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ProBasketballTalk 2013-14 Preview: Miami Heat

Sep 30, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 7 Getty Images

Last season: The Heat won their second straight championship in an epic seven-game battle against a Spurs team that had every chance to take home the title instead. On their way, Miami flirted with history by stringing together a 27-game winning streak that lasted late into March, and finished the season by winning an incredible 53 of its last 61 games. LeBron James took home both the regular season and Finals MVP awards.

Signature highlight from last season: Miami was on the verge of losing Game 6 of the Finals, and a championship right along with it. After trailing by five points with 28 seconds remaining, the Heat had cut it to three and had possession of the ball. LeBron missed a three that would have tied it, but Chris Bosh fought for the rebound and kicked it to Ray Allen, who stepped back behind the three-point line and delivered the season-saving dagger that will go down as one of the biggest shots in NBA history.

Key player changes: Miami didn’t do anything too drastic in terms of shaking up its roster, which is to be expected from a team looking to win its third straight title. But they did say goodbye to a key veteran piece, and rolled the dice on two players that have been busts everywhere else.

  • IN: Greg Oden is the only player who’s been added on a guaranteed deal for the upcoming season. Michael Beasley is in camp on a non-guaranteed deal, as is Roger Mason Jr. Miami has 13 players on guaranteed deals; it’s unlikely they’d guarantee two more to max out their roster before seeing who might be available later in the season.
  • OUT: Mike Miller was waived using the amnesty provision, saving the team a total of $17 million in what was purely a cost-cutting measure.

Keys to the Heat’s season:

1) The health of Dwyane Wade: The Heat were able to win the title even with Wade playing at far less than 100 percent. He had offseason shock treatment to try to rejuvenate his ailing knee, which is something he’s done in the past that provided successful results.

Managing Wade’s health throughout the season so that he’s as ready as possible for the playoffs may be the single most important factor in whether or not Miami can make its fourth straight trip to the Finals — a feat which hasn’t been accomplished since the Boston Celtics did it during the 1984-87 seasons.

2) Pace yourself: For Miami to be playing deep into June once again, the team will need to carefully manage the minutes of not only its star players, but its aging crop of reserves, as well. Guys like Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier, and Ray Allen are becoming ancient by league standards, and while Allen and Battier seem to come through with big shots when it matters most, the reality is that they both have declining overall skill sets.

The good news is that the Heat seemed to do this to perfection last year — not so much in terms of limiting guys’ minutes, but the team coasted a bit through the first part of the season. On February 1, Miami had a rather pedestrian record of 29-14. Five teams in the West had better records at the time, and two others had notched the name number of victories to that point in the season’s schedule. It was only then that Miami flipped the switch and reeled off that huge winning streak which propelled them into the postseason.

If they can similarly conserve effort during the first few months while winning enough to stay with the pack, the Heat will be poised to make yet another late-season run.

3) Will standing pat be enough against a reloaded Eastern Conference?: This is perhaps the ultimate question.

A cursory glance around the East shows that at least three teams — Brooklyn, Indiana, and Chicago — should all be vastly improved this season. The Nets added Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Pacers shored up their bench unit by bringing in guys like Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson, plus they’ll see a healthy Danny Granger return to the lineup to boost the team’s offense. Derrick Rose is back for the Bulls, and by all accounts will be at full strength for the start of the season.

Those teams all got markedly better on paper, and we haven’t even mentioned the Knicks yet, who added Metta World Peace, Andrea Bargnani, and Beno Udrih to a team that finished last year with the second best record in the East.

Miami didn’t make any splashy additions in free agency, and preferred instead to return with the majority of last season’s roster intact. They may need either the Beasley or the Oden gamble to pay off to bolster the second unit, and both of those players are long shots at best given their respective career histories.

Why you should watch the Heat: LeBron James is the best basketball player in the world, and he’s in the prime of his career.

Prediction: 58-24, and a top-three seed in the East. Miami will be strong again this season, and while a third straight title given the way the top teams have improved certainly isn’t impossible, it does seem like a stretch. It may be foolish to count out LeBron at this stage of his career, but I see the Heat getting no further than the Eastern Conference Finals.

  1. kingwithringz - Sep 30, 2013 at 9:30 AM

    We will be fine. Not only are we a winning team, but we are also one of the most classiest teams in the league today. These guys are so humble and play basketball the way it is meant to be played. Riley, Spo, Wade, LBJ, UD, have truly turned this franchise around.

  2. 1972wasalongtimeago - Sep 30, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    Here’s what’s going to happen. It’s going to be a great season. The Heat will win at least 55. Lose around 17. After every loss, the lynch mobs will be out saying the Heat aren’t good enough, and they’ll get all hysterical about the pending opt outs. There will be a relatively easy 1st round. A intense second round against an overmatched rival who will try to bully the Heat and “get in their heads” to no avail.

    Then we get to when it starts getting real. Everything between now and tbecRasyern Conference Finals is just blah blah blah.

    But I’m going to make a TON of Greg Oden dck jokes along the way.

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Sep 30, 2013 at 9:38 AM

      My math isn’t so good. Win at least 55 and lose at most 27, probably less.

      • gofinsgoheatfloria - Sep 30, 2013 at 9:46 AM

        right- they play 82 even in the tbecRasyern Conference.

        Posting before our morning coffee, were we? :-)))

    • nflcrimerankingscom - Sep 30, 2013 at 10:10 AM

      Here’s what’s going to happen: Dirtywane Wade will continue his legacy of terrible sportsmanship by by delivering 5-10 unbelievably dirty plays throughout the season. And Heat fans will defend him, only revealing their pathetic lack of real character and mettle.

      • kingwithringz - Sep 30, 2013 at 10:45 AM

        Don’t you trolls ever get tired? I guess social media is a way for you guys to vent because in reality your life sucks.

    • cantonbound13 - Sep 30, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      All I predict is another season of annoying Pearl Jam references. A few personal shots by uneducated, sensitive bandwagoners & hundreds of comical statements about LeBron actually being better than Michael. Very predictable by the worst fan base in America.

      • 1972wasalongtimeago - Sep 30, 2013 at 2:21 PM

        New PJ album coming out 10/15. Can’t freaking wait. Hitting the road to see a couple shows live.

        And yes Matt, Fins are good. Oh how I want to be in that rhumba, when the Saints go over there!

        Even our good friend CB13 rocking the Fins jersey at work today.

      • gofinsgoheatfloria - Sep 30, 2013 at 2:41 PM

        “worst fan base in America”? At least one person disagrees with you:

        http://blogs.indystar.com/pacersinsider/2013/03/16/pacers-hill-sounds-off-on-lack-of-fan-support-full-transcript/

    • miamatt - Sep 30, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      I know I sure won’t bet against the Heat. Sure will be fun to listen to all the chatter about how Miami’s time is over, only to watch the season unfold and the end result be exactly the same.

      How ’bout them Dolphins, ’72??? Making things interesting down here…

      “Oh when the Saints, go over there, oh when the Saints go over there…”
      -Homer Simpson

  3. gofinsgoheatfloria - Sep 30, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    Space is at a premium when writing a subhead, sure, but, really – “standing pat”? They didn’t break up the Big 3, but they made moves – the question, as the body of the article discusses, is whether those moves, two of them big gambles, pay off. DWade’s knees are a question, but he played better last year than many accounts would have us believe.

    If neither of the gambles pays off, and no one emerges from among the “camp bodies” to earn a spot on the roster, and no one worthwhile is available later, a top-three seed and no farther than the ECF may be about right. But not many foresaw the Birdman coming to the Heat last year, and even when he was signed, not everyone was predicting the effect he would have. Something like this could happen again, especially if roster spots are open.

    The East will be more fun to watch this year than last – that’s about all anyone can say for sure.

  4. steelers33 - Sep 30, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    The season for them really comes down to a healthy Wade and a healthy Oden during playoff time. This is especially true if they are going to face Indiana’s or Chicago’s front court. This is a veteran team however, and I agree it will be extremely hard for them to go through the physical and mental grind again to go for an NBA championship. But if they are somewhat healthy and decently rested, with LeBron I think they can get it done.

  5. elcapitanfiscal - Sep 30, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    Lebron is getting his third ring!

  6. philaw123 - Oct 19, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    Chris Bosh took a lot of flak for his performance during his 1st year with the Heat but has performed quite admirably during their 2 Championship seasons so even with the questionable knees of DWade, I think that he should be able to step up his game to cover for Wade if he goes down. The rest of the team complements the talents of LBJ quite well. The other teams went through upgrades because they had to. The Heat are still kings of the hill and just waiting for the others to catch up to them.

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