Miami Heat

Wade has flourished since being introduced as the newest member of the Heat in June 2003.
Victor Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
2005 DRAFT SELECTIONS
No. 29
CURRENT FREE AGENTS
Shandon Anderson (unrestricted)
Keyon Dooling (player option)
Udonis Haslem (restricted)
Damon Jones (player option)
Eddie Jones (player has right to terminate contract)
Christian Laettner (unrestricted)
Alonzo Mourning (team option)
Shaquille O'Neal (player has right to terminate contract)
Steve Smith (unrestricted)
Qyntel Woods (unrestricted)
Wang Zhi-Zhi (unrestricted)
RECENT DRAFT SELECTIONS
2004: 19. Dorell Wright, South Kent Prep, Conn.
47. Pape Sow, Cal-State Fullerton
53. Matt Freije, Vanderbilt
2003: 5. Dwyane Wade, Marquette
33. Jerome Beasley, North Dakota
2002: 10. Caron Butler, Conn.
53. Rasual Butler, Lasalle
2001: 49. Ken Johnson, Ohio St.
2000: 37. Eddie House, Ariz. St.
52. Ernest Brown, Indian Hills CC
By Bill Evans

When the 2004-05 season began: If the seismic shift in the NBA’s balance of power began when the Detroit Pistons won the title, it was cemented on July 14, when Shaquille O’Neal joined Miami in trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. With Shaq and young phenom Dwyane Wade, the Heat entered the season as co-favorites with the Pistons in the East.

What happened? Is it good news or bad news when the highest paid player in the NBA isn’t even your leading scorer?

Nobody’s complaining in Miami, where Wade’s meteoric rise may have overshadowed the Diesel’s arrival in Miami. This year, the former Marquette star earned a spot on the All-Star team, and finished in the NBA’s top 10 in points (24.1) and assists (6.8). He saved his best for the playoffs, scoring 73 points in two games that O’Neal missed in the Conference Semifinals vs. Washington

The playoffs showed the Heat had an easier time winning without O’Neal than they did without Wade (recognizing that Wade’s absence in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals came against a much-better Detroit team).

Heat fans should be content if Shaq is indeed their second-best player. With his minutes limited to a career-low 34.1 per night, Shaq nevertheless delivered 43 double-doubles and shot a confounding 60.1 percent from the field, his career-best. He was among the league leaders in blocks (sixth with 2.34 pg), rebounds (sixth with 10.4 pg) and points (12th with 22.9 pg) and his presence allowed Wade the freedom to create, and single-handedly propelled the Heat within a game of the NBA Finals.

What now? The Heat were more than a two-man team, relying on steady veterans like Eddie Jones, Christian Laettner, Alonzo Mourning, Shandon Anderson and Michael Doleac, in addition to young players like Udonis Haslem, Rasual Butler, Keyon Dooling and Damon Jones.

Pat Riley won’t have an easy job keeping his unit together beyond this season, though the quest for a ring, the lure of South Beach and mild weather will certainly aid his sales pitch.

Mourning, Anderson and Laettner are all unrestricted free agents. Damon Jones and Dooling can opt out of existing contracts. Haslem is a restricted free agent.

Jones and Haslem would be big losses. Jones’s three-point shooting (.432) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.57) are among the best in the NBA. Haslem, who joined the Heat as an undrafted free agent, solidified the power forward position with 10.9 points and 9.1 rebounds in his second season in Miami.

Given the roster uncertainty, the Heat could use the 29th pick on anyone that doesn’t play a position currently occupied by O’Neal or Wade.