It has been a summer of big change in Miami. Some of it was expected; some was not. The Big Three era may be over, but the rapid Pat Riley-led retool was hailed a success and there's hope and expectation moving into next season.
As this stands, here are the players who'll carry the Heat forward, those who may still return and those en route to pastures new.
The Starting Five
The NBA Finals masked what was actually an excellent season for Wade. His field goal efficiency of 54.4% was a career high, from career low attempts, suggesting he picked his moments much more effectively. While his accuracy is on the rise, Wade's effectiveness moving forward may depend on his off-season regimen. He's currently rocking the Paleo diet in a bid to be trimmer and to reduce impact on those troublesome knees. However, with James gone, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will be hoping to rely on Wade to start more than 54 games. Will he revert to more of a closing role? Can he modify his game to prolong his career? Does he really need to? The answers will go a long way to determining how far this new Heat line-up can go.
As Heat fans stared into the abyss of potential irrelevancy, Chris Bosh emerged from the void instantly cheering everyone up by recommitting for the next five years. For Bosh that means opportunity and a whole lot of expectation. Opportunity to be The Man, to lead a bright new era in Miami to cast off the shackles enforced by playing with James and earn some well deserved recognition. The Heat organisation and fanbase will expect big things from Bosh and while he says CB4 of Toronto fame isn't coming back, as the new focal point of the Heat's new-look offense, those impressive stats just might.
Whisper it, but there are a couple of good reasons Miami's No.15 may be happy to see the back of LeBron James. Firstly, if Akron's finest had recommitted, Chalmers would have been collateral damage. Instead, he has a two-year deal and a giant point to prove. Secondly, that ‘Big Brother, Little Brother' thing, which basically meant regular verbal beat downs from His Highness must have gotten pretty old, right?
So, for better or worse, Mario is back and will likely keep his job as starting PG for now. He claims to be "over and done with" his well-publicized NBA Finals nightmare and although he became a scapegoat for larger issues, Rio's redemption will come through action not words. Hopefully the opportunity for the six-year vet to step up and become a leader along with the threat to his berth from Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier will result in a more mature and consistent Mario Chalmers.
Extra hustle on defense, combativeness on the boards, athleticism in abundance and the physical size to back it up. If you had to choose, would you say those are attributes commonly associated with Luol Deng? Or things the Miami Heat struggled with last year. If you answered ‘both', you win! At a reported $10m a year, Deng could prove to be an inspired acquisition. He addresses major flaws, brings personality, heart, desire and bundles ability at both ends. The Heat's new small forward might not have a royal title, but Miami is going to love this guy.
When Miami announced its intent to sign Charlotte power forward ‘McBob', there was limited enthusiasm. A couple of weeks on, the focus has switched to the significant upside. An excellent and underrated ball-mover for a big man (he had 4.3 assists per game last year), he's also a reliable floor spreader with a 36.1 per cent success rate from downtown last season (47.1 per cent against Miami in the playoffs). By averaging 4.9 rebounds he gives Miami much needed help on the boards. At 27, he infuses a little more youth into the Heat line-up, while adding size, physicality and, as he proved with that elbow to James' throat in their offseason playoff series, a potentially useful mean streak.
After selflessly leaving more money on the table to give his team salary cap flexibility, Mr. 305's status as a Heat legend is beyond doubt. However, following a greatly diminished role in 2013-2014 (games started dropped from 59 to just 18) just how often will we see UD? His minutes were limited even at times when the team seemed to be devoid of defensive toughness. At aged 34 will his role continue to diminish or will the change in approach mean more floor time for Udonis?
Miami's point guard problems were not limited to Mario Chalmers during the NBA Finals. Indeed, things got little better when his young back up tagged in. Although Norris made strides forward last year, the Cole Train didn't really pick up a head of steam. This makes 2014-2015 a potentially career-defining year for the 25-year old. Before James' departure, Cole was in line for that starting berth. Now, with Chalmers back in the fold and Napier looking for minutes, Cole could find himself the odd man out and could even be traded if he can yield a decent return. The opportunity to acquire some decent cover for Wade would reportedly tempt Miami.
Birdman has been rewarded for two years of extremely valuable contributions off the bench with an extremely valuable contract and the opportunity for the 36 year old to round off his career here in Miami. His all-action style has endeared him to Heat fans who'll be seeking more of the don't-stop-til-you-drop enthusiasm that brought a 5.6 rebounds and more than a block a game from the bench last time around. Did we mention he also shot a ridiculous 64.4 per cent from the field last year? More of the same, please.
The former Indiana Pacer and Heat antagonist arrives in South Beach as somewhat of a wildcard. His low-risk two-year, $4.2m deal potentially gives Miami more options from its understaffed bench in multiple positions. While hitting his career averages of 17.4 points and 5.1 rebounds and 38.1 per cent success rate from downtown may be behind him after an injury-plagued couple of years, a healthy and happy Danny Granger has the All-Star talent to become an inspired acquisition and a valuable part of this rotation.
The Heat could sure use an injection of youth and, having impressed last year in Australia for the Perth Wildcats and more so during his recent Summer League outings, excitement surrounding 24-year-old small forward James Ennis is building. "Don't be surprised if..." appears to be the mantra.
Napier arrives in Miami as the team's third string point guard, but despite his growing pains in Summer League play all of that could change very quickly. With Cole's future still uncertain and Mario Chalmers still with plenty to prove the UConn graduate and reigning NCAA Final Four Outstanding Player could soon move through the ranks. Many observers expect the job to be his by the time next postseason rolls around.
Ray Allen: You get the sense that it's LeBron and Cleveland or retirement for Sir Shuttlesworth. The prospect of a return to South Beach remains unlikely.
Justin Hamilton: The Heat's leading scorer in Summer League play (18.0PPG and 7.0RPG) has certainly staked a claim for a place on the roster. The Heat brass has yet to decide whether to pick up the option to guarantee his contract.
Toney Douglas: As it stands NBA journeyman Douglas remains a potential stand-in for Wade after appearing in 27 games last year. However a contract offer has not been forthcoming.
Greg Oden: The Oden experiment was undertaken with a view to combatting the dominance of Indiana's Roy Hibbert. However, Hibbert became a non-factor and a lingering back injury ensured the same fate for Oden. It's unclear whether there's a spot for him going forward.
Michael Beasley: Despite showing great flashes offensively, Beasley's inability to assume the expected responsibilities on the other side of the ball saw him fall almost completely out of the rotation as the season wore on. He may yet be back as a low risk option.
The Dearly Departed:
LeBron James: Went home.
Shane Battier: The ever-popular forward retired following the Finals after three years and two titles in Miami. We'll continue to see his infectious smile in his new role as a college ball analyst on ESPN.
James Jones: The Heat veteran is accompanying LeBron to Cleveland. James' lobbying for more minutes will likely be better received in northeast Ohio.
Rashard Lewis: Veteran Lewis, who enjoyed a late season renaissance with the Heat, has signed a one year deal with the Dallas Mavericks.