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How These 5 Additions Will Impact The Heat’s 2014-15 Season
- Updated: September 17, 2014
The Miami Heat will begin a new era of basketball in 2014. Entering its first season in the post-LeBron James era, the Heat will now have a plethora of new faces as the franchise looks to clinch its fifth consecutive Eastern Conference title. Amongst those new additions are Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger, Shannon Brown and rookie Shabazz Napier.
Deng and McRoberts will likely be a part of the starting five, while Granger, Brown and Napier are potential key cogs of the ’14-15 rotation. Although the Heat return franchise pieces such as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the only way the Heat remain Eastern Conference contenders is if the entire team—not just Wade and Bosh—play well.
The question becomes, how well will these new pieces fit into the puzzle? How will each player fit into the Heat’s plans for the upcoming season?
Luol Deng was the Heat’s most prized acquisition of the offseason. Pat Riley made that very clear when he stated that “signing Luol Deng is one of the most important free agent signings that we have ever had in the history of the franchise.”
One can take that as an exaggeration, but Riley’s point is loud and clear: if the Heat are to remain a contender in the East, Deng will have to solidify himself as a legit offensive option alongside Bosh and Wade as part of the Heat’s new ‘Big Three.’
In case you were living under a rock during July, the Heat signed Deng in the aftermath of LeBron leaving Miami for Cleveland. The veteran small forward was the Heat’s best option in the free agent market to replace the four-time MVP James. While Luol is no LeBron, he is also no slouch—the former Chicago Bulls forward has twice been named an All-Star, and his consistency on the defensive end has landed him a Second-Team All-Defensive nod (2012).
Let’s look at Deng’s stats through his 10 years in the NBA: He has averaged 16.0 PPG on .457 efficiency from the field while averaging six boards a game. As hard as it may be to believe, Deng is actually younger than LeBron—he turned 29 years old this past April. Injuries have been a deterrent for Luol over the years, as he has missed one game for every five played.
What the Heat and Riley want out of Deng is this: play like the borderline All-Star he is, provide Wade and Bosh with offensive support as a third option, and play relentless defense to help offset the offseason departure of the best player in the world.
If the former Bull can do that, Riley’s statement won’t be seen as an exaggeration.
While Deng was considered Miami’s headline signing, the acquisition of McRoberts may go down as the most underrated.
McRoberts will likely be a part of Miami’s starting five as the team’s power forward. As a result, Bosh will slide to center. While the former Charlotte Bobcats forward won’t win you any games as an individual player, he is the ultimate role player. The 6’10” big shoots the trey extremely well and his passing skills are uncanny for a player his size. McRoberts shot 36 percent from beyond the arc in ’13-14, while his assist rate was second amongst all players in the league that are listed at 6’10” or taller.
While the veteran PF is playing for his sixth team in eight seasons, his ’13-14 season was his true breakout season—in 78 starts, McRoberts averaged 30.3 minutes per game while excelling as a high-energy forward who stretched the floor for the Bobcats. The Duke product’s contributions in the starting lineup helped Charlotte clinch just its second playoff berth in franchise history.
As Bosh is expected to contribute more in the post, McRoberts will be Miami’s big that stretches the floor for the upcoming season. At just 27 years of age, the former Blue Devil enters a situation in Miami where he can establish himself as one of the league’s best hustle players.
It was not too long ago that Danny Granger was an All-Star for the Indiana Pacers. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that Granger was considered a franchise player.
The past few seasons have not been kind to the former Pacer. Granger reached the peak of his career in 2009 when he averaged 25.8 points per game while being selected to his first All-Star game. It has been a slow and painful decline as the former All-Star has played in just 46 games over the last two seasons. Injuries due to patellar tendinosis have robbed the small forward of his athleticism—he averaged just eight points per game on 43 percent shooting for the Los Angeles Clippers after being acquired by them through trade midseason.
If the 31-year-old SF is years removed from being a quality player, what can he offer to the Heat for the 2014-15 season?
Luckily for Granger, not much is expected of him in the first place. He will be the backup SF to Deng, with the Heat hoping he can provide a scoring punch off of the bench to help alleviate the loss of LeBron. While Miami doesn’t expect the former Pacer to average 20 points per game, they expect more than the eight points per game and 43 percent shooting that Granger posted for the Clippers during the second half of the season.
With a fresh start and a new scenery, Granger will have his last chance to prove he is still a viable option for 2015.
Shannon Brown was a late addition for the Heat as he wasn’t signed until late August.
Brown’s role with the Heat will be simple—keep Wade fresh and healthy. Miami lacks depth at the guard positions and Brown will likely serve as Wade’s primary backup at the 2.
The veteran shooting guard’s situation is very similar to that of the aforementioned Granger—both are veterans who are looking to get their careers back on track with the Heat. Some may consider Brown’s finest moments when he won two championships for the Los Angeles Lakers as a spark plug off of the bench; some may say that his two seasons with the Phoenix Suns, when he averaged double digits in points per game for the first time was the prime of his career.
Either way, Brown has fallen on hard times—he played in just 29 total games during the 2013-14 season. The veteran did not play until February, when he signed several 10-day contracts with the San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks.
Wade averaged just 32.9 minutes per game last season—expect that number to only slightly increase this season. If the Heat are to get what they need out of the former Laker, Brown will have to contribute at least 20-23 minutes per game, while producing near a double-digit average in scoring.
The Heat’s prized rookie of the 2014 draft class will be expected to provide stability to one of the weaker position across the roster—point guard.
The UConn product won two national championships with the Huskies, including being named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2014 Championship Game. He finished his collegiate career near the top of many school records, becoming just one of three Huskies to win two national championships at the university.
Entering Heat training camp, Napier will start out as the No. 3 point guard. With Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole struggling at various times at the point guard position during the ’13-14 season, the UConn alum will have every opportunity to win the starting job.
The question then becomes this: is Napier ready to start at the point come October? For a team that lacks stability and needs a caretaker at the 1, can Shabazz be THAT guy?
A large reason why the Heat struggled in the 2014 NBA Finals versus the Spurs was due to Chalmers’ lackluster play. Not only did ‘Rio contribute very little, he turned the ball over way too often in his limited time on the court. Despite averaging just 23 minutes a game, the Kansas product committed more fouls than any Heat player (16 total) and turned the ball over 10 times despite being considered the third option as a ball handler on offense.
Simply put, the Heat need a PG who won’t shoot the team in the foot. During the NBA Summer League, Napier did not prove to the Heat that he could be that guy—he committed 38 turnovers in nine games. That is over four turnovers a game versus opponents who won’t be on NBA rosters at the start of the season.
While early glimpses of Shabazz in the NBA weren’t pretty, the Heat hope the former Huskie can establish himself as the team’s No. 1 PG at some point during the ’14-15 season.