2013--14 RECORD: 54--28 (1ST IN SOUTHEAST) COACH: ERIK SPOELSTRA (7TH SEASON WITH HEAT)
Dwyane Wade sees signs of decline wherever he looks. His scoring average has decreased every year since 2008--09. Last season he failed to earn All-NBA honors for the first time in six years. He sat out 28 games, many to save his knees and others to nurse an injured left hamstring, and averaged a career-low 32.9 minutes. During the playoffs Wade showed flashes of brilliance before fizzling in the Finals.
Even Wade's major pay cut appeared to be a calculated acknowledgment of a deteriorating game and the need for help. How often does a 32-year-old franchise icon agree to give up eight figures over two years, as Wade did in accepting a $31 million contract after opting out of a $41.8 million deal? And to make the sacrifice as a teammate received the max? Wade's rebate not only helped the Heat take care of nine-time All-Star big man Chris Bosh (who re-signed for $118.7 million over five years), but it also facilitated the signing of two-time All-Star small forward Luol Deng (two years, $19.9 million), buoying Miami's postseason hopes after LeBron James's exit.
The Heat will need every bit of playmaking and individual brilliance that Wade can muster—he did shoot a career-high 54.5% last season—as they try to overcome offensive deficiencies both in the paint and outside the arc. Wade's goal is to play all 82 games, something he's never done in 11 seasons. Miami's limited backcourt depth means that any absence will be felt.
9.8 PPG; 4.9 APG; 45.4 FG%; 38.5 3FG%
19.0 PPG; 4.7 APG; 4.5 RPG; 54.5 FG%
16.0 PPG; 5.7 RPG; 2.9 APG; 43.1 FG%
8.5 PPG; 4.8 RPG; 4.3 APG; 43.6 FG%
16.2 PPG; 6.6 RPG; 1.0 BPG; 51.6 FG%
6.6 PPG; 5.3 RPG; 1.3 BPG; 64.4 FG%
6.4 PPG; 3.0 APG; 41.4 FG%; 34.5 3FG%
A healthy Wade and an aggressive Bosh propel the Heat to a home court edge in the first round.
Wade fades, a weak bench gets exposed and Miami has its first losing season since 2007--08.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE HEAT
With the loss of LeBron James and several shooters who spaced the floor for him, the Heat have to find a system that fits this team rather than try to tweak the system that fit the old team. They won't run-and-gun, but look for them to get into their offense quickly so their main guys have more chances to make plays.... Dwyane Wade has talked about playing more, but it's unrealistic to expect him to pop back up to 75 games of big minutes after the way they've managed him. Still, Wade is their most indispensable guy because there's no depth at the two.... Chris Bosh's workload has to increase. He commands respect with his shooting, and he has the skills to post up more than he did the past four seasons.... The term two-way player is thrown around a lot, but Luol Deng fits the bill, even though his offensive efficiency has dropped. He's always willing to defend the best wing. He has a midrange game and gets to the rim.... Josh McRoberts is an underrated playmaker, a big guy who can pass like a point guard and operate at the elbow. Being able to run offense through both Bosh and McRoberts provides the Heat with a lot of flexibility.... This will be an above-average defensive team with Bosh, Deng and an active McRoberts on the front line. Also, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole can defend on the ball, Wade flies around when he's locked in, and Chris Andersen is an experienced rim protector.... Their bench has a lot of question marks, the biggest being whether Danny Granger can give them anything.
DAVID SHERMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
The new-look Heat need a vintage Wade.