The Miami Heat currently have 19 players under contract, one short of the league maximum for a training camp roster. But, they also have 13 players pretty much locked into a roster spot, granted they can release anyone they would like. That means there are about two spots up for grabs to make the regular season roster among 6-7 players, assuming the Heat bring in one final player.
So here we want to take a look at those players battling for a chance to be on the roster, and the realistic shot that they have to be there by opening night.
PG - Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Shabazz Napier
SG - Dwyane Wade
SF - Luol Deng, Danny Granger, James Ennis
PF - Josh McRoberts, Udonis Haslem, Shawne Williams
C - Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen, Justin Hamilton
SG - Shannon Brown, Reggie Williams, Tyler Johnson, Andre Dawkins
SF - Shawn Jones
PF - Khem Birch
As you can see the biggest hole is a back-up for Dwyane Wade at shooting guard. Every other position on the Heat roster is three players deep, but Wade's back-up is still up in the air. That's why they are bringing in 4 very different players to battle for that spot. Let's examine this battle first.
Probably the most likely candidate to make the roster. Brown has the most NBA experience among the other 4 shooting guards he will battle against. He is a fierce defender, and a high flying dunker. Brown makes his impact by defending the ball, and getting in the open court. He definitely has the fan appeal because of his potential for the highlight, but does he have the ability to stretch the floor enough to play in Erik Spoelstra's system?
I'd grade Shannon Brown's likelihood at making the roster an A-
Williams brings a scoring punch threat to the roster off the bench. With a likely second unit of Haslem, Andersen, Granger and Cole...there seems to be a strong need for scoring among that group. That's what makes Reggie so intriguing. He's not a great scorer, but that's definitely his speciality. He could fill that void if needed. I still think that the experience, and the energy level of Brown will beat out Williams, but it isn't clear.
I'd grade Reggie Williams' likelihood at making the roster a B-
Johnson was the diamond in the rough from the Miami Heat Summer League. Johnson showed the ability to score and get to the paint as a guard. He looked similar, in a way, to a young Dwyane Wade. The thing about Johnson is he has that drive...he's trying to prove himself. He will remind you of Terrel Harris. With Brown and Williams ahead of him likely, Johnson's ability to make the roster rests likely as the Heat using him as a 15th player. He isn't ready to back-up Wade, but he could develop into a nice young player for the Heat. They could stash him at the end of the bench and use him when Wade isn't playing.
I'd grade Tyler Johnson's likelihood at making the roster a C
Dawkins was just recently signed to the training camp roster, and he offers what none of the above offer, a serious threat from the outside. Dawkins is simply a three-point shooter. Think of James Jones, but smaller. He would be the Ray Allen that doesn't dribble, drive or play really good defense. Dawkins is a great shooter, and that's what he offers. In the past, that's been good enough to have a spot on the team, but if the roster and game plan evolves enough, Dawkins might not make the cut.
I'd grade Andre Dawkins' likelihood at making the roster a D
There are two other players fighting completely different battles on the roster as well.
Jones is a defensive minded undersized player, seemingly the type that Pat Riley likes to give a shot to. Jones was an intriguing signing several weeks ago, but now it seems as though his chances are slim. Jones went un-drafted and is an undersized PF. Whether he tries to get time over McRoberts, Haslem or newly acquired Shawne Williams isn't likely, and it's also not likely over Deng, Granger or highly anticipated James Ennis. Jones just doesn't fit into the equation right now. He doesn't offer much offensively, but that won't necessarily eliminate him. He will just have to really win over the staff to make this team.
I'd grade Shawn Jones' likelihood at making the roster a D-
Birch is a very interesting addition to the training camp roster as he has a lot of upside. An undersized center, more likely a power forward, but could play either in the Heat's system, he also has some players to pass. Unlike at shooting guard where there is a need, in order for Birch to make the roster, he will just have to be impressive. And he can be. I think Birch has a real shot at making the team, especially if the Heat think they could play either Ennis or Granger at SG to alleviate the need/desire to go three deep there. Birch really could develop into a rotation player if all goes right, especially as Haslem and Andersen age.
I'd grade Khem Birch's likelihood at making the roster a C-
So there you have it: grading the likelihood of the roster hopefuls. I think the most likely scenario sees Shannon Brown and Tyler Johnson make the team, but I wouldn't be surprised to see either Williams or Birch over Johnson as well. Training Camp for the Heat starts later this month.