3 Players Who Miami Heat Need to Step Up Next Season

Sam Richmond@srichmond93Correspondent ISeptember 12, 2014

MIAMI, FL - May 26: Norris Cole #30 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against the Indiana Pacers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida on May 26, 2014. 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. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright NBAE 2014 (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

With LeBron James now a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Miami Heat will no longer possess the significant talent advantage over opponents that they enjoyed the previous four seasons.

So, to a greater degree than in past years, Miami needs strong contributions from its role players in 2014-15.

Let's take an in-depth look at the three role players the Heat most need to step up if they are to remain a top team in the Eastern Conference.

Danny Granger

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Five years ago Granger was one of the NBA's best scorers. Now, he's someone the Heat took a cheap flier on this offseason.

Miami can't be expecting Granger to return to 2009 form, but it certainly needs the 31-year-old to perform better than he did a season ago.

Granger averaged 8.2 points per game on just 37.8 percent shooting from the floor and 33.6 shooting percent from beyond the arc last season with the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers.

Granger simply has to be a more efficient offensive weapon and a consistent three-point threat to have value on this team, considering he's not exactly a great defender.

His career resume says he can. However, his play the past few seasons says otherwise.

Norris Cole

J Pat Carter/Associated Press

Fresh off a solid showing during the 2013 postseason, Norris Cole showed continued growth to start the 2013-14 NBA season.

However, Cole had a disastrous second half, seemingly regressing as an offensive talent. He finished the season with averages of 6.4 points (41.4 FG%, 34.5 3P%) and 3.0 assists per game. 

As the numbers indicate, Cole still had difficultly running Miami's offense, and his shot remains decent at best.

But Cole is a skilled on-ball defender, and if he can make leaps offensively, he could be a real help for this team.

If Cole enters his fourth year with the same abilities as he left his third, Miami might have to give point guard Shabazz Napier more playing time than it would like during his first year in the league.

Udonis Haslem

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Haslem certainly had a tough go during the 2013-14 season. 

UD averaged just 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Also, his mid-range game, which used to be a huge weapon for him, was basically nonexistent. He made 25 shots from further than nine feet away from the hoop, according to NBA.com.  

Still, with Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis gone and wild card Shawne Williams entering the mix, Haslem should have a shot at decent playing time. 

Obviously Miami would love if Haslem could re-emerge as a shooting threat, but the Heat at least need him to excel on the boards and be a physical defender if knocking down 15-footers is truly a thing of the past.

It's hard to expect a bounce-back year for Haslem, given his age (34). But Haslem's also the type of player one doesn't like to count out. 


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.