Solving Problems: HEAT’s Second Unit Lacking
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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The 2010 offseason was one of the biggest in the league’s history, with one of the largest free agent classes ever highlighted by All-Stars Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and many others. It was so deep with talent that teams started putting themselves in a position to have cap space for it two years prior. The Miami HEAT were one of those teams, and boy did they hit the jackpot to say the least.
After considering an offer from his hometown Chicago Bulls and the New Jersey Nets, Wade opted to remain with the HEAT and convinced Bosh to come with him. They weren’t done yet, though.
James, the top prize of 2010 free agency, pondered over his future home for a few days afterwards before deciding to join Wade and Bosh in South Beach.
The three of them agreed to take less money in order to team up and still give HEAT president Pat Riley enough flexibility to put some quality role players around them. Riley also managed to sign Mike Miller and re-sign Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony before being limited to just rookies and players willing to join for the veteran minimum.
With the assortment of the big three came a preseason parade, championship expectations and levels of attention that were even surprising in today’s day and age. Everything the HEAT did was closely watched, analyzed and criticized.
There were a lot of people who didn’t agree with Wade, James and Bosh teaming up together. Even former NBA legends like Michael Jordan came out and said that they wouldn’t have done what they did. Outside of Miami, everyone wanted to see the HEAT fail.
Early on they got their wish as the HEAT got off to a lackluster 9-8 start. Just as everyone was ready to deem them a failure and run head coach Erik Spoelstra out of town, the HEAT started to click. They went on to win 21 of their next 22 and finished the season 58-24, good for second place in the Eastern Conference.
In the Eastern Conference playoffs the HEAT didn’t encounter much resistance, needing just five games apiece to eliminate the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls. After all the hate, doubt and negativity cast their way they found themselves in the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
That’s when the HEAT’s dream season came to a crashing halt. Despite a 2-1 series advantage after three games, the HEAT fell in six to the Mavericks, who were without two key pieces in Caron Butler and Rodrigue Beaubois.
So now all of the questions from earlier in the season have resurfaced along with some new ones. Do the HEAT need to replace Erik Spoelstra? Is trading Bosh for a couple of solid role players the best thing for the team overall? Can the combination of rookie Norris Cole, possibly a re-signed Mario Chalmers, and maybe a veteran (like Mike Bibby) get the job done at the point guard position? Are they expecting too much out of Anthony?
Before answering any of those questions, it’s important to first point out that becoming a championship team isn’t an overnight process. It takes a lot of time, sometimes years. The HEAT really jumpstarted that process by putting together such an incredibly talented squad, but experience and chemistry take time to acquire.
A year before defeating the HEAT the Mavericks were watching the Finals from home after getting eliminated in the first round of the 2010 Western Conference Playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs. They learned from their failures, which greatly motivated them. That’s what the HEAT have to do first and foremost.
Spoelstra has a bright future in this league as a head coach. He really proved himself this year. All the premature talk about him not being able to handle a team with this talent level was nonsense. There may be some better short-term coaches out there like the recently-retired Phil Jackson or even Riley, but the HEAT are built for the long haul. Spoelstra has been growing at a tremendous rate and he’ll continue to do so; firing him would be a mistake.
Bosh may not have been at his best last year, but it would be a hasty decision to move him in anything other than a dynamic deal that is impossible to refuse. His skill set really complements James’ and Wade’s. He’s also a very smart player who will eventually figure out how to play his best with them.
The point guard and center positions are a bit shaky, though. That’s where the HEAT could stand to make some improvements. However, they’re practically a decade away from having any kind of cap room to work with. Regardless of what the terms are in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, their hands are going to be extremely tied due to the contracts of the big three.
They’re not exactly loaded with tradable assets either. Bosh would field some offers, but it’s still too early for that move. So, the HEAT very well could end up relying on what they have along with a couple new veterans. Luckily the HEAT are a very attractive destination for free agents and there will be players willing to play for less just for the opportunity to win a championship.
The market is somewhat bare at the point, but Sasha Vujacic and Jose Barea would be intriguing fits. At center there are some serious studs like Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol and Nene available but they are lined up for the kind of paydays that you cannot pass up on. Tony Battie, Jeff Foster and Kurt Thomas are much more realistic possibilities. There’s also the hope that second-year big man Dexter Pittman could be ready to contribute more as a sophomore.
With another solid role player or two added to their second unit the HEAT could have exactly what they need to get the Larry O’Brien trophy that eluded them last year. Their reserves should already be much more reliable next year by virtue of having healthy Miller and Haslem all year long, rather than them missing the majority of the season like they did in 2010-11.
HOOPSWORLD’s senior NCAA and NBA analyst Yannis Koutroupis will be hosting his weekly chat on 9/23/11 at 11am EST. You can get your questions into him here.