked confused and scared when it mattered most. They didn't have that veteran calm, confidence or leadership to capitilize and halt the Mavericks' unrelenting comebacks. Simply immature.
The Heat were classless, unprofessional, undisciplined, and simply immature.
Time, experience, and this devastating loss at the hands of Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks should fix this... we think.