The Hot Hot Hoops crew discussed what's to come for the defending champion Miami Heat (that has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?) and how the roster has shaped up for the 2012-13 NBA season. We'll have more of these roundtable editions as training camp and preseason quickly approaches where we will look at specific areas for this team. They have the pressure to repeat as champions but they will have a decidedly different path to that destiny after a flood of players switched teams during the offseason and changed the NBA landscape.
As we look towards the future we must bid our goodbye to David Dwork, who was the editor of the previous Heat blog on SB Nation, Peninsula Is Mightier, and is moving onwards. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.
At the same time we welcome Jay Ramos into the mix. We were impressed with his work on Court Bully and he's a local guy so we look forward to checking out his spin on the craziness that will be the new season for the Heat.
1) Shane Battier spent much of the 2012 playoffs defending power forwards like David West and Brandon Bass. Do you expect Erik Spoelstra to move Battier to the bench for the 82-game regular season? Could we see Udonis Haslem or Rashard Lewis start at power forward on opening night?
Mnelik Belilgne: I doubt Battier starts the season as their power forward but that doesn't mean he won't get minutes at that position throughout. Miami will likely spend the beginning of the season altering lineups once again and attempt the find the best starting unit that fits. In most cases, you'd like to start the youngest players to provide athleticism and quickness but Haslem, Lewis and Battier are all in the later stages of their careers. I'd expect Haslem to start at power forward but provided no health drawbacks and continued development, Rashard Lewis could be Miami's new starting stretch 4 by season end.
Surya Fernandez: I can't see Shane doing that for a whole season and truthfully there doesn't seem to be an East team that can knock the Heat from the #1 seed so it might be wise to play a more traditional rotation for the bulk of the season and utilize the "small-ball" rotation that was so successful in the playoffs from time to time on an as-needed basis. I can definitely see Udonis Haslem starting at power forward on opening night and many other regular season games instead of Shane or Rashard. Battier will certainly get plenty of minutes thanks to his versatility.
Diego Quezada: Battier defended power forwards in the playoffs primarily to relieve LeBron James from having that duty. And it wouldn't be wise to have Battier, who turns 34 in two weeks, do that for an 82-game season. Expect Battier to come off the bench during the regular season. Between Udonis Haslem and Rashard Lewis, each offers divergent skill sets. Haslem rebounds and defends, and Lewis can hit the 3-point shot. I expect Haslem and Lewis to each get playing time at the four, while LeBron will play there in certain lineups. Chris Bosh will play as a full-time five.
Jay Ramos: Being a starter outside of Miami's big three really isn't that important. Over the big three era, we've seen Miami start players like Zydrunas Illgauskas, Joel Anthony and even Haslem inside and not necessarily CLOSE with them. I think for Miami, what's important is who will close. Allen or Chalmers and Battier, given Erik Spoelstra's tendencies in the 2012 playoffs, probably will be with the team's ending lineup. The team will deploy it's most talented lineups by moving LeBron James to power forward on offense (In turn having Shane defend the opponents power forward), and having it's perimeter depth on the floor for the crucial minutes of the game.
Haslem will be Miami's starting power forward to open the season. Haslem, for all of his offensive struggles last year, is still is a very good rebounder (10.6 RPG per 36 mins in 2011-12) and a plus defender whose intangibles are probably overvalued by this coaching staff and organization. I think he will regress and find his mid range stroke again, but if it somehow never comes back, the Heat still have a sturdy defender and a player they can start alongside Bosh in a conventional frontcourt to start the game.
Jay: I think James Jones is the odd man out. He's a solid spot up shooter who can help this team spread the floor, but a healthy Miller, along with Allen and Chalmers, just leaves Jones in a minute crunch. I think Lewis may find some minutes as a stretch power forward in some matchups, and Miller simply brings more versatility than Jones does, and will be called upon more frequently.
Also, I don't think Miami is neglecting depth at the center position. It just so happens that the position is thin in free agency, and the Heat have probably learned that having limited, veteran big bodies on the bench like Illgauskas, Jamaal Magloire and Eddy Curry is useless.
Diego: Even if LeBron plays significantly at the 4 during the regular season, it's hard to envision Mike Miller or James Jones carving out a lot of minutes with Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Battier ahead of them on the depth chart. Labeling Miller as an insurance option doesn't sound right since he's been hurt for the past two years. Miller and Jones are both good guys, but it probably would make more basketball since if the insurance options on the wing were young, cheap players. And beyond Chris Bosh, the Heat don't offer much in the PF/C arena.
Mnelik: Mike Miller will see his minutes gradually decreased while James Jones likely will incur several DNP's this season. The fact of the matter is, Ray Allen is one of the best shooters this league has ever seen and will instantly become the Heat's best shooter and space creator. On the flip side, Allen at this stage of his career can be a defensive liability on occasions and with Miami's frontcourt still limited in size, it will interesting to see how Spoelstra strategizes. The Heat have only Dexter Pittman and Joel Anthony currently under contract so it's more than contingent they sign a big. Darko Milicic, Sean Williams and Andray Blatch may not be the best candidates but they'll provide something the Heat desperately need none the less: size.
Surya: After seeing how dominant the Heat can be when their outside shooters can consistently knock down their shots, it's hard to argue against it especially when there isn't much to choose from out of available big men. Certainly some of these players could be useful for the team but none are difference makers. In contrast, when Miller or Jones (and now Ray Allen) are red-hot the team is practically unbeatable.
3) Is there a place on this team for a young developmental player such as Terrel Harris? What do you make of the Heat trading out of the first round this year?
Mnelik: With the signing of Allen and development of Norris Cole, I don't think there's room for a player like Harris on the Heat. Miami has roughly 8 wing players under contract which further points to their decision to trade this years 1st round pick. At the time, Pay Riley seemingly made that decision to keep a roster spot open for possible veterans and to gamble on the possibility of getting a better lottery protected pick from the 76ers in the 2013 season. Components of the trade changed however once the 76ers traded for Andrew Bynum, likely placing them in the top 5 of the eastern conference and subsequently pushing their traded draft pick with the Heat higher. Be that as it may, team personnel decisions should revolve around increasing the frontcourt and subsequently alleviating the dirty work that their core unit and big 3 will endure through the 82 game season.
Diego: The Heat should add one more PF/C player, but Miami has two open roster spots. I'd be satisfied -- though not enthused -- with any one of the big men who have been linked to Miami: Josh Harrellson, Darko Milicic, Andray Blatche and Chris Andersen. Of those four, I'd probably prefer Harrellson. The Heat could sign two of those big men, but Harris had some nice moments when he got the chance to play. He's athletic and can drive to the basket, unlike Miami's other bench players on the wings.
Miami's move to trade out of the first round makes sense now. Miami already has 13 players under contract, with the additions of Allen and Lewis. I'd still like to the Heat to add Harrellson and Harris for the final two spots. But a first-round picks gets guaranteed money and a guaranteed roster spot. But if it was up to me, Miami would have amnestied Mike Miller, opening up another spot. If I was the Heat GM, I probably wouldn't have traded the pick. But I'm not nearly as smart as Pat Riley.
Surya: Harris had a few moments here and there during the season but unfortunately his spot might be better suited for a big man veteran since it's a bigger need. Riley apparently doesn't see much of a need for late first round picks and has always preferred veterans instead of the NBA Draft to fortify his rosters. Two rings means he's doing something right of course, but the Lakers team he coached did a good job of finding talent with late picks and the San Antonio Spurs have done well too. This draft was touted as being deep so there could have been a player that could help. But then again, the team is in win-now mode and would prefer to integrate veterans like Allen and Lewis quickly into their system.
Jay: The trade they made this year is probably a lateral move. Arnette Moultrie, the late first round pick Miami dealt, has first round value. Then again, barring a rise to contention from the Sixers, the Heat will get a higher selection in the 2013 draft than the 28th they held this season.
I think there is value in having a developmental player or two on the roster. I thought Drew Viney had a shot to make the roster if he was invited to camp, but Harris has shown glimpses of possibly being an asset, and given the Heat's experienced depth and comfort in a weaker Eastern Conference, it won't hurt them even he has to play much.
4) Did Pat Riley make the right decision to use his team option on Dexter Pittman? Do you think he can develop into a decent center for the Heat?
Diego: I said in the previous response that I'm not nearly as smart as Riley, but his decision to guarantee Dexter Pittman's contract for the 2012-13 season is inane. Pittman played during the regular season and showed that he doesn't offer much more than fouls. Pittman's one skill is scoring, but what use is that on this team? His poor performance is the reason why Riley tried to find a big man to take his minutes last year -- Kenyon Martin, Joel Przybilla, Ronny Turiaf, etc. Miami doesn't need a lumbering center like Pittman or Eddy Curry. The Heat need young, athletic big men in the mold of a Kenneth Faried or a Serge Ibaka. After two years, Pittman hasn't shown any legitimate progress. For someone who has been in the NBA for two years, Pittman also should've played much better in the summer league than he did.
Surya: He's been slow to develop, yes, but until further notice they don't really have many other options on their roster. He's still a foul machine and doesn't seem particularly suited to this roster but then again it's not like players that deep in the rotation get many minutes on contending teams anyway. Regardless, the Heat are definitely looking for someone more reliable, so to speak.
Jay: I think it's the right move simply because there is more upside to Pittman than most veteran centers available in free agency. Pittman doesn't look good now, but in this organization and with this coaching staff, it's a better body to have on the roster than a veteran who has already peaked or other unappealing young options. At least we're familiar with Dexter. I would say there is a 25 percent chance Dexter ever emerges as a rotation player for Miami.
Mnelik: Miami exercising Pittman's contract can mean a couple of things. They could perhaps believe in his ability to improve and possibly provide a much needed frontcourt presence or he could serve as a nice inclusion in possible trades going forward. Pittman has ways to go in his player development but he's currently the largest body the Miami Heat have under contract. As it stands, Pittman serves as a low risk, mid return investment.
5) How many games will the Heat win this season? Should Spoelstra give extended minutes to players such as Dwyane Wade late in the regular season in order to secure home court advantage or will they lock up the #1 seed early?
Diego: My prediction is that the Heat will win 62 games. With Derrick Rose out for at least the first few months of the regular season (and who knows if he'll be 100% when he gets back), it appears as though the Celtics will be the 2nd seed and meet the Heat in the conference finals. Boston has previously mailed-in regular seasons, so the Heat will probably lock up the #1 seed early. Erik Spoelstra will probably closely monitor the minutes of everyone, but Miami's schedule is so easy that the Heat will win a lot of games anyway. Take the Southeast division, with the Hawks, Bobcats, Wizards and Magic all likely headed for the lottery. Miami will play each of those division foes four times, and they should all be wins even if the Heat have another "maintenance program" and sit out one of the members of the Big Three here and there.
Jay: The Heat have a great chance to get the best record in the league and win games in the mid-to-late 60's, but it's inevitable that they pump the brakes in April on their veterans. I think Wade, being that he is still in his prime, is ready for a return to big minutes, but he and a few of his teammates will get a few games off in the last few weeks. They should lock up the first seed with weeks to go in the season and will have the luxury of resting their stars as they please.
Surya: At least 55 to 60 games provided the core is relatively healthy. Should be enough to comfortably secure the top seed in the East.
Mnelik: It depends on the overall health and production from the other teams in the eastern conference but I'll say the Heat finish with a record of 62-20. This NBA season is going to be one of the most competitive seasons in recent history, with several teams loading up with talent and the league shaping up to ironically be it's "top heaviest" following the collective bargaining agreement. Miami should finish with the number 1 seed, but the Boston Celtics will be right behind them with the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers close behind. With Dwyane Wade coming off of knee surgery and a full summer of rest, Heat fans should hope that Flash can endure some heavy lifting throughout the season and perhaps for once, LeBron James can get some much needed rest as the season progresses.