With the permanent (don’t count on a return) absence of LeBron James, the Miami Heat’s overall dynamic changes dramatically. When your team’s best passer and scorer goes elsewhere, output has to come from somewhere, but that’s always easier said than done. Whether it’s lifelong talent or recent signees, several Heat players in particular need to step it up if Miami still wants to be a competitive roster in the Eastern Conference in the post-LeBron era.
After a horrific showing in the most recent NBA Finals, many Heat fans were clamoring for a replacement at the point guard position. With the gap between Norris Cole and Chalmers being closer than it’s ever been, the time is now for Chalmers to seize the opportunity of having a bigger role. He’s likely the de facto starter, but he’s essentially playing for his job because Cole and Shabazz Napier are itching to take the reins as well. He’s got competition, but with LeBron gone, it’s possible his role as a traditional point guard might be as big as it’s been since the pre-LeBron era when Chalmers was expected to be Miami’s point guard of the future.
The key for Chalmers isn’t necessarily racking up 20 points and 10 assists, but he needs to ensure he’s consistently knocking down the outside shot and taking care of the ball at all times. With a career average right around nine points and four assists per game, don’t count on ‘Rio magically transforming into Chris Paul. We don’t need Chris Paul, though; we just need more consistency from the point guard position, and the time is now for Mario to make sure that happens.
It’s no shocker—Miami desperately needs its greatest all-time franchise player to go from talented wingman to the perennial MVP candidate he once was seemingly forever ago. Dwyane Wade in his prime was unguardable—with a solid midrange jump shot, unstoppable drive to the rim, and otherworldly athleticism, there’s a reason he has over 10 All-Star appearances, three NBA championships (including one Finals MVP) and numerous other accolades. The man was and still is an incredible player, and like Mario Chalmers, he had an inexcusably bad NBA Finals performance this past June, and he’s undoubtedly looking to make up for it.
Wade has to have the ball in his hands more than ever, and considering he’s dropped some weight and refreshed himself following recent defeat, things are looking good for Dwyane in 2014 even with the odds stacked against him and his team. His knees aren’t what they used to be, but even still, he’s one of the game’s elite slashers, and without LeBron, it simply gives him more opportunities. If you had to bet on any of these players, D-Wade is your guy as far as redeeming himself for a bad performance. His 19 points, five assists per game last season was satisfactory, but expect even bigger numbers now that he’ll have a bigger role as a leader yet again. Expect a huge season out of Dwyane—assuming he’s healthy, of course.
Immediately following the departure of LeBron James, the Miami Heat front office made what some would call a panic move. They threw the max at Chris Bosh, and although it can be argued that Chris isn’t a max player for most teams, he’s certainly a max player for Miami (and Houston, sorry Houston). His ability to score from anywhere on the floor, and his help defense on the other side of the ball speaks volumes about his versatility. Dwyane Wade is the bigger name and fan favorite, but Chris was and still remains the x-factor on this team. When he plays well, the team plays well, and that’s exactly what he has to do if Miami is to have success. However, for Bosh, it’s not so much about knocking down shots when he gets the ball; it’s about being aggressive. He’s going to get a lot more opportunities, and he desperately needs to make the most of them.
Bosh had a habit of camping out on the perimeter during the recent postseason, and while there were times where he made huge shots, there were times where it simply resulted in a passive offense for himself and the other four guys on the floor. Settling is as bad as missing, and it’s a reflection of an individual mindset rather than a breakdown in the offense or great defense from opponent, at least sometimes. Yes, Chris needs to step up, but it’s not so much his ability, it’s more about his mental makeup at this point. Accept bigger responsibility and domination, that should be his maxim. As much as he’s lamented going into the paint, he needs to man up and put his head down when going to the rim. Everyone on this team has to step up, and he’s no exception.
Even though he’s a new addition to the team, it doesn’t absolve him from any responsibility. If anything it means he has more to prove, but he needs to make an impact at some point to demonstrate he still has it. Deng is a good player, but his inability to stay healthy as well as his inconsistent play mired his recent stint in Cleveland as well as his later years in Chicago. With a positive ready-to-win team as his new home, it should be more than enough to ensure he’s happy and willing to give it his all.
Deng provides much needed toughness, and while he isn’t LeBron, he’s still a serviceable option at the small forward position. He’s a solid defensive player, and although his jumper isn’t the greatest, he is capable of knocking down shots if you set him up. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the team gels with Deng, but considering numerous new additions, it’s fair to say the entire squad as a whole needs some time to adjust. Deng is the consummate professional, and although his best days are behind him, he’s going to be a great addition for the Heat going forward. His 16 points and five boards per game last season was solid, but let’s hope he can put together a great bounce-back season in 2014 for the Heat.