The heat is on in South Florida, with the Dolphins rising once more and and a return to national prominence by the Hurricanes, the Heat, a perennial playoff team, struggle to keep the attention focused on them. The Heat followed a 43-39 season, good enough for 5th place in the Eastern Conference, with a disappointing off season. Targeting Lamar Odom and other big-men, the Heat only managed to add the services of point guard Carlos Arroyo and guard Quentin Richardson. Odom resigned with the Lakers and the Heat were left with lesser players to pick from.
Dwayne Wade had a prolific 2008-09 season. Wade averaged a league high 30.2 points per game, earning his first NBA Scoring Title, and added 7.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. Wade scored 50 points through three quarters of play in a game against the Knicks but was taken out of the game after scoring 55 points, one shy of the Heat franchise record held by Glen Rice.
Wade is a dynamo, a do it all player who will never quit, but there are questions surrounding the rest of the Miami roster. Incumbent point guard and former Jayhawk Mario Chalmers will likely be challenged by Arroyo, but Daequan Cook, who has morphed into an excellent three-point shooter, will likely remain at shooting guard. The small forward position was supposed to be occupied by Michael Beasley, until he checked into rehab. Without Beasley, the Heat will rely on veterans James Jones, Quentin Richardson, and Udonis Haslem to fill in. Udonis Haslem will play power forward, but it remains to be seen how many more games ol’ Udonis will play before he runs out of gas. This is where the Heat could really have used a player like LaMar Odom or Antawn Jamison; it’s and understatement to say that the Heat lack depth at the forward position. Jermaine O’Neal, acquired in a trade with Toronto, has been a nice addition to the Heat. O’Neal’s 13.0 points per game and 5.4 rebounds helped propel the Heat into the playoffs, but he wasn’t enough to help them escape a first round loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
So the Heat lack depth. Will they return to the playoffs? Will they even finish the regular season with a .500 record? The Heat are in a dangerous Eastern Conference and even with Dwayne Wade, he wasn’t enough to get the Heat past the equally mediocre Hawks. The Heat figure to have a difficult time reaching the post season this year. Michael Beasley has to show up drug-free and ready to play basketball or the Heat are doomed. If this kid doesn’t get his head in the game soon he will begin to look like a bust. With an average defense that yielded 98.0 points per game last season, the Heat will need plenty of offense from Wade and Beasley to make a run in 2009-10.