New coach Erik Spoelstra is going to bring a lot of energy. How much change he can make is uncertain because I always think of Pat Riley as an Al Davis type -- he's always going to have his hand in the mix a lot. I'm sure Riley has been a great teacher to Spoelstra, who should be very well-prepared. He has a pretty young staff and a young team, which is sometimes not a bad thing. I could see him being a little bit more hip version of Lawrence Frank -- which is not to say that Lawrence is a nerd. But like Lawrence, he should be very well-prepped and a good game coach, though I would guess that Erik will have a little more connection to his players.
Without a real center, they'll have to spread the floor and push the ball. They have good athletes but they lack depth in terms of quality players. Who after their main three guys [Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion and No. 2 pick Michael Beasley] would play for other teams? James Jones [who is out three months after wrist surgery] can be good. Udonis Haslem is good when he has another big guy around. If one of their main guys goes down, they become a pretty bad team.
Wade's return is obviously the key. After his good performances in the Olympics, it's going to be interesting to see how healthy he stays while having to shoulder a lot of the load. But he should bring a lot of energy because he'll be fresh in a lot of respects. It's after the All-Star break that he may start to have some issues health-wise, especially if this is a middle-of-the-road or lower team with few prospects for this season. I wouldn't be surprised if he is less daring about going high to the rim after these last injuries he's had. If he pulls back on the dangerous drives, it's going put pressure on him to be consistent from three-point range. He's always had a good mid-range shot. If he doesn't figure out this transition to extend his career, then that's a great thing for the rest of us. But Michael Jordan figured it out when he quit trying to dunk on everybody all the time. I think Wade will too.
Beasley is definitely an NBA player. Based on their team and his skill set, as long as his head is right, he should be Rookie of the Year. Because of the way this team is set up for him, he's going to get numbers. He'll be an 18-and-10 guy at least -- definitely a guy you want on your fantasy team.
He should play OK alongside Marion because Shawn play either forward position. If you really wanted to go crazy to put your best players on the floor, you could play Shawn at the 2, Wade at the point and throw in somebody else to play with Beasley and Haslem. Beasley can play small forward, though he'll be overmatched defensively against guys like Paul Pierce.
Marion made his money as an undersized and skilled 4 man. But in the East, he has the body and skill set of a 3, and I think that's where his future is. Marion is all about getting touches. I've been watching him since high school, and he needs touches to stay involved in the game mentally. He has the personality of a guy who feeds off other people. He can fit in with good players, but if you're trying to feature him, then you're not going to win a conference championship. He's not a great defender; he plays passing lanes more so than he plays straight-up defense. He was lauded [while with Phoenix] for guarding Tony Parker in the playoffs, but when Parker got into screens, Shawn would stop. When chasing around screens, he's behind his man frequently, but his athleticism allows him to make up the difference. He is a crafty player, but he's not a Bruce Bowen or Raja Bell.
Marion's contract is up this year. I think if they're doing well with him, he stays. If they're struggling, they get rid of him, because he's one guy besides Wade and Beasley who has some power and could bring something back with the size of his contract [$17.8 million].
If they're going to be a good team, they'll end up having to move Haslem or package him with Marion to get a really good player. I've always loved him, but he was really good there because he had Shaq or Alonzo Mourning beside him. Haslem is shorter than Ben Wallace and not as athletic, and he doesn't shoot the ball well enough to play in a fast-paced style.
They may have upgraded at point guard by signing Shaun Livingston. Miami doesn't have anything to lose here, and could gain a lot out of it. He's a talented kid, a passer who gives them size. Whether he can stay healthy and play, we'll find out. The one thing he needs to figure out from his time with the Clippers is that he looked like he was always trying to be Magic Johnson, always trying to make the great plays. He should have been trying to make the easy passes. The next thing for him is to become a consistent three-point shooter, especially on a team where Wade handles the ball so much.
Among the other point guards, Mario Chalmers is probably the most talented all-around player. He has great quickness, and he's good in the pick-and-roll already because he ran a lot of it in college at Kansas. He can shoot the ball and he gets into the paint and will create for others. Plus, he can defend and he has some toughness to him.
Dorell Wright is facing a put-up year. Is he a teaser? He needs to show it now. He used to be an immature guy who would try to throw down 360-dunks, but he appears to have grown through his Gerald Green stage. But I don't see anybody having to game plan for him.
It's hard to know about Daequan Cook. He needs guidance and maybe he'll get it with Wade there. He has a lot of physical tools -- shooting, strength, size. His game just has to mature. He could be a Jason Richardson type. He doesn't have that kind of crazy athleticism, but he could be the same kind of scorer.
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