Over the next month, Blazer's Edge will be rolling out season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Continuing this feature, we discuss the Miami Heat with All U Can Heat editor Wes Goldberg. (Yesterday's preview: Denver Nuggets)
Miami Heat 2014-15 Season Preview
2013-14 Record: 54-28, No. 1 in Southeast Division, No. 2 in Eastern Conference
Roster additions: Khem Birch (rookie, undrafted), Shannon Brown, Andre Dawkins (rookie, undrafted), Luol Deng, James Ennis, Danny Granger, Chris Johnson, Tyler Johnson (rookie, undrafted), Shawn Jones (rookie, undrafted), Josh McRoberts, Shabazz Napier (rookie, No. 24), Reggie Williams, Shawne Williams
Roster subtractions: Ray Allen, Joel Anthony, Shane Battier, Michael Beasley, Toney Douglas, LeBron James, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, Greg Oden
SB Nation affiliate: Hot Hot Hoops
Blazer's Edge: What are the general feelings among Heat fans about LeBron James heading back to Cleveland? Do you sense any bitterness, or are fans in Miami ready to move on?
Wes Goldberg: There is still some bitterness over how he left (it caught almost everyone off guard. Most people thought he would re-sign, and his waiting to announce his decision almost screwed over the entire team, but Pat Riley was able to save things). You'll see jokes on Heat Twitter, or read things in the comments of AllUCanHeat.com that reflect these things.
But there is almost a sense of relief. Heat fans can get back to loving their team without having to feel they need to apologize for it or prove they are true fans by saying "I liked the Heat before LeBron." It's back to bare-bones basketball, stripped away of the media attention and mental fatigue that came with LeBron.
BE: Are there any young guys on the Heat roster you think the rest of the NBA might be sleeping on?
WG: If competition breeds success, one of Miami's point guards will have to step up. Mario Chalmers is 28 and Norris Cole is 25. They are considered "meh" by the rest of the NBA, but if one of them feels the heat from rookie Shabazz Napier it could force them to up their game. My money would be on Cole taking another step. He has improved in some aspect every season, and I see him developing into a Patrick Beverley type.
Other than that, keep an eye on James Ennis. He's worked hard on his handles and has a ton of explosiveness. He figures to get to the basket and play above the rim, but if he gets his jumper to fall this season he could see some significant playing time.
BE: How much do you expect Danny Granger to contribute this season? How about Dwyane Wade?
WG: Granger has been generally healthy since signing with the Los Angeles Clippers at the end of the last season. He is looking good for the Heat and is hitting his three-pointers. He won't have to create many of his own shots in Miami's pace-and-space system, and being able to fill in as a scorer is something he seems excited about. I expect a big year from Granger that could have people talking about him as a come-back candidate.
Dwyane will play more games than the 54 he played last season. Maybe something closer to 65-70. He'll still be among the most efficient scorers in the league, like he was with James here, because those good habits are hard to break. But his scoring numbers will get back up above 21 points per game. He'll have the rock at the end of games, too.
BE: Is Chris Bosh now a first option on offense? What is his role now in Miami?
WG: The Heat learned their lesson last season with having 'options' on offense. Rather, the offense will move through Chris Bosh more than it did in years past. With James, Bosh was used as a decoy. His gravity helped space the opposing defenses and was used as a spot-up shooter, which limited him.
Bosh will do more facilitating from the high post this season and have more freedom to score, he already showed some nice moves getting to the basket during the team's inter-squad scrimmage this week. The goal is to have a balanced offense that relies on ball movement, so Bosh will be the catalyst for a lot of things, but I hesitate to call him the "first option."
BE: How do you think coach Erik Spoelstra will work his rotation? If Wade is hurt or resting, who steps up in his place this year?
WG: One thing with Spo is that he treats his bench like a bull pen, with maybe seven or eight core guys. Chalmers, Wade, Deng, McRoberts, Bosh, Andersen, Granger and Cole will be those core guys this season. The remaining guys will be used on a situational basis.
Expect a starting five of Chalmers, Wade, Deng, McRoberts and Bosh. Granger should be the first guy off the bench this season, most likely subbing in for Wade. Then Andersen will come in for Bosh or McRoberts and Cole will come in for Chalmers. That will give Granger, Deng and McRoberts/Bosh some time with the second unit before guys like Shannon Brown, Reggie Williams, James Ennis, Udonis Haslem and Shawne Williams come off the bench.
When Wade is out, the Heat could go in a lot of different directions. I think Spo will experiment with a few things. The obvious choice is to start Granger in his place, but if Spo likes what Granger brings as a Sixth Man, he could opt to leave him on the bench and start Brown (who has the inside track on the backup shooting guard spot over Reggie Williams and Ennis because of his defense and ball handling).
Spo plans on using Chalmers in some two-point guard lineups with Cole or Napier, too. So you'll see some of that when Wade is resting.
Special thanks to All U Can Heat editor Wes Goldberg for taking the time to discuss the Miami Heat's upcoming season with Blazer's Edge. Wes can be found on twitter @wcgoldberg. All U Can Heat has you covered for Heat news and analysis.
-- Chris Lucia | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter