By John Stravino
But sometimes change can be good. The Heat are now led by new head coach Erik Spoelstra. Spoelstra, a former assistant coach with the Heat, takes over a team with a lot of youth; as the youngest head coach in the NBA, he can relate. The Heat also add two promising rookies, second overall pick Michael Beasley and guard Mario Chalmers. Free Agents Jamaal Magloire and James Jones bring veteran leadership and experience.
But the two players to lead the Heat this season are Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion. Wade, coming off of an injury plagued season, will look to reclaim his status as one of the best guards in the game today. And Marion, who has been one of the best forwards in the game, starts his first full season is Miami after nine seasons with Phoenix.
At center, the Heat will play Mark Blount and Jamaal Magloire, while waiting to see if Alonzo Mourning decides to give it a go for one more season. The Heat have a lot more depth at the forward position than at center with Udonis Haslem, DorellWright, and James Jones. With the depth at forward we could see a smaller lineup on the floor more often, with Beasley, Marion, and Haslem on the floor at the same time. We expect Haslem to average 30 minutes per game, while Wright and Jones play somewhere in the 20-25 minute range.
As with the center spot, there are many questions in the backcourt. Wade will play major minutes, we know that much, but who will be playing next to him? Guard Chris Quinn started 25 games last season and saw plenty of time on the floor last season once Wade went down. Rookie guard Mario Chalmers should see time at guard as well for the Heat as he brings experience after 3 seasons with the Kansas Jayhawks. Second year guard Daequan Cook should also see his playing time rise after averaging 24 minutes per game a year ago. Our best guess, Quinn gets the start alongside Wade, but at some point during the season Chalmers takes over the majority of the minutes with Cook being the first guard off the bench.
Jamaal Magloire: Now with his fifth team in as many seasons, Magloire looks to regain his form on the floor. With Mark Blount under-performing and Udonis Haslem much too undersized to play consistent minutes at the center position, there could be minutes for Magloire in the middle. Will he post a season like 2003-2004 where he averaged 13.6 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game, probably not, so expect him to be strictly a role player.
Shawn Marion: After being traded from Phoenix in the blockbuster trade for Shaquille O'Neal last February, Marion played well in 33 games for the Heat. Now starting his first full season in Miami, expect much of the same from "The Matrix". Marion can score, rebound, and even adds 2 steals and assists per game. Throw in a block a game, and very good career field goal percentage of .481, and you have a solid all-around forward for your fantasy team, who year after year fills up a stat sheet. Heck, even with that funky shooting style, he shoots a respectable .341 from downtown. Marion has been a first round pick in many drafts for years and I see no reason why that trend should not continue.
Udonis Haslem: At 6-8, Haslem is an undersized power forward but you would not be able to tell by the solid numbers he puts up. Last season, Haslem scored a career high 12 points per game and a solid 9.0 rebounds per game, while playing a career high 36.8 minutes per game in 49 games. We would still like to see a few more blocks than the 0.3 career blocks per game average at the forward position. Will Haslem carry your fantasy team? No, but he will not hurt it either.
Dorell Wright: Wright is a wild card for the Heat. Like pretty much everyone else playing in South Beach last season, he missed a significant amount of games last season -- 38 to be exact. But when he did play he posted career highs in minutes per game with 25.1, points per game with 7.9, and saw his steals, rebounds and blocks increase from the previous season. The thing we love about Wright is that season to season his stats increase across the board in virtually every statistical category. Watch his stats closely early on this season as his performance on the floor will dictate just how much he plays. At his best, Wright will not score a ton of points for your fantasy team, but could be someone who could fill up a box score at the end of the night.
James Jones: Signed as a free agent in the off-season from the Trailblazers, Jones joins a crowded Miami front court. James can shoot the ball from behind the arc with a career .399 three point percentage and from the line with a career .865 free throw percentage. On this team he's probably nothing more than a role player.
Mario Chalmers: A second round draft pick out of Kansas, Chalmers brings an up-tempo style of play to the Heat. Chalmers shoots very well from the perimeter, plays excellent defense, and racks up steals and assists -- his defensive ability is what will get him minutes initially. Look for Chalmers' role so increase as the season progresses.
Daequan Cook: A rookie from Ohio State a year ago, Cook saw his minutes increase when Dwyane Wade went down for the season. He can shoot the ball and should get a few more looks from three with a healthy Dwyane Wade and the addition of Michael Beasley. Cook could emerge as a sixth man type of player for the Heat -- should look to him for instant offense off the bench.
Chris Quinn: Quinn, like Cook, thrived with Wade out of the lineup. Quinn averaged 5.4 assists per game over the final 20 games of the season while averaging close to 13 points per in that same stretch. I would question how productive he will be with Wade back in the lineup, but Quinn is a natural point guard so that could keep him involved and in the rotation off the bench.
Marcus Banks: With Chalmers, Cook, Quinn in the fold, Banks could be the odd man out in the Heat back court. It seems unlikely that he'll play a significant role unless one of the other guards is injured or Chalmers takes longer than expected to develop.
Article first appeared on 9/25/08