STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Heat finished with the best record in the regular season of 66-16, tying the Celtics' mark from the 2007-08 season. They rode the top seed in the playoffs to a second consecutive NBA Championship. Their star-studded roster, led by MVP LeBron James, battled through the playoffs and met their match in a veteran Spurs team in the Finals, concluding with a thrilling finish for the title. Dwyane Wade battled through knee issues in the playoffs to contribute down the stretch, and Chris Bosh paired with mid-season pickup Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem to lock up opponents on defense. Sharp-shooting from veterans Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Mike Miller (who left in the offseason through the amnesty clause) beyond the arc also helped lift the champions from South Beach.
The talk heading into the 2013-14 season will be the possibility of James, Wade and Bosh opting out and becoming free agents following the season. The team returns its championship core and convinced Allen to opt into his contract to. The biggest acquisition news for the team was the flier the team is taking on oft-injured veteran center Greg Oden and their low-risk/high-reward play on a minimum contract with Michael Beasley. The title-winning team did not have much for cap space to add to its talented roster, but with a healthy Big 3 expected to return for at least one more run, they still have a roster that is thinking of a three-peat.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Mario Chalmers is expected to start again for the Heat at point guard. He made 77 starts at the position in 2012-13, his highest total since his rookie season and played 27 minutes per game. He still has the talented Norris Cole backing him up, and Cole has played about 19 minutes per game in each of the last two seasons. There is not anything to suggest this share of the position will change in 2013-14. The team does occasionally use Dwyane Wade at the position as well.
Dwyane Wade is locked in at the shooting guard position again in 2013-14. Despite battling knee issues, Wade played 35 minutes per game last season. Ray Allen played a career-low 26 minutes per game last season and should see a similar total again this season. With the departure of Mike Miller, James Jones could end up seeing around 10 minutes per game at the shooting guard spot.
The MVP, LeBron James, is a versatile player who will almost always start at the small forward spot. He is a lock to see about 38 minutes per game on the court. Battier should be expected to play a little over 20 minutes per game working as a backup off the bench. Rashard Lewis is a candidate to see more than 15 minutes per game of playing time, as he could also benefit from Mike Miller leaving the Heat.
Udonis Haslem is again expected to line up at power forward, but will see about 20 minutes of playing time per game. Chris Bosh and Rashard Lewis will also slide into the power forward position when the Heat go with certain groups on the court.
Chris Bosh will start again at center for the Heat and should play between 32-36 minutes per game. Chris Andersen will rotate to the center spot as well, but his defensive skill set could result in 15-20 minutes per game. New acquisition Greg Oden is difficult to pinpoint on how much he will see the floor. If he is healthy, he could see 15-20 minutes per game, but a better estimate would be about 10 minutes per game. Joel Anthony could see occasional minutes at center as well.
Chris Bosh: Bosh was productive again last season for the Heat and started at center. His 16.6 points per game were his lowest total since entering the league, and his 6.8 rebounds per game were a career low. While these totals can be considered disappointing from a fantasy standpoint, he did shoot a career-high 54 percent from the field. With many scoring weapons on the Heat that will demand the ball on offense, Bosh carved a role by being more selective with his shots. He still is a decent source for blocked shots and scoring as a center, but his days as a top-5 fantasy option at the position may be slipping away.
Chris Andersen: Andersen, aka Birdman, provided a nice boost of size as an enforcer on defense for the Heat. He has a knack for drawing and dishing out contact in the paint and has a role playing short stints at center. He averaged 11.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes over 42 games with the Heat last season. He mainly brings fantasy value in rebounds and blocks, but probably does not play enough minutes from game to game to warrant much of a look on draft day.
Greg Oden: Oden signed a minimum deal with the Heat in an attempt to make a comeback to the NBA. The former number one overall pick has not played in an NBA game since the 2009-10 season. It is difficult to tell what type of player he will be at this point given the concerns over his knees and his injury history. He is bound to be nagged by issues that may keep him off the court, but if he is able to play, he could provide a solid presence in the paint on both ends of the court for the Heat off the bench. Watch how he performs in the preseason, but it is difficult to recommend investing a draft pick in him in most leagues.
Joel Anthony: Anthony only saw the floor in 62 games for the Heat last season but will stay around for another season with the only team he has been with his entire NBA career. He averaged career-lows in stats across the board, so he has virtually no fantasy value with the current roster for the Heat.
Udonis Haslem: Haslem is the starter at power forward, but his minutes and scoring contributions generally do not reflect that. He played in 75 games last season for Miami and is entering his 11th year with the team. Haslem averaged 7.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes on the floor. With a balance of scoring options in South Beach, Haslem has a nice role as a defensive specialist who can rotate down low, though he is a bit undersized at 6-8 for the position. His main contribution is on the rebounding end.
LeBron James: James just keeps showing why he is the king and MVP of the NBA, especially in the fantasy category. For being a star of the league, he is a well-rounded statistical player, as he averaged 26.8 points, 7.3 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game. He had four triple-doubles last season and 15 games with 10 or more assists. And the scary thing is that he has improved his efficiency as a shooter. He put up a career-high 57 percent shooting from the field and shot a career-high 41 percent on three-pointers. Kevin Durant may go as the number one overall pick in many drafts, but James will give any team the most well-rounded statistical star in the league.
Shane Battier: Battier has led many to believe that this season will be his last before he retires from the NBA. He was a huge factor in Game 7 of the NBA Finals for the Heat when he hit six three-pointers to help seal the championship. He works mainly as a shooter off the bench at small forward and will continue to do so in 2013-14. With Mike Miller amnestied in the offseason, Battier will not have to worry as much about his role being cut into. He tied a career-high last season, averaging 1.9 three-pointers per game shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc. That is his main fantasy contribution at this point of his career.
Rashard Lewis: Lewis will return to the Heat for the 2013-14 season, though his playing time is again expected to be limited. He only played in 55 games last season, but did manage to average 13.0 points per 36 minutes. Unless there are some major changes on the roster, Lewis will not see many opportunities for playing time with the Heat this season.
James Ennis: Ennis, a second-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft out of Long Beach State, is an athletic small forward that will need some development. He is lined up to play overseas in Australia this season and will be stashed by the Heat to contribute down the road.
Jarvis Varnado: Varnado played in only eight games with the Heat in 2012-13 and will be on the roster bubble heading into this season. He mostly played in the D-League and will participate in training camp. Even if he does make the roster, he is not expected to crack the fantasy radar this season in most leagues.
Michael Beasley: Super Be Easy chemically induced himself out of Phoenix after just one season, and once he was waived, Beasley contacted the Heat with an offer they couldn't refuse. He agreed to sign with the team on a non-guaranteed contract. The Heat will get an exclusive look at Beasley through training camp and get to decide whether to keep him on the cheap through this season or to cut bait on him before he becomes an issue when the games matter. Based on where he's going to be ranked in drafts, fantasy players will be able to make a similar investment.
Dwyane Wade: Wade was a big topic in the postseason as he was battling knee issues that kept him out of action and somewhat hampered his mobility. He has been working hard all offseason and is expected to cut his weight to 212 pounds to lessen the stress on his knees. While he does not expect to be ready at the start of training camp, Wade does anticipate being ready for the season opener and that his knee issues should not linger into the season. His scoring average has decreased each year since the 2008-09 season, but he still put up 21.2 points per game on 52 percent shooting. He is not much of a threat from three, but he still can slash in the lane and produce points for the Heat. Wade is still a top-5 fantasy option at shooting guard.
Mario Chalmers: Chalmers mainly serves as a complement to the Big 3 in Miami, but he still can be a capable, though inconsistent, scorer. He is locked in as the starter at point guard and shares time mainly with Norris Cole at the position. Chalmers shot 41 percent from three last season but did take a slight step back in only averaging 8.6 points per game. He is relatively far off the starting radar for fantasy purposes, but he can have occasional big games and is a threat on three-pointers.
Ray Allen: Allen was the top priority for the Heat in the offseason, and he decided to return for another run at a title in 2013-14. For the first time in his career, he came off the bench in every game, serving primarily as a scoring substitution at shooting guard. Though his overall averages predictably dipped, his 15.3 points per 36 minutes were about in line with the previous season. He hit a three-pointer for the ages in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to tie the game and help the Heat push to Game 7 and win back-to-back championships. His bench role hurts his fantasy value, but he still has a sweet jump shot and can knock down threes while still being one of the best of all time from the free-throw line.
Norris Cole: Cole is a promising young player that is blocked for playing time at point guard. He took a slight step back in scoring averages, he did improve his shooting percentages and cut back on his turnovers. With Mario Chalmers back at point guard, it will keep Cole in a similar role as a backup. Even when he is on the floor, he is surrounded by quality scoring that limits his fantasy value.
James Jones: Jones, a player who was a key contributor off the bench in 2010-11, took a backseat to just about everyone on the roster in 2012-13. He played in 38 games last season, averaging only six minutes per game. Jones is known for his shooting range but was buried in a sharpshooting bench role behind Allen, Battier and Miller. With Miller out of the picture, Jones could see a bump up in minutes, though it is still crowded at small forward, and his contributions will likely be minimal.
Norris Cole: Cole is stuck behind Mario Chalmers for playing time at point guard and surrounded by scorers when he does find the floor. Even in a scenario where Cole moves into a starting role, the rotation may put Wade at the point instead. Cole has the potential to blossom into a solid contributor in the NBA and has respectable size at 6-2 for a point guard. Make no mistake, he can put the ball through the net, and with his increase in shooting percentages and cutting of his turnovers, coach Erik Spoelstra may have more faith in putting him on the floor. He is limited in the short-term for fantasy value, but in the right situation, he could develop into a solid scorer for the point guard position.
Greg Oden: Oden has been hampered by injury issues his entire career. It seems heartless to pile on and place him in the bust category for the season, but it is difficult to have faith that he can stay healthy this season. The Heat have found their groove with Chris Bosh working at center, and it will be tough for Oden to push Bosh over to power forward very often. The hope is he can stay healthy and provide some size in the paint for the Heat at center, but since he has been out of the game for so long, it will be a tough road for the big man out of Ohio State.