Despite an eventful summer, one which included marriage, Wade has maintained an elite level of focus over the offseason as he prepares to return to the elite form he had in the pre-LeBron era. Headed into training camp it appears as if Wade has dropped about 15 pounds (perhaps to alleviate pressure on his knees). His efforts look like they've been successful as he appears to be in prime physical condition as made evident by Thursday's Instagram photo of Wade running hard in zero gravity.
Wade has also spent much of the off-season returning to work with world renowned trainer Tim Grover, and that coupled with the fact that he hasn’t had to undergo any offseason knee procedures is incredibly noteworthy. While Wade may never reach the physical ability of his younger years (when he was marvelled at by Bill Walton) he is very close, and it looks like he’s taking the challenge of leading Miami once again very seriously.
Unfortunately, Wade has been written off by many mostly due to his uninspired performance in the NBA Finals. Sports Illustrated’s 2014 power rankings place him at 20th, dropping him 12 sports from where he was ranked last season. Between injury and scheduled rests, Wade performed well in the 2013-2014 season averaging 19 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per contest. These are impressive numbers, but they were compiled in only 54 games.
Playing in many games will be Wade’s major challenge this season. It’s obvious that Wade has immense talent that can be utilized at any time, it just remains to be seen if he will be able to perform consistently at such a high level without taking breaks. I have hope for Wade, and flying under the radar right now he’s in a position to prove everybody wrong. This is something he’s consistently done over the course of his career though.
A two time champion with the L.A. Lakers, Brown understands what it takes in order to reach the ultimate goal of an NBA championship. Despite his championship pedigree, however, Brown has had a rough time in the NBA over the last four years. After electing to not extend his contract with the Lakers in 2011, Brown became a journeyman of sorts playing first in Phoenix and then with San Antonio and New York last season.
I am in the camp that believes since leaving Phoenix, Brown hasn’t been given a fair shake. In Phoenix, Brown was stellar averaging 10.6 points, and shooting 31.5% from beyond the arc. While they’re not spectacular numbers, the ultra athletic guard’s role is clear coming to Miami. Brown will be utilized when the Heat rest Dwyane Wade. Brown is a scoring force and is looking to prove his relevancy in a professional basketball setting. His motivation is clear, and he should be a solid player in the Heat’s rotation.
Tyler Johnson is relatively unknown to pro basketball enthusiasts. Regardless, the 6’4 guard out of Fresno State is a relentless player who could very well be an "X-Factor" in the future. Johnson was passed over during the NBA Draft, but showcased his athleticism in Summer League as a member of the Miami Heat averaging 12 points per game. This ultimately led to Johnson signing an unguaranteed two year deal with the Heat. Johnson is also a force from beyond the arc where he averaged 43% in his senior year of college. While only weighing 190 pounds, it's Johnson’s athleticism that allows him to stand out, he’s capable of incredible explosion and as a result finishes strong at the rim as made obvious by his play in Summer League.
There is no guarantee that Johnson is on the Heat’s roster following training camp. Nevertheless he does has the skill set to thrive in Miami’s system and with Ray Allen gone it’s possible that Johnson emerges into a real threat. Pat Riley is not a fan of rookies, but regardless I do believe Johnson will be part of the Heat this season.
Mario Chalmers has a huge challenge ahead of him coming into this season. After two very good years at the point guard position, Chalmers was incredibly disappointing in the 2014 postseason. Mario, who has generally thrived under pressure the most part of his career vanished when he was needed the most. Mario dropped from scoring 9.8 points and shooting 39% from three to 6.8 points and 34% from beyond the arc in the postseason. Hardly elite numbers.
However, while others would make excuses Chalmers acknowledged his shortcomings even to the point where he thought his Miami days were done. Since then, he has been working tirelessly honing his mid-range game, and refining his three-point range.
With LeBron gone Mario’s role as the starting point guard is critical. While there were instances over the last few years in which LeBron would bring up the ball this will not be the case this season, leaving the ball in Chalmers’ hands constantly. Chalmers is often panned over as a legitimate starting point guard due to the fact that there are more highlights of him being yelled at then actual playing highlights. Regardless of his public perception, Chalmers is an extremely solid point guard with a sniper rifle for an arm and the potential to go off at any time. This will be an enormous year for Chalmers, and I fully expect him to embrace his role.
I like Norris Cole. It’s partly due to his flat-top, but mostly due to his defensive prowess. While not a statistic that is measured often, Norris Cole’s durability is what separates him from other backup point guards. Cole played all 82 games last season as well as accepting a large role and more minutes. Cole is already a seasoned postseason player as made evident by Bucks' point guard Kendall Marshall.
Norris Cole knows nothing but NBA Finals. #sheesh— Kendall Marshall (@KButter5) May 31, 2014
This a huge factor, as Cole obviously has a championship mentality instilled within him. When a player is used to winning frequently, losing does not come easy whatsoever, I suspect this will be the case for Cole and add to his motivation. Over the course of the season, and even at moments in the postseason Cole was key in many games. His most notable moment coming in defeating Cleveland by stopping Kyrie Irving’s buzzer beater on a great defensive play.
While often judged by his scoring statistics, it’s Cole’s defensive ability that makes him a key member of the Miami Heat. In college Cole was named defensive player of the year, and he’s translated that part of his game to an NBA level almost effortlessly.
Despite his obvious skills, I don’t understand those who constantly call for Cole to take Mario Chalmer’s role as starting point guard. Cole is a very good basketball player, an on-ball menace and an athletic beast, but most of his success comes with bringing explosive energy off the bench. Cole will be expected to continue improving this season -unfortunately under the helm of agent Rich Paul - and it will be interesting to see what occurs with him once his contract expires.
It’s hard to get a feel for Shabazz Napier.
The two time NCAA champion point guard is an enigma when it comes to NBA play. He has a strange jump shot with a slow release but a great passing touch. Additionally there were those reports that he’s not comfortable with NBA basketballs.
I’ve voiced my concerns on Napier in the past here , but I do hope he’s able to transition his talent to an NBA level. Nevertheless, I don’t think Napier will find much floor time this year as a member of the Heat. His championship pedigree promises great things, but it remains to be seen if he can become a talented NBA point guard.