Statistical Predictions for all of Miami’s Rotational Players

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The biggest question for Heat fans entering the 2014-2015 season is how the Miami Heat will look after the departure of LeBron James. Although the style of play will likely be vastly different than the previous four seasons, many of the same players are returning. Moreover, the Heat added a trio of players via free agency who are expected to become regulars in the rotation.

Although statistics don’t tell the whole story, someone will have to step up to score points and pull down rebounds. While no one knows which lineups will be utilized most often and how the health of certain players will pan out, here is my best estimation of what Miami’s 10-man rotation will produce:

1. Dwyane Wade — 22.0 PPG 5.0 RPG 5.0 APG

Only twice in Dwyane Wade’s illustrious 11 year Hall of Fame career has the shooting guard averaged fewer than 20 points a game. Last year, Wade was absent from 28 regular season games as part of a maintenance plan to prepare for the postseason. Being integrated in and out of the lineup so often, in conjunction with playing the fewest minutes per game since entering the NBA in 2003, were enough to see Wade’s scoring dip to 19.0 ppg. That total, while second-best on Miami, will need to increase this season with James (27.1 ppg last season) gone and Wade shouldering more of the offensive responsibility.

For the first time in five seasons, Wade will be considered Miami’s most talented perimeter shot-creator. Last season, while not the focal point of the Heat’s attack, Wade shot a career-high 54.5 percent. His usage rate (26.1), the percentage of team plays Wade was responsible for, tied for 19th-best in the league. So even though his minutes were down he played a big factor in the team’s overall success last season. With James and his team-leading 29.1 percent usage rate in 2013-2014 gone, there will be many more opportunities in Miami’s offense and Wade will get the first crack at them. Expect Wade’s shooting percentage to fall closer to his mean of 49.2 percent this upcoming season as more attention can be focused on the 10-time All-Star. Additionally, Wade’s rebounding and assist numbers last season, 4.5 and 4.7, respectively, should increase as he looks to prove he still can play impactful basketball.

Wade’s averages should fall in the range of 22 points, five rebounds and five assists.

2. Chris Bosh — 20.5 PPG 9.5 RPG

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After Wade, Chris Bosh will play the most important role for Miami next season. Signing a five-year max deal ensures the 6-foot-11, 235-pound center, who also plays power forward, will be counted on to produce plenty of points and return to the 20 and 10 guy he was during his final two seasons with the Toronto Raptors from 2008-2010. Stuck as a third-wheel during the Big 3 Era in Miami, Bosh willingly accepted a reduced role, sacrificing his stat line. His 12.1 shots per game last season were his lowest since his rookie year. However, Head Coach Erik Spoelstra always called Bosh “the most important player” on the team.

Playing alongside James and Wade forced Bosh to develop his 3-point shooting, an area of his game he didn’t have much experience with. Now, he is a much more reliable three-point shooter. In Bosh’s four seasons in Miami he has taken 352 shots behind the arc in the regular season, after only attempting 168 such shots during his first seven years in Toronto. Additionally, of Bosh’s 161 career-makes, 95 were converted the past two seasons.

Although Bosh’s outside game has improved, the volume of his inside game has trended in the opposite direction during his Heat tenure. In 2010-2011, Bosh’s first in a Heat uniform, the big man took 480 shots inside the paint and 24 from behind the arc. Last season, Bosh attempted 121 fewer shots in the paint and 188 more behind the line. These numbers dramatically changed to accommodate both James and Wade. Their styles of play are predicated on getting inside the paint. If Bosh had remained in the paint it would have meant less room for James and Wade to operate, allowing bigger defensive bodies to help defend the basket area. So even though Bosh was a highly skilled post player, he adapted his game and the Heat have two more championships to show for it. This season, however, Bosh should see more time in the paint, as well as down low. As a result, Bosh’s shooting percentage should hover around 50 percent.

Bosh has been criticized for his declining rebounding numbers. Each season in Miami, Bosh has grabbed fewer missed shots. His 6.6 rpg last season was a career low. With Bosh playing further away from the basket on offense and being tasked with playing a style of defense that forces him to run around on the perimeter, as opposed to standing under the hoop, waiting for a missed shot, can explain the dip in rebounding. With James, Miami’s leading rebounder, gone, Bosh will have more chances to grab missed shots. His rebounding numbers should also increase in relation to his opportunity to play in the paint. His 20 point 10 rebound performances should be a nightly occurrence, as opposed to a once in a blue moon sighting.

Thus  averages of 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds can be expected from Bosh.

3. Luol Deng — 15.0 PPG 6.0 RPG

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Luol Deng, tasked with replacing James in the starting lineup at small forward, is playing on his third team in the past year. The 6-foot-9, 200-pound Duke product has averaged a respectable 16.0 points and 6.3 rebounds during his 10-year career. Deng is a capable 3-point shooter with a knack for hitting big shots against Miami, and most opponents, while playing more than nine seasons with the Chicago Bulls.

Deng is an aggressive on-the-ball defender, whose primary responsibility has been guarding an opponent’s best perimeter scorer. He has a seemingly endless supply of energy. Four times in six postseasons, Deng has averaged more than 40 minutes per game, all while chasing the number one offensive option around the court. When Miami plays the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder, Deng will guard LeBron James and Kevin Durant, respectively, about as well as anyone can.

Deng has a high basketball IQ and will find himself in the right places on the court because of it. He will give maximum effort and won’t lose very many hustle plays. Playing as the number three option in Miami, as opposed to the top option in Chicago, should help Deng be successful.

15.0 points and 6.0 rebounds are right in line with what Miami received, numbers-wise, from Bosh (the number three option) last season.

4. Josh McRoberts — 9.0 PPG 6.7 RPG 4.0 APG

Josh McRoberts

Josh McRoberts also arrived in Miami this summer, after a seven-year NBA journey starting in Portland and making stops in Indiana, Los Angeles, Orlando and Charlotte along the way, McRoberts is expected to start alongside Bosh and Deng in the frontcourt.

Similar to Bosh, McRoberts’ career arc on his 3-point shot has increased exponentially over the last two seasons. After connecting for 34 long-range bombs in his first five seasons, McRoberts has made 129 in the past two years.

In addition to his 3-point shooting, McRoberts made 62.6 % of his 182 shots inside the paint last season. His quickness for a big man and ability to drive to the rim means McRoberts should see plenty of shots in the painted area.

One of McRoberts’ best qualities is his passing ability. His 4.3 apg in 2013-2014 ranked second among power forwards and his 4.01 assist to turnover ratio was by far the best among power forwards, more than doubling second place Dirk Nowitzki (1.85). Due to the fact that James won’t be passing the ball this season, ball movement will become more important to Miami’s offensive success and a big man with McRoberts’ skills will be welcomed with open arms.

While McRoberts started 78 games for the Bobcats last season and averaged a career high of 8.5 points to go along with 4.8 rebounds, he had a 26-game stretch the year before when he put up 9.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. This season, McRoberts should knock down about 48 percent of his shots and 36 percent of his 3’s.

Don’t be surprised to see McRoberts set a career-high in scoring, as well as pulling down six to seven rebounds, and dishing out about four assists each game.

5. Mario Chalmers — 8.5 PPG 5.5 APG 1.5 SPG

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Rounding out the starting unit is point guard Mario Chalmers. The six-year veteran, taken 34th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft, has a career defined by peaks and valleys. While most will remember Chalmers’ disappointing postseason, Mario actually made a career-high 45.4 percent of his field goals last season and saw his playing time expand to his highest average during Miami’s Big 3 Era.

Never a star on the Heat, Chalmers has oftentimes been overlooked since the 2010-2011 season. That year, Chalmers was entering his third season and was forced to adjust to his change in responsibilities. He was no longer a main ball handler and distributor. In four seasons with James, Chalmers’ primary job was to space the floor by standing behind the 3-point line and being ready to shoot whenever the ball came his way. On the current Heat roster, Chalmers will go back to helping run Miami’s offense. He will be given free reign to attack the basket and help others get a shot. In 73 regular season games last year, Chalmers attempted about 3.6 shots in the paint per game and made 54.2 percent of them. His shots in the paint should increase this upcoming season.

Even though Chalmers won’t be one of Miami’s top three scorers he should post very good numbers all around. He will spend time at the two, since there is not much proven depth behind Wade. Chalmers will turn in a solid season, making about 45 percent of his shots and about 38 percent from downtown.

Chalmers will see a slight decrease in scoring (down from 9.8 ppg), while setting a career high in assists (5.5) and he will continue to get in the passing lanes and create turnovers (1.5 spg).

6. Chris Andersen — 4.8 PPG 5 RPG 1.5 BPG

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Miami’s frontcourt off the bench will consist of center Chris Andersen and power forward Udonis Haslem.

Anderson, aka “The Birdman,” or “Birdzilla,” was a fan-favorite from the first time his name was announced over the loud speaker at American Airlines Arena in 2013. His colorful display, both through physical appearance and emotional play, brought excitement to a Heat team coming off a championship season. A career marked with efficient scoring was amplified during Andersen’s first season and a half with Miami, in which he made 57.7 and 64.4 percent of his shots. The Birdman is also a very good rebounder, pulling down the third most missed shots on the team despite seven players seeing more court action. Shot blocking is another strength for Birdzilla, who maintains a 1.5 bpg career average.

Working against Birdman is the fact that he doesn’t play many minutes each game. His reckless, energetic style has factored into him topping the 20-minute average mark just three times during his 12-year career, and not once in the past four seasons.

Still, Birdman will shoot a high percentage and average just under five points, about five rebounds and a block and a half each game.

7. Udonis Haslem — 4.5 PPG 5 RPG

Udonis Haslem jump shot

The other half of the bench power rotation, Udonis Haslem, played in 46 games last season, at a career-low 14.2 minutes. His shooting was above 50 percent for the third time in four years but his point total and rebound total both marked career lows. Barring health, the co-captain should play in most of his upcoming 12th season and he should see a slight uptick in minutes played. Assuming he can knock down his patented jump shot at a respectable rate, his points and rebounds will both increase from last season.

The rest of Miami’s regular rotation should consist of Norris Cole, Shabazz Napier and Danny Granger.

8. Norris Cole — 5.8 PPG 3.0 APG

Norris Cole

Cole, entering his fourth season, still has plenty to prove. Long rumored to be on the way out via trade, Cole will be playing his first NBA season without James. A spark of energy off the bench, Cole has not distinguished himself worthy of starting at point guard. While Cole can occasionally finish at the rim and get hot with his shot, he is oftentimes an afterthought on offense. He will have no choice but to become more involved now that LeBron is gone. Cole will no longer be able to just catch and shoot. He must continue his development as a true point guard.

Cole, who has missed just two regular season games in the past couple years, should again see action in virtually every game. His minutes, which were a career-high 24.6 last season, might be down as a result of Miami drafting Napier in the first round this year. Cole won’t quite match last year’s numbers but he should see an increase in shooting percentage (41.4 % last season).

9. Shabazz Napier — 5.0 PPG 2.9 APG

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Napier, the 24th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, should slowly work his way into the rotation. Averaging close to 10 minutes a night to start would make sense for the two-time NCAA Champion, who is third on the depth chart at point guard, behind Chalmers and Cole, respectively. If Cole isn’t traded, then Napier will be battling for whatever minutes are left. If the Heat were convinced Napier could play big minutes immediately, then Miami probably wouldn’t have resigned Chalmers last month. That decision created a logjam at the point guard spot, making it the Heat’s deepest position. It seems to be the right decision so far, as Napier was charged with 38 turnovers in nine Summer League games. The 2014-2015 season will be a learning one for Napier and his goal should be to limit turnovers, while overtaking Cole in assists. Even though he isn’t going to be a top scorer, Napier will be able to get his points.

10. Danny Granger: 8.6 PPG 3.5 RPG

The most interesting player heading into the 2014-2015 season is small forward Danny Granger. The nine-year veteran and former All-Star has missed 118 regular season games the last two seasons due to injury. The biggest question marks for Granger are: will he be healthy enough to play regularly and how can he contribute? No one is expecting Granger to score 18 points a game, like he did for a five-year stretch before patellar tendinosis derailed his career at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season. Granger’s value to the Heat rests on whether he can be a useful backup by knocking down some 3’s, playing good defense and creating off the dribble. That would reduce the burden on Deng and Wade and make the Heat a more dangerous team in the Eastern Conference.
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Michael Kaufman holds a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida and has covered sports on multiple levels. Michael started his career covering sports in 2010 at WRUF Sportsradio 850, an on-campus student radio station offering him the opportunity to focus on all things Gator. Michael began delving into print media in 2013, working as a Sports Writer for InsideTheU, covering football, basketball and baseball at the University of Miami. Michael is a Miami native and loves everything the city has to offer, in particular the sports teams and the vibrant culture.