The Miami Heat did not exactly have the biggest expectations for the 2008-09 NBA season. Coming off a 15-67 season where Dwyane Wade only played 51 games and players like Blake Ahearn and Kasib Powell were some of the featured names, a 43-39 season this year showed progress from where the team came from and where they could be heading.
Dwyane Wade had arguably the best year of his young and blossoming career where he led the league in scoring with 30.2 per game, set a career high in scoring for a game where he lit up the New York Knicks for 55 points, set the Miami Heat single season record for points, became the leading shot blocker under 6'4" in NBA history, finished 2nd in steals in the league and averaged 7.5 assists per game. Flash filled up stat columns every game and played in a career high 79 games with no serious injuries.
The supporting cast for the Heat wasn't the most weathered or seasoned in the league. The starting point guard, sixth and seventh man were all less than 23 years old and showed flashes of brillance, but also had a number of rookie mistakes that could make any veteran or even their rookie coach Eric Spoelestra cringe.
Spoelestra, now the youngest coach in the NBA, had to take over a young, bottom dwelling team with it's superstar coming off a flurry of injuries.
The mistakes were there from Spoelestra, but 28 game improvements always give you confidence.
Not only this, but the center and small forward spots were completely open for nearly the whole year. Joel Anthony who is averaging 2.2 points per game at the moment was named the starter and as expected, didn't make too much of an offensive impact.
Shawn Marion at the 3-spot, who was thought to be a spark to the Heat's dwindling flame, proved ineffective as he never fit into the Heat's half court style of play.
A midseason trade was completed where the Heat traded away Marion and seldom used Marcus Banks for veteran center Jermaine O'Neal and second year player Jamario Moon.
O'Neal was who most people thought he was, an aging veteran who was on his last legs. Moon though had some signs of a developing star, proving he can hit a few outside shots and can get acrobatic when heneeded to.
Some might question or wonder about what could have been with this past season, but there's only one question that should be asked now.
Where do the Heat go from here?
Spolestra said in a recent interview concering the offseason, "Expect the unexpected with Pat Riley." The next few months could be busy for the Heat, anything to get back to that 2006 glory.
With Michael Beasley on his rise to the starting lineup and being trained as a power forward, veteran Udonis Haslem could be used as trade bait. Haslem's contract ends at the end of the 2009-10 season and is worth over $7 million.
Beloved by Heat fans, a goodbye to Haslem would be a sad one, but it could greatly impact the Heat at other needed positions. Mark Blount and Dorrel Wright who were rarely seen this past season could be packaged into a deal as well to bring in a small forward, veteran leadership at the point guard spot or even a more viable center.
Mario Chalmers had his rookie lapses as a starting point guard, and being backed up by Chris Quinn and Luther Head doesn't exactly show promise for the Heat at the one spot. Tyron Lue, Brevin Knight and Damon Jones are all affordable options going into the offseason. An acquistion of one of these point guards should not surprise anyone.
The Heat only have three free agents, with Jammal Maggloire being the only one unrestricted(Joel Anthony and Jamario Moon are both restricted). Maggloire was a presence in the post that the Heat desperately needed throughout the season and could be signed again if the price is right for the veteran.
Don't look toward the draft for answers either Heat fans. They don't draft until round two with the 42nd pick and then the 60th.
Big offseason moves would be a huge surprise, considering the Heat are waiting until the end of the 2010 season where they will have to sign Dwyane Wade to a lucrative deal if they want to keep him around and not only this, but sign another scoring threat that would help Wade carry the workload of the team much like Shaq did when he was on the team.
The Heat and its community have much to look forward to in the future. The team only has room to grow and improve with it's young, superstar core and by 2010 will be a threat once again for championships.
Be happy with the improvement the team has made so far because there are miles left to cover for the team.