3 Things Miami Heat Must Address During the 2015 OffseasonMarch 4, 2015
If the Miami Heat's 2014-15 season has taught us anything, it's this: injuries suck.
On paper, this Heat team had the chance to be a lot of fun and a tough out in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Unfortunately, losing Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts for the season has crippled the roster. Even with Goran Dragic in tow, Miami's going to be in a fight just to make the playoffs, let alone do anything when it gets there.
The Heat's focus needs to shift from this season to 2015-16 and beyond. Miami has a lot of talent on the roster and is still in the process of determining how its players fit together. It'll need more time to figure everything out, but a few of its glaring weaknesses have become evident already.
The Heat likely won't be able to patch up all of their problems this offseason (their cap situation is very hazy thanks to a host of player options, per HoopsHype). But they can at least get a jump start on addressing those issues this summer, while still holding out for 2016, when their books are essentially wiped clean.
What does a team built around the offensive talents of an all-time great play like when it loses said great? You're looking at it.
Miami's offense was completely structured around LeBron James' unique abilities, and it's struggled to find its footing without him. The Heat are scoring 101.8 points per 100 possessions (down from 109 last season) and have transformed into a plodding, half-court team that grinds out possessions.
The Heat have no end of players who can cash in on looks created by dribble penetration, but few who can actually do that creating.
Dwyane Wade is still terrific, but he's also 33 years old and sporting a hefty 34.2 percent usage rate. He can't be expected to bear that kind of load for much longer. But as it stands, there's no one else on Miami's roster next season who can take some of that pressure away from him. Not effectively, anyways.
Bosh has evolved into a jump-shooting killer, but he no longer provides much off-the-dribble creation—even his post-ups typically end in face-up jumpers. Hassan Whiteside is a pick-and-roll behemoth, not a player who carves out space with back-to-the-basket scoring. Luol Deng functions best as a catch-and-shoot threat who can occasionally put the ball on the floor...there's just not much here.
As a result, Miami has had to press players into roles they're not altogether comfortable with. Deng, Mario Chalmers and Shabazz Napier have all had to shoulder more offensive responsibility than would be ideal, to mostly ugly results.
The best way for Miami to correct this problem would simply be to retain Dragic, who is all but certain to exercise his player option, per HoopsHype.
Dragic is one of the best off-the-bounce scorers in the league. Last season, he averaged 9.6 drives per game (shooting 51.6 percent on those drives), seventh-most in the NBA. He's an expert at getting into the paint and stringing out defenders with his dribble until small cracks open up in the opponents' rotations.
He also spices up a lifeless transition attack. The Heat averaged 8.1 fast-break points per game prior to acquiring Dragic. They've scored 13.4 per game since.
He's always looking for an opportunity to run, and Miami's tempo has jumped significantly when he's on the floor. Dragic is a wizard at the rim (finishing better than many bigs around the basket), but the real secret to his transition success is his quirky change of pace.
He excels in those weird moments between transition and half-court offense, where everyone on the court is sorting out where to be or which man to pick up. He'll lull defenses to sleep by faking as though he's waiting for an offensive set before darting to the rim for a layup or nifty interior pass.
Should Dragic bite on another offer, there's a cheaper alternative in Jeremy Lin.
Lin will probably never again reach the heights of “Linsanity." However, he's a good point guard and would likely be inexpensive enough to afford Miami other free-agent opportunities down the road.
He can shoot and has the size (he's 6'3”) to play alongside any of the Heat's other guards. He provides some of the same slashing and scoring punch that Dragic gives as well.
Lin is rock-solid in the pick-and-roll. He can finish under contact and is smart about using his strength to get to the rim against smaller defenders. He has some turnover issues, but that's his only big flaw offensively. He's somehow managed to score efficiently (54 percent true shooting) on a Los Angeles Lakers team that gives him little room to work with.
He doesn't have the interior passing chops that Dragic does, but he can make all of the necessary pick-and-roll passes and is experienced at tossing on-the-move lobs. That could make him a lot of fun next to Whiteside.
Miami's rotation guards and wings are shooting a combined 33 percent from deep this season. That is not good.
The Heat need a wing shooter who can knock down spot-up shots and help space the floor for Whiteside's rolls to the rim. There are a few on the market this summer, but Miami would preferably snag one who could play the 2 or 3 and wouldn't be too damaging defensively.
The Chicago Bulls' Mike Dunleavy fits the bill nicely. He's been solid defensively this season (ESPN's real plus-minus system pegs him as a sizable plus on that end), and he's one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the league.
Dunleavy is hitting 42 percent from deep this season, including 50 percent from the corners (though less than 20 percent of his threes have come from there). He's not just a spot-up threat, however. He's logged a ton of miles running off screens over the past few years, and Miami could use him to bolster a bench that's a bit lean offensively.
The Bulls put Dunleavy through long, looping screens in order to get him clean looks at the rim. Miami could do something similar, with McRoberts passing from the high post.
The Lakers' Wesley Johnson is another interesting fit. Johnson isn't an elite shooter, but he's hit 37 percent from outside over the past two seasons. He's also a long, athletic wing who could (potentially) pick up on the Heat's defensive scheme quickly.
Erik Spoelstra loves to blitz screen-and-rolls. But doing so effectively requires springy athletes with a lot of closing speed.
Johnson may not be a great defender, but he does fit the athletic mold that the Heat are looking for. That, combined with his shooting, might be worth rolling the dice on.
This isn't nearly as big if an issue as the others, but it is a small concern. Deng is the only really good wing defender on the roster at the moment, and he has a 2015 player option, per HoopsHype. Even just a one-way situational defender would be a nice luxury to have.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and is worth a look. He's a big wing who's capable of checking a variety of positions, including a lot of 4s. He's holding opponents to just 41.6 percent shooting when he's guarding them (4.2 percent lower than their season averages) and covers a ton of ground defensively.
His sheer defensive flexibility would be fantastic for the Heat. He's one of the rare wings who could stick with either offensive player (the guard or rolling big) when Miami blitzes pick-and-rolls and do an adequate job for the rest of the possession. He brings little to the table offensively, but for the Heat's purposes, that's a non-issue.
Another name to watch is Al-Farouq Aminu. He has a 2015 player option, per HoopsHype, and would command more money than Mbah a Moute. But he's a similarly destructive defender and offers a bit more offensive upside as a rebounder and cutter.
All statistics accurate as of 3/3/2015 and courtesy of Basketball-Reference or NBA.com/Stats unless stated otherwise.