We know how it's looking...the Heat hold sole possession of the 5 seed but have 2 teams only a half game behind. However, the Heat also just made a big move that will fill a lot of the holes that have been holding us back this season, as well as set us up quite nicely for the big free agent pool of 2010. I did a little schedule analysis for the stretch run of the season for Miami, and here are some of the things I came up with.
- The Heat have 30 games remaining (15 home, 15 away)
- Games vs. teams .500 or above (as of 2/12): 16
- Games vs. teams that are in or in contention for a playoff spot in the East: 21
- "Tough" Games: 18
For the playoff game numbers, I included everyone in the standings down to the Knicks and Chicago. Tough games I included some road games like @ Philly and @ N.J., and also the obvious ones. We play Boston and Detroit 3 more times, and play Orlando, Atlanta and Cleveland twice.
Yes, it will be difficult but the Heat now have a team that matches up much better with the teams ahead of them in the standings. Here is my projected lineup for the Heat, post-trade (backups in parenthesis in depth chart order)
C- Jermaine O'Neal (Joel Anthony, Jamaal Magloire, Blount)
PF- Udonis Haslem (Michael Beasley)
SF- Jamario Moon (James Jones, Yakhouba "the nose" Diawara)
SG- D-Wade (Daequan Cook)
PG- Mario Chalmers (Chris Quinn)
And remember, don't expect Michael Beasley to be playing anywhere but the 4 in the immediate future. This is what Coach Spo had to say last week on the subject:
Eventually Mike will probably be able to play some minutes at (center) when he fills out in two or three years, and he'll probably be able to play some minutes at the three (small forward). For the most part, I want to keep him pretty consistent at (power forward).
While Beasley's body continues to grow and mature, the Heat seem intent on teaching him one position at a time. It has been a hard enough task for Beas to learn the defensive side of the ball playing the 4 in the NBA, so I can see why they wouldn't want him getting beat on the dribble by the smaller, quicker guys playing the 3, or getting knocked around by bigger more experienced guys playing center.
There is another 2010 free agent to-be that we have been overlooking: Pat Riley. His contract expires in 2010, but Riley plans to re-up with the Heat and keep the championship dreams afloat, saying he "Absolutely" plans to stay in Miami. Riley sticking around is not only important for the Heat's chances of landing a big fish free agent, but it also most likely keeps D-Wade here. Wade has a great relationship with Riley, and also knows that Pat will do whatever it takes to win.
Both Wade and Riley agree that Chris Bosh would be an ideal fit for the two of them down here in Miami, and this should now be Riley's main goal. After making this Marion/O'Neal trade, the Heat are in a position to be very competitive for the next year and a half, but more importantly, are in prime position to be big players in the free agent pool. Granted, it will depend on the progress and development of Beasley, Cook and Chalmers, but bringing in Chris Bosh to play with D-Wade and that supporting cast...contenders every year for sure. It's similar to the way the Spurs built their team, around a young big guy (Duncan/Beasley), a young and very talented point guard (Parker/Chalmers) and throw in a Ginoboli and a Finley (Wade and Cook) and you have the making of a championship foundation. Oh, and lets not forget adding Chris Bosh to the equation. Granted, Beasley and Chalmers have some big shoes to fill, but after such productive rookie seasons in which they have shown such vast improvement throughout...I say the sky is the limit. I'm not saying they will be as good as Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, but I'm also not saying they won't be.
Back to Bosh, who was very surprised that Toronto pulled the trigger on trading Jermaine O'Neal. The center had just been brought into Toronto last summer, when the Raptors sent T.J. Ford to Indiana. I'm sure this doesn't hurt the prospect of Bosh coming to Miami, but here is what (the future Heat player) had to say:
"I would have liked to see it flourish a little more," Bosh said during his All-Star Game media session. "I was hoping it was going to be a lot better. And I'm sure he was hoping the same thing. But it was very short, man. Not even a year."
Another thing to address is that the Heat still believe they have a hole to fill at point guard. Coach Spo has made it clear that defense comes first on this team, and Chris Quinn just isn't cutting it. He was shooting the lights out early in the year, but after being benched for Marcus Banks, even though it was only for a couple weeks, completely killed his mojo.
With Pat Riley saying he needs another point guard and still could make another deal, keep an eye on Oklahoma City's Earl Watson, who is on the market and has this season and next on a deal that pays $6.6 million next season. The Heat doesn't have much left to offer, other than a package of draft picks and perhaps Dorell Wright or James Jones.
One final note, apparently there was a last minute push by the New Jersey Nets to acquire Shawn Marion in exchange for Vince Carter. The Nets were looking to sign Marion to a multi-year deal, but Vince Carter's contract runs through the 2011-12 season, which we know doesn't work in the Heat's ultimate plans.