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NBA Preview: Miami


Record:  44-38, 1st in Southeast Division, 5th in Eastern Conference

Statistical Comparisons:


28th in the league in scoring (94.6 ppg)
5th in opponent field goal %
27th in three-point %  
26th in opponent turnovers


8th in opponent scoring (95.5 ppg)
17th in ppg differential (-0.9 ppg)
10th in field goal %  
18th in assists
21st in steals
7th in blocks
9th  in turnovers
Poor offensive rebounding team
Average defensive rebounding team

Significant Additions:  
Smush Parker, Penny Hardaway, Alexander Johnson, Daequan Cook (R)

Significant Subtractions:
Jason Kapono, James Posey

Key Players

PG:  Jason Williams, Smush Parker
SG:   Dwyane Wade, Penny Hardaway
SF:  Antoine Walker, Dorell Wright
PF:  Udonis Haslem, Waybe Simien, Alexander Johnson
C:  Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Michael Doleac

Comments:  A ton of teams under-perform in the year following their championship.  Some come in satisfied.  Others aren't prepared for the target on their backs.  Still others can't hold up under the physical strain of playing that many games in consecutive seasons.  A little bit of all of those happened to the Heat last year.  Injuries were the biggest bug, but you still didn't see the same intensity from them that you did in the previous year.  Almost inevitably when these teams fall short the entire world writes them off.  It's as if their failing to live up to inflated expectations makes them immediate non-factors.  We expect them to take a slow, agonizing arc into oblivion.  Championship teams seldom go that quietly though.  Watch out for the Heat this year.

On paper the team didn't get that much better.  Smush Parker makes most observers ring out a resounding, "Eh."  Penny Hardaway joins the other card-carrying A.A.R.P. members of this club, perhaps appealing to one of Southern Florida's major demographics but unlikely to revolutionize the on-court play.  But let's face it, this team revolves around Shaq and Wade and both of them should come in hungry.  Dwyane will probably start slow due to his lingering injuries, but even a hobbled Wade still draws 10 free throws a game and averages 25+.  I don't think Shaq is going to be content to watch his career spiral downward.  He'll never be the Shaq of old but he should be a more motivated Shaq than we saw last year.  He has one more run left in him.  Beyond that you just need a few rebounds from Haslem, a few points from Walker, and for the point guards not to fumble away the game.  It isn't the most well-rounded roster in the East but when the big guys get rolling it could be the most unstoppable.

One major concern facing the team's offense is outside shooting.  None of the major-minute smalls shoot well from distance and Antoine Walker has really lost his touch.  That's a problem, as both Wade and a slower Shaq will have trouble scoring against three guys packed in the paint.  In this sense Walker's performance may be a key to the team's season.  Thanks to Shaq, Mourning, and Haslem Miami performs a lot better defensively than you think they should.  This definitely needs to remain a strength if they are to succeed.

I don't think anybody in the world would favor Miami to come out of the East this year.  Nevertheless I think they're a lot more of a darkhorse possibility than most people do.  With this lineup all they have to do is make the playoffs and then get on a roll.  Don't count them out entirely.

--Dave (