Realistically Wade will start 60+ games next season. With computers so powerful nowadays, the Heat can simulate each and every game on the schedule, with and without Wade starting, and take an automated approach to decide who will start in the roughly 20 games Wade will sit out. This would be like applying Fantasy Basketball principles to real-life games.
Last year the primary replacement started and ended with Mario Chalmers. This season there are five possible choices on the roster as of today:
- Mario Chalmers
- Gerald Green
- Tyler Johnson
- Justise Winslow
- Josh Richardson
These candidates can play multiple positions -- point guard, shooting guard and/or small forward -- so they may settle into other roles besides being Wade's replacement during his games off.
Going down the list here are some thoughts on the candidates on today's roster.
He may not even be on the team come November, so whether he is in the discussion depends on Spoelstra/Riley keeping him as part of the opening-day squad. Chalmers currently is the default option because he has the most experience as Wade's replacement. This season he has to battle off other players wanting to take away his role as Wade's stand-in.
Green has a great chemistry with Dragic from their former days together in Phoenix. The duo would replicate the uptempo style the Heat are aiming for this year. A career journeyman, Green has only started more than 26 games in a season once in his eight-year NBA career, and that was the 48 games he started alongside Dragic. 20 games is a good chunk of the season, so we have to see if Green can make the Heat winners when he starts.
A Heat Nation favorite, Johnson now has to prove he is the real deal in his second season. In the last month of his rookie season, he averaged 4.7 points in 21.3 minutes of uneven play. With Tyler and Dragic in the game together, they could up the tempo a notch with Johnson's athleticism. He could also could play point guard with Wade, which gives Spoelstra a lot of flexibility on how to deploy him.
He has the ability to be either a shooting guard or a small forward, so Spoelstra needs to settle on which position Winslow eventually will be his primary one. The heir apparent to Wade, Justise has the tools to gradually become an NBA All-Star as he gains experience. Look for his contribution to the team to increase during the season.
The biggest unknown on the list. Richardson has the leadership qualities a team demands. He constantly upped his game during his four years at Tennessee and has the opportunity to display his skills with much better supporting cast than he had in college. He physical tools qualify him to play multiple positions: point guard, shooting guard, or small forward. Richardson could see substantial minutes at each position.
How the Miami Heat do in the 20 odd games Wade will not start could possibly determine if they end up as the first or last seed in the East. Instead of deciding merely hours ahead of a game who their alternative starting guard is that night, with the schedule in hand the Heat can pick and choose a few days in advance who will fill in for his average 20+ points per game.
The Miami Heat could be the technological leaders in the NBA by simulating every game on their schedule to create an optimal starting five for each game, depending on the opposing team, time of year, player's health, etc. Using planned rest periods to heal wounds before they get serious enough to affect performance, by the time April rolls around Miami will be in prime condition for a deep playoff run with a fresh Wade in top condition ready for a repeat of his 2006 heroics.
Between today and Oct. 28, the choices at starting shooting guard to sub for Wade may change due to
- a preseason sensation
With only six weeks left until training camp officially opens and eleven weeks remaining for the regular season tip-off, who would you start alongside Dragic when Wade is not available?