The decision 2.0 was widely anticipated this summer and LeBron James decided to go home to Cleveland.
Miami Heat president Pat Riley wasted no time adding players, he was signing players in an effort to convince James to stay after they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.
Josh McRoberts was added before James left and while he is certainly no superstar, he is a serviceable role player who can start at power forward, allowing Bosh to play center. Last season, he averaged 8.3 points per game, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.3 assists for the Charlotte Bobcats who made the playoffs. McRoberts wasn’t the sole reason, but he was part of the reason with his ability to pass to the open man and step outside and hit the outside shot (36% on 3-pointers, and 47.1% in four postseason games). Signing McRoberts means Udonis Haslem will be a backup and given his age, that’s not a bad thing. At 34, Haslem is best suited to playing no more than 18 minutes per game.
They also brought in Luol Deng and while he’s no LeBron, he’s certainly not a bad replacement at all. He’s a solid defender and a capable offensive player who can score enough (15-16 points) to be a nice third option behind Bosh and Wade. He struggled in Cleveland last season after the Bulls traded him there, but he’s still just 29 and should be able to bounce back strong with a better supporting cast than he had with the Cavs. Danny Granger was brought in to add depth and back up Deng. At 31 and having battled injuries the last several seasons, Granger may be just a shadow of the player he used to be — 2011-12 was the last time he showed much, playing in 62 games and averaging 18.7 points. Bringing him off the bench is the best possible situation for him.
If either one of them experience injuries and that’s a definite possibility given their recent history, second round draft pick (50th overall) James Ennis (Long Beach State) will get an opportunity to play. He showed some ability in preseason, scoring 17 points twice in their first six games in limited minutes.
So, now it’s clearly on Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade’s shoulders to carry the burden of a LeBron-less Heat team. Bosh was the main offensive option when he was in Toronto and the Heat will look to him to once again be the man. Bosh, 30, was given a huge contract to stay in South Beach and now expectations will be even bigger after the deal he signed.
In his last season in Toronto, he averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds. It was all the way back in 2009-10, but what is undeniable is Bosh is a better offensive player now than he was back then. He has improved his outside shooting (he made 33.9% of his 3-pointers last season) and while he probably won’t come close to 24 points, he should be able to average 20 points and 8 rebounds. His rebounds should increase (career-low 6.6 last season) without James around to help clean the backboard. Chris Andersen was brought back to be a reserve and provide about 14-15 minutes of energy off the bench to keep Bosh rested. Justin Hamilton played in just eight games last season with the Heat and Bobcats and is a long-term project, if he makes the final cuts.
Wade will be the second option on offense and with James gone, he may also take over more of the ball-handling duties, just like he had before James came to Miami. Wade averaged 6.5 assists the season before James arrived and his assist numbers should go back up. The question is, can Wade stay healthy?
And it’s a fair question since he’s averaged just 54 games over the last three seasons. IF healthy, Wade should be back close to the old Wade, say maybe 18 points, 6 assists and 4-5 rebounds. Shannon Brown had a lost season playing in just 29 games with the New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs, but he gives the Heat a veteran backup for Wade.
Mario Chalmers returns and will start, but his tenure will be challenged by rookie Shabazz Napier and Norris Cole. Cole has teased Miami for three seasons, but Chalmers struggled in the playoffs last season and Cole may be finally ready to take his job. Napier is the Johnny-come-lately who will try and show he can make the jump from college to the pros.
The Heat clearly won’t be the same team they were with Lebron, but they aren’t exactly devoid of talent either. Losing the best player on the planet won’t send this team into a tailspin, I think they’ll win about 45-48 games and be a top 5 team in the East. It’s on Bosh and Wade to step up and lead the way. And we’ll see what head coach Erik Spoelstra has learned from Riles.
Darren Jacks is a contributing writer for OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @djroxalot.