Skip to content

NBA Season Preview: Miami Heat

Oct 3, 2012, 3:25 PM EDT

Miami Heat player LeBron James hoists the championship trophy as team mate Dwyane Wade looks on stage at a rally in Miami, Florida Reuters

Last season: It was not flawless, but it was superb. It was not easy, but it was rewarding. And it was not what they thought it would be, but it was spectacular.

The Miami Heat accomplished all of their goals in the 2012 season, that being the only goal they had: win the title. They vanquished Boston after going down 3-2, they overcame injuries to Dwane Wade and Chris Bosh, and maybe most notably, LeBron James silenced every critic of his game with arguably the best seven games of his career.

So yeah, it was a pretty good year.

Miami still had to make adjustments along the way. They discovered that instead of a steady diet of the Big 3, LeBron James needed the ball to start every possession. They found that smallball was their best attack, because it emphasized their speed. And they found that their defense was at its best when it was forcing turnovers. They had moments where they looked overwhelmed, a shell of what they were supposed to be, particularly Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

But they rose, again and again, on the back of James who went to the post and played point-forward-center, controlling the offense, scoring for himself and creating. There was nothing anyone could do when he got into that mode.

The Heat are a long way from the “not six, not seven…” standard they set for themselves. But it was validation of all the criticism they suffered, and a certification of their team concept. Now they just have to go out and do it again.

And again. And again…

Key Departures: No one. The core of the team is intact. James-Wade-Bosh-Battier-Chalmers-Haslem-Anthony-Cole-Miller-Jones are all back. Ronny Turiaf departed but by the end, the Heat had largely abandoned the concept of a center anyway.

Key Additions: Oh, you know, only arguably the best three-point shooter in history, Ray Allen. That guy.

They also added Rashard Lewis as another veteran perimeter threat.

Three keys to the Heat season:
1) Can age sustain the velocity? Erik Spoelstra went to Pat Riley last year and advocated for an approach to use speed and athleticism to push the Heat to a new level. It worked out brilliantly, despite Riley’s hesitance towards going away from traditional big men.

This year, the Heat have pledged to be faster than ever, and Chris Bosh says he’s accepted his role at center. Dwyane Wade is recovering from surgery, Ray Allen’s admitted that his ankle isn’t 100 percent, and much of the roster is getting up there in years. Is a fast way to play going to be conducive to keeping them healthy? Even with a move away from physicality and grinding and more into a wide-open style, there’s still the essential problem of contact and impact at high velocity.

It remains to be seen if the Heat’s best approach can be sustained by a roster that doesn’t feature many spring chickens.

2) LeBron keeping his edge. He’s reached the top of Olympus, took King Arthur’s sword and took control of the Matrix. Will James have the same edge he did at the last year, playing desperately?

Bear in mind that there’s often a slide-back after you win a title because you recognize that you’re playing for June now. The regular season become less important due to the comfort that you know how to accomplish your goal. Will James want to pursue that bruising inside game for even half the season? And if he abandons the post for his perimeter game to save is body, will he be able to slide right back into it?

Most important is if James stays hungry. He’s accomplished it all. He’s on top of the NBA globe right now, only his road to a repeat is that much harder with the Lakers and an ever-developing Thunder. Will be be able to keep his mind focused on getting better and staying on top or will he coast on his laurels. We’ve seen that the Heat go as LeBron does.

So how will LeBron go?

3) Can the shooters stay hot? Shane Battier has never been a great three-point shooter, and yet he absolutely killed both Boston and Oklahoma City in the playoffs, enough for fans to grumble a bit about flukes. Mike Miller has been falling apart for years, physically, and yet nailed enough threes to destroy OKC.

Their four primary shooters, Battier, Miller, Allen, and Rashard Lewis are all well over 30. Allen and Miller have injury issues. Lewis hasn’t been effective since 2009. And Battier’s never been reliable from deep. Do they have enough balance? Mario Chalmers is likely to keep improving, but when those shots don’t fall and the defense packs the paint to deter James and Wade’s driving, the offense stalls.

For the Heat to be in the elite offensive category, they need those guys to keep shooting well. And that’s a tall order when you look at their age, despite their career accomplishments.

What Heat fans should fear: Injury, injury, injury.

Dwyane Wade still isn’t 100 percent and may never be… again, ever. Chris Bosh is recovering. Mike Miller feels good enough to play, because he didn’t get back surgery that he needed. Ray Allen says his ankle is an ongoing problem. The list goes on and on. The Heat are always one major injury from falling way behind, and just because they managed to survive last year on the back of LeBron doesn’t mean it’ll be enough this year with a tougher slate than ever.

Every team worries about injuries, but the Heat worry about them a little bit more.

How it likely works out: The Heat have not gotten the top overall seed in the Triad era. This may be their best chance with the Bulls without Derrick Rose. They don’t need it, though, and will be more likely to coast for long stretches and rest players. But for all the questions of their longevity and sustainability, this is still the established team in the league, the defending champions with the best player in the league.

There is no reason to think the Heat will not win the Eastern Conference for the third year in a row. What happens after that is an entirely more complicated question, and one we’ll need to address throughout the year as it evolves.

Prediction: 60-22: The Heat finally crack the 60-mark in the Triad era, but don’t do anything outlandish. A great team, but one still with flaws whose stars miss too many games to win it all. Their offense still stagnates and their bench never gives them enough of a boost to overcome a bad night from the starters. But a small step forward for the best team in the East behind a kinder schedule and the addition of Allen.

Latest Posts
  1. Cavs’ improved defense deserves credit for commanding 2-0 Eastern Conference Finals lead

    May 23, 2015, 12:25 AM EDT

    Timofey Mozgov Timofey Mozgov

    Cleveland shut down Atlanta’s offense in a dominant Game 2 performance.

  2. No Kyrie Irving, no problem: Cavaliers cruise to blowout Game 2 win over Hawks

    May 22, 2015, 11:16 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    LeBron was great, and that was enough against a Hawks team that keeps losing guys due to injury.

  3. James Harden was ‘kicking chairs’ after Rockets’ Game 2 loss to Warriors

    May 22, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Two Getty Images

    There’s also video of Harden doing some damage in the tunnel on the way to the locker room.

  4. Pero Antic commits flagrant foul on LeBron James (VIDEO)

    May 22, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One Getty Images

    Ruled a flagrant, which was probably the correct call under the circumstances.

  5. Lakers not planning on trading the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft

    May 22, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT

    Mitch Kupchak AP

    GM Mitch Kupchak: “It looks as though we’ll use our pick this year.”

  6. Kyrie Irving out for Game 2 vs. Hawks

    May 22, 2015, 7:38 PM EDT

    Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Irving is dealing with a knee injury.

  7. Kobe Bryant tries to explain Stephen Curry with a riddle

    May 22, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    Explaining Stephen Curry’s game is just not that easy.

  8. Clippers’ Dahntay Jones: There’s no rift between Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan

    May 22, 2015, 6:49 PM EDT

    Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    Did they disagree? Sure. Was there a rift… depends on who you ask.

  9. Report: Clippers, other teams have made Summer League offers to Royce White

    May 22, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Royce White AP

    Summer League is a perfect place for giving White another look.

  10. Report: Lakers have ‘big-time’ interest in signing DeMarre Carroll, Celtics and Pistons also in pursuit

    May 22, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    Would they pay him the $15 million per season one NBA executive estimated the Hawks forward could get in free agency?

  11. Kyrie Irving misses shootaround, questionable for Game 2

    May 22, 2015, 10:25 AM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks - Game One Getty Images

    Is his injury more serious than previously thought?

Featured video

Small ball lineup propelled Warriors to Game 1 win
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Irving (5944)
  2. K. Love (5111)
  3. D. Howard (4586)
  4. P. Beverley (4495)
  5. S. Curry (3831)
  1. L. James (3590)
  2. K. Durant (3501)
  3. D. Carroll (3500)
  4. M. Speights (3493)
  5. K. Bryant (3428)