A yearly tradition, Jeff over at Celtics Blog organizes everyone to post their team blog previews, which we have been rolling out all over SB Nation over the past couple weeks. Today, we continue that tradition with the preview of our own Miami Heat. Enjoy, and feel free to add your thoughts at the bottom...
Team Name: Miami Heat
Last Year's Record: 47-35
Key Losses: Jermaine O'Neal, Michael Beasley
Predicted 2010-11 Record: 67-15 (1st in Southeast Division, Eastern Conference)
1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
In what will be one of the most talked about off-seasons in NBA history, the Heat made the biggest impact by landing the most coveted free agents on the market. First it was Dwyane Wade deciding to re-sign with Miami, and then the decisions of his friends Chris Bosh and LeBron James to join him. Those moves right there would be enough for any NBA fan to be perfectly happy with their team's off-season.
They weren't done there though. Players needed to be brought in to play around the ‘big 3' and suddenly there was a waiting list of guys wanting to sign with Miami. Mike Miller is a key addition because the Heat has needed an outside shooter for quite some time, and he appears to be a perfect fit.
I'll also mention the re-signings of Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony because both guys are going to have huge roles with this team. Haslem has been a team captain and an integral part of the core of this team since he was signed as an undrafted rookie back in 2003. He already showed us last season that he could adjust and excel when coming off the bench, and this year he'll have even more talent around him. People outside of Miami may not realize it, but Haslem is just as much the heart and soul of this franchise as Dwyane Wade is.
Anthony is entering his 4th year in the league, all with the Heat, and I am very excited to see what he can do this season. Every year he has shown significant improvement in all aspects of his game, but it's his offensive game that has slowly but surely began to come around. He's always been an above average defender with an amazing shot blocking ability, but his first couple years in the league he appeared to have hands made of stone when on offense.
Last season though is when he really got my attention. He was able to catch the ball down low and also hold on to rebounds on both ends. His footwork on offense was another thing that showed great improvement, allowing him to create easy looks at the rim when showing off his ‘not stone' hands. Now with all the amazing talent around him, he'll be able to concentrate on the strength's of his game while likely getting a lot more open looks.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
Talent right? That's the obvious and expected answer. Any team with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh is basically spoiled with talent. But talent alone doesn't necessarily mean wins will come easily, and these guys know that.
The amount of talent on this roster combined with the camaraderie between the players is key. There are plenty of occasions where great players are brought together on a team and they just don't mesh well and the team struggles. This will not be the case with the Heat because not only are all of these guys friends, but they all came to Miami because they shared a common goal, which is to win an NBA championship.
There is also the element of these guys, some of the best to ever play the game, working against each other in practice. It's already begun in training camp and its something that will continue throughout the season.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
This is a difficult question to answer before the season. Roster wise, their starting lineup consists of Wade, LeBron and Bosh. Next to those three, Joel Anthony and Mario Chalmers seem like the weak links in the chain. I still look at Chalmers as a bit of a question mark, but the upside is there. However, if he can't produce with the teammates he has now then you'd have to wonder if he ever will.
For now, I'm not taking it any farther then that. I have confidence in Joel Anthony and think he'll be fine. There will be no need for him to do anything offensive, which is where he struggles, but defense is his strength, which is exactly where the Heat will need him. I'm also very confident in the Heat's lesser known coach, Erik Spoelstra. He emphasizes the importance of defense which comes all the down from Pat Riley.
I'm not saying this team won't have any weaknesses, but as of now I couldn't tell you what they will be. I realize that sounds cocky/confidant...but you take this roster and see what you come up with.
4. What are the goals for this team?
I think a realistic goal in their first year would be to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. If you ask the players however, they will tell you the goal is always to win an NBA championship. It really doesn't go any further then that. When you put together a team like this, its very much ‘win or go home'. We'll see how they respond to that pressure once the playoffs roll around.
5. How will this team handle adversity?
This is something that I have been wondering as I've watched the Heat through training camp and now into the preseason. What is going to happen when they are in a close game in the 4th quarter, or when something comes up that gets under their skin? I'm not questioning their skill or insinuating that they will have any problems with these situations, I'm just curious how they will be handled.
I'm also curious to see who will be stepping up as leaders on this club. Any of them will tell you right now that it is still Dwyane Wade's team, but it goes beyond that. In years past, Jamaal Magloire has been a vocal leader in the locker room, but he rarely played or made a difference on the floor.
Now we have LeBron, Bosh, and Juwan Howard, all of whom can step up and lead by example in different ways. One thing I don't anticipate being is a problem is having too many guys wanting their voice to be heard. Not this team. Everyone is here for one reason and that is to win, and there will be no ‘stepping on each others toes' in that department.
At this point, there are a lot of ‘wait and see' situations with the Heat, but at the same time there is a quiet confidence growing around the team and its fans. We're all just waiting for October 26th when we can finally see the Heat play some meaningful basketball games.