NBA training camps start up in a couple weeks. In the meantime, we’re going team-by-team, from 1 to 30, exploring what each team’s ceiling is for the upcoming season and where their basement is. In other words, what are the realistic best-case and worst-case scenarios for each squad?
Additions: PF/SF Michael Beasley, PG Mario Chalmers, SF James Jones, C Jamaal Magloire, SG Yakhouba Diawara.
Losses: SF Ricky Davis, PG Jason Williams, C Earl Barron.
Ceiling: Eastern Conference Finals
If any ’08 Lottery team can mirror the Celtics’ historic turnaround, it’s Miami, who should be — barring significant injuries — drastically better than the D-League class reunion roster we saw last season. Dwyane Wade is healthy and right back in the “Best Player On The Planet” discussions he regularly populated a couple of years ago. Shawn Marion is still in his prime, and between moving back to his natural SF position and playing for a coach who hopefully won’t run him ragged a la Mike D’Antoni, could have a monster year. Beasley’s rookie-year ceiling is somewhere around 20 and 10 every night if he keeps his nose clean. Surrounding the Wade/Matrix/Beasley trio are solid role players like Udonis Haslem, James Jones, Dorell Wright and Daequan Cook, and the Heat could get even better if Alonzo Mourning returns during the season from last year’s knee injury anywhere near his prior form. With D-Wade leading the way and Marion and Beasley settling into their complimentary roles, the Heat could be as good as any team in the NBA.
Basement: First-round exit
Even if Wade stays healthy and plays at the same MVP level he did in ’06, and even if Marion has a career year, this team still has red flags. For starters, Beasley could hit the rookie wall. And to continue the comparison to the ’08 Celtics, Miami has major questions marks at point guard, center, with its bench and its coach. Chris Quinn, Chalmers and Marcus Banks will be vying for the starting PG job in training camp, and each has his flaws, from Quinn’s slight frame/defense to Chalmers’ inexperience to Banks’ lack of any redeemable skills beyond speed and athleticism. Magloire and Mark Blount are the top two centers; Magloire is playing at an X-Mo pace at this point in his career, and Blount often acts like he’d rather be a two-guard. A lot of the key bench guys are young and don’t have big-stage experience. And first-year coach Erik Spoelstra not only has to deal with the pressures of being new to the position and leading a team with high expectations, but he’s also got to consider the possibility of Pat Riley swooping in to hi-jack his job if the team is too good too soon. Give them a year to get Spoelstra comfortable, for Beasley to get used to the NBA grind, for Wade to prove he can play somewhere close to a full 82, for the front office to figure out what it wants to do with Marion (or perhaps bring in Carlos Boozer), and Miami should be be right up there competing for a championship.
’08-09 NBA preview archives
9/19 — Portland Trail Blazers
9/18 — New Jersey Nets
9/17 — Minnesota Timberwolves
9/16 — Cleveland Cavaliers
9/15 — Phoenix Suns
9/12 — Milwaukee Bucks
9/11 — L.A. Clippers
9/10 — Orlando Magic