The addition of Joe Johnson and the prospect of a Chris Bosh return might allow a visibly weary Dwyane Wade time to recharge his batteries for the postseason grind. Chris Broussard of ESPN knocked Wade off his Top 20 Player Power Rankings list this week, with Hassan Whiteside being the lone Miami Heat representative at #20. Sekou Smith still listed Wade at #10 in the Kia Race For The MVP. A vintage Wade is crucial for games that "really matter."
To show how superstars view the regular season, Kobe Bryant lamented how he missed facing LeBron James in a playoff series.
"To me, rivalries are never made in the regular season, no matter how people try to hype it up. You got to duke it out for what really matters, so from that sense we never really had one. And it doesn't matter to me, it really doesn't."
ESPN playoff odds page has the Miami Heat with a >99.6% chance of making the playoffs and only a 0.2% for a NBA title. That is, they predict another long summer for the team. What can the team do to overcome ESPN's odds of a NBA title?
A possible strategy could be for Johnson to assume Wade's shooting guard duties and have a fresh Bosh return to the starting front-court alongside Luol Deng and Amar'e Stoudemire (or Hassan Whiteside). Bosh's month-long hiatus has energized him for the stretch run and games thereafter. Johnson has the ball-handling skills demanded by guards along with handling the post-season pressure.
James' two-week hiatus last season drew intensive scrutiny, but he came back with a renewed vigor for the remainder of the season, to eventually run out of gas in the NBA Finals. The emergence of rookies Justise Window and Josh Richardson gives the Miami Heat a very deep, quality bench for a balanced effort from everyone, as seen by seven players scoring in double figures versus the Nuggets.
Their status was validated by a CBS Sports Rookie Power Rankings that placed them at #5 and #9, respectively. USA Today's Rookie Rankings also has both in their top ten at #8 and at #10. Miami is the only team with two rookies among the top 10 in separate polls. Richardson has not cracked the NBA Rookie Ladder, though Winslow remains at #5. FanSided has Winslow at #8 in their Rookie Ladder. In all of these polls Winslow has outperformed his #10 draft pick status.
A Wade break would give time for a rested Bosh to work his way back into the Heat line-up, and even prepare for a possible return of Tyler Johnson. As extra insurance some game minutes for Josh McRoberts and Gerald Green. would give the Heat a margin of error for any eventuality. Since a superstar like Bryant regards the regular season as a warm-up to meaningful games, being prepared for a deep run in the playoffs may be the top priority for the team now.
The fast pace of the rotation players' unit would not be compromised for balance of the regular season by keeping the current winning rotation intact and providing the starting five with some precautionary time off, as Bosh and Stoudemire already enjoyed.
The postseason is another animal, where veteran savvy becomes important. A battle-tested Wade, Bosh, J. Johnson, Luol Deng, Amar'e Stoudemire group should be healthy and ready for the very different playoff challenges.
When the Heat defeated the Thunder in 2012, "The Thunder came into the Finals as the second-youngest finalists in NBA history," per Wikipedia. Russell Westbrook was 23, Kevin Durant 23, and James Harden 22. Experience was on the Miami's side and while it wasn't part of the box score, having gone through a 2011 NBA Finals loss, the Heat were determined to win the series. This edition of the Heat will face a very motivated Cavaliers team, beginning with Saturday's game.
Whiteside , Winslow, Richarson, T.Johnson have never been in the NBA playoffs before. Giving the veterans a chance to ease the newcomers into postseason play might be a winning strategy to overcome the odds. This way coach Erik Spoelstra can use his cleverly devised game plans to unveil new combinations against opponents during the series, much as he did versus the Thunder in 2012 with great success.