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Team Preview: Miami Heat

By Derek VanRiper & Louis Bien, RotoWire.comView: All Team Previews

Note: After press time, the Heat sent Antoine Walker, Michael Doleac, Wayne Simien and a first-round pick to Minnesota for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount. To learn more about the fantasy impact, read here.

STATE OF THE FRANCHISE

In the NBA, the championship dreams of many teams often fall on one man’s shoulders. The Miami Heat had their dreams on the dislocated left shoulder of superstar guard Dwyane Wade, who missed five weeks down the stretch after suffering the injury in late February. Wade returned to the team in time for the Playoffs, but he was clearly playing at less than 100 percent while the Chicago Bulls disposed of the reigning champs in a four-game sweep.

Veteran Antoine Walker will look to lock down the starting small forward spot this season.
(Victor Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images)
Wade has since had operations to his shoulder and his sore left knee and may be out until mid-November. As Wade sits, the Heat will try to keep their heads above water with a strong core of experienced players. Once he’s able to return, Wade, paired with the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, who is still a force at age 35, and role players Jason Williams, Antoine Walker and Udonis Haslem, embody a playoff-tested group that makes Miami a potential threat once again in the Eastern Conference.

PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION

Once healthy, Wade will put in 35-40 minutes each game as the Heat’s biggest playmaker and starting shooting guard. O’Neal can still log close to 30 minutes each night when healthy, while Alonzo Mourning should see 15-20 minutes a game spelling Shaq. Michael Doleac or Earl Barron will gobble up whatever’s left over in the middle.

At press time, the Heat expect Jason Williams and Smush Parker to compete for minutes at point guard, though the court time could be determined more by matchup than a simple timeshare. Heat coach Pat Riley likes Williams as a potential third-scoring option, but Parker is better defensively and more able-bodied than the injury-plagued Williams. Right now, both players should see 20-25 minutes per game. Chris Quinn will fight for whatever minutes he can with the addition of Parker.

Udonis Haslem, who has established himself as a solid all-around power forward, should see 30-35 minutes per game. Antoine Walker will start at small forward, seeing as much as 25-30 minutes per game as the likely third scorer. Dorell Wright will see 20-25 minutes per game behind Walker, but with his superior athleticism, he could end up earning the starting job during training camp. Wayne Simien, who missed nearly all of last season with a bad case of salmonella, may see a boost in minutes because of his work ethic and soft touch around the rim. Expect 15-20 minutes per game for the third-year player in the best-case scenario, but health will play a major role in what he’ll offer the Heat this season.

PLAYER OUTLOOKS* = Projected Starter

CENTER

* Shaquille O’Neal – MIA [C]: When healthy and rested, Shaq is still one of the best in the game. Unfortunately, he tends to wear down on the floor as his minutes pile up - even when not missing games. Shaq still averages nearly 60 percent on field goals, but fewer minutes mean fewer opportunities. It’s still safe to expect just shy of 20.0 points and 1.5-2.0 blocks per game when he’s playing. As usual, beware of drafting him in leagues that count free throw shooting – he’ll single-handedly destroy that category for you. And be prepared for the occasional injury that knocks him out of action for a few contests. But if your league doesn’t count free throw percentage, then O’Neal can still get the job done.

Alonzo Mourning – MIA [C]: Even at 37, Mourning is one of the league’s best defenders. Despite averaging just 20.4 minutes per game last season, Mourning tallied 2.3 blocks and 4.5 rebounds per game. In what will likely be his final season in the NBA, Mourning can be a categorical specialist for fantasy owners looking for blocks while he fills a reserve role. He even offers a little bit of upside in the event that Shaq misses time with an injury.

Michael Doleac – MIA [C]: Barring a change in course regarding Mourning’s decision to play this season or Shaq missing an extended period of time, Doleac will have a limited reserve role.

Joel Anthony – MIA [C]: Potential No. 3 center if he’s able to impress enough during training camp. Still, not much short-term upside here beyond some shot-blocking potential.

Earl Barron – MIA [C]: Barron will battle to serve as a reserve option at power forward and center again this season.

POWER/SMALL FORWARD

* Udonis Haslem – MIA [PF]: Haslem’s numbers continue to be solid, if unspectacular. He doesn’t get many points as the team’s fourth or fifth scorer (10.7 ppg), but he’s one of the better rebounding forwards in the league (8.3 rpg last season). Other than last season, he’s averaged nearly 80 percent shooting from the free throw line. Haslem picked up his play with Wade and Shaq missing time, going for six double-doubles in the month of January alone. His value would take a nice little leap if he were able to emerge as a reliable scoring option.

* Antoine Walker – MIA [SF]: The loss of James Posey could open up a starting role for Walker again, though he’ll need to hold off Dorell Wright to make that happen. The interesting battle during training camp will be who emerges to be the team’s No. 3 scoring option. The role of the small forward could be determined by who wins the starting job at point guard. If the more defensive-minded Smush Parker gets the nod, Walker’s offense might be more in demand. If the defensively challenged Jason Williams wins out, Wright’s game might fit better. In any case, if Walker emerges as the starter, he’s still got the ability to score 15 points each night, but the days of a double-double average appear to be over.

Dorell Wright – MIA [SF]: Wright had a bit of a breakout campaign last season, bringing plenty of energy and athleticism to the Miami frontcourt. He’ll compete with Antoine Walker for the starting job at small forward, and if he ends up getting significant minutes, Wright could emerge as a bit of a sleeper given his ability to contribute at both ends of the floor. Wright has been working on his perimeter scoring throughout the offseason in an effort to fully refine his game and prepare for an expanded role.

Why? In 19 games as a starter last season, Wright flashed his tremendous upside as a potential multi-category fantasy machine, averaging 8.7 points, 6.7 boards and just under a steal and a block per game. He’ll need to wrestle the starting job away from Antoine Walker during training camp, but he gives the Heat a much more athletic option in their starting five.

Wayne Simien – MIA [SF,PF]: It’s going to be an uphill climb for Simien to crack the Miami rotation during training camp, but he’s talented enough to make it happen if he’s able to stay healthy. A salmonella infection cost him most of the 2006-07 season, while offseason knee surgery limited him during the summer.

Marcus Slaughter – MIA [SF,PF]: After playing with Pinar Karisyaka in Turkey last season, Slaughter inked a two-year deal with Miami this summer. He’s a depth guy at best for the short term.

POINT/SHOOTING GUARD

* Dwyane Wade – [SG]: The decision to have both shoulder and knee surgeries could pay off nicely in the long run for Wade, though as it stands now he’s expected to miss the first 10 games of the regular season. When he returns, he should be 100 percent healthy given the team’s plan to play it very conservatively with his workload this fall. Skills wise, if he could shoot threes, D-Wade would be unstoppable. Before suffering the injury in February, he was having a career-year across the board, with 27.4 points, 7.5 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.2 blocks per game (all personal bests). Regardless of where you draft him, plan on double-checking his timetable for a return so you can plan accordingly with short-term alternatives.

* Jason Williams – MIA [PG]: Williams has averaged just 60 games played during his two seasons in Miami, and head coach Pat Riley is hopeful that he’ll be able to play 70 this season with occasional rest and some extra relief from Smush Parker. The starting point guard job is up for grabs this fall, and while Williams is the early favorite, he’ll need to prove that he can fill the scoring void left by the departure of Jason Kapono via free agency while managing the offense at a level high enough to enable Riley to keep Parker’s defensive prowess on the bench. Williams has never averaged more than 15 ppg during the course of a whole season, so it will be interesting to see just how much offense he can be provide while maintaining his role as a distributor (5.4 apg last season) to Shaq and D-Wade.

Smush Parker – MIA [PG]: Parker must earn the starting point guard job to have fantasy relevance in Miami, and even then, he’s not much of an option outside of deeper leagues and those that reward heavily for steals. The Heat are optimistic that Jason Williams can stay healthy, so Parker may wind up being used to spell Williams defensively depending on matchups.

Chris Quinn – MIA [PG,SG]: When called upon, Quinn was a solid No. 3 point guard behind Dwyane Wade and Gary Payton last season. The addition of Smush Parker this offseason puts a significant damper on his upside.

Daequan Cook – MIA [PG,SG]: Cook looks to have the best shot at seeing the court of all of the rookies, and his role as a perimeter-shooting specialist could get him more minutes as the season progresses.

Why? His shooting stroke looked brutal during summer league play in Las Vegas, but the Heat came away pleased with his efforts on the defensive end as well as his confidence. . As a long-term option in a keeper league, there’s plenty to like here, but rookies are often drafted too early based on the hype of what they showed during their days in college (see: Redick, J.J.).

Anfernee Hardaway – MIA [SG,SF]: In a perfect world, Hardaway will be able to fill the role that Eddie Jones handled last season as a veteran swingman off the bench. Still, despite reports that he’s dropped 22 pounds and that he’s pain-free after having a bone spur removed from his knee more than a year ago, he’s nothing more than a late-round dart in deep leagues at this stage of his career.

Devin Green – MIA [PG,SG]: Green is a long shot to make the final roster, and even if he does, expect plenty of DNP (coach’s decision) lines in the box score.

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