Mark Deeks was born and raised in England, where he can be found writing about basketball or solving Countdown Conundrums.

Miami entered this offseason with most of the plan in place. As you probably noticed, the Heat did quite a lot of work last offseason; the question of Mike Miller’s potential amnesty notwithstanding, most of what they needed to be a championship caliber team was already in place. Almost all of it, in fact.

However, as you also probably noticed, Miami didn’t win the championship last year. It must surely follow that, whilst improvement must (and will) come from improved chemistry and cohesion amongst the incumbent players, roster upgrades were needed. Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven, but eight months later, it’s not clear whether they got them.

Mario Chalmers was retained at a cost of $12 million over three years to start at point guard, while draft night saw the Heat pretty pleased with landing Norris Cole, who will happily push the tempo (and who thus should not be paired with Juwan Howard). The still-twitching corpse of Mike Bibby moved on to New York, and the impeccably credentialed Shane Battier was brought in to provide defense, shooting, veteran leadership and impeccable credentials. And James Jones re-signed for three years and $4.5 million, ready to once again be more one dimensional than a Guy Ritchie film, an elite jumpshooter who knows his role and thrives within it.

However, in spending their MLE on Battier, Miami have used their best asset for improvement on merely upgrading the backup to the world’s best player, whilst also re-signing James Jones, a player already doing a pretty solid job backing up LeBron James anyway. Regardless of the strengths of the individual players involved, it is a bizarre determination of priorities for a team so close to winning it all. Battier will help Miami’s wing defense and three point shooting, but these were never weaknesses. The point guard position, however, was. And even more so was the five spot.

Joel Anthony returns, but few others do. Jamaal Magloire joined Toronto. Zydrunas Ilgauskas formally retired. Erick Dampier may as well have done, because his phone isn’t ringing. Miami’s center depth, and all of their size off the bench, was let go. And yet while none of them is any great loss — even the most favorable analysis must conclude that those three contributed as much last season as a bag of spanners (Ed. note: this means wrenches in England, apparently) — they needed to be upgraded, or at the very least, replaced. This has not happened.

Indeed, the opposite has happened. In signing Eddy Curry — who apparently will stick around — and retaining Dexter Pittman, the Heat somehow downgraded what was already one of the worst positional depth charts in the NBA. Their starting center cannot score, shoot, catch, rebound, pass, dribble or make layups, and yet he’s their best centre. This is a very tough thing to justify on a championship contender.

That is, of course, an observation using the benefit of hindsight. It is incredibly difficult to point to any one free agent this summer, or any realistic trade target given the limited variety of Miami’s trade assets, and say that they would have been the missing piece. Only if you knew before signing Battier that Chauncey Billups was going to be amnestied could you claim that, and not even Chauncey Billups himself knew that was going to happen.

It is also not true to say that Miami have done nothing this offseason. Battier betters any team he is on, Cole has a skill set to contribute what is otherwise not present on the roster and the return of Udonis Haslem gives Miami the rare and special gift of a big man who contributes on both ends of the court, while also defaulting Chris Bosh into playing a lot of center. That, in itself, is a sufficient Ilgauskas replacement.

Haslem’s return, though, seems to have been determined to be the extra piece that gets them over the top. Without any determinable key acquisitions to speak of, save for the solid but somewhat redundant Battier, Miami’s biggest offseason acquisition will be a guy they signed as an undrafted rookie eight years ago. That’s a lot of trust to place in a backup. If Miami is going to get over the hump, they’re going to have to do it with the team they already had, the one that wasn’t quite good enough.

The Heat entered the offseason with two major positional weaknesses. They still have them. And yet they might have enough anyway.

Mark Deeks owns and operates, and doesn’t do much else with his time. He is even more not-Canadian than Trey Kerby, being born, raised and stuck in England. When not writing about basketball, he can be found either appearing on game shows, inventing character names for non-existent sitcoms, or Googling his own name.

Comments (8)

  1. I think the Heat are counting on LeBron playing a lot more 4 this year. Also, saying Joel Anthony can’t rebound isn’t fair. The catching and making lay-ups analysis of Joel is spot on though.

  2. I also think we’re goning to see more Lebron on the 4 (which is good for him and the Heat) and Bosh/Haslem on the 5.
    Against small line-ups or not so talented bigs this can be really efective. Will not work against Chicago or other big front line like Memphis or L.A. though…
    I also found strange they didn’t chase a point guard, a young and fast or a vet to settle their half court game.

  3. As the previous two comments had stated, I see the Heat playing a lot of small ball with James at the 4 and Bosh at the 5.

    Joel Anthony is under rated though. You don’t see him putting up big numbers, but he is a hard worker who will not look to touch the ball on offense, which works perfectly when your playing with a 4 like Bosh. Joel is a great defender for his size and will pick up the slack for Bosh this year defensively if Spoelstra actually lets him play 30MPG. Trust me, Anthony is an upgrade over the 36 year old Big Z, and I fully expect both Bosh and Anthony to have a good year.

    The Heat don’t need any major roster changes, as seen with how good they did after November and they got a feel for things with the chemistry.

  4. I don’t think you absolutely need a great PG or a great C when your 3 other positions are loaded.

    Why? Look at the 90s Bulls, they never started an “impactful” Center, nor did they ever have a magnificient PG. Yet they won 6 titles. Of course having MJ and Pip, both of which came (even more) alive in the clutch does tend to help you, but players on those teams knew their roles, what they had to do and had the perfect system in place to help role players (the Triangle offense).

    In other words, basketball isn’t always a matter of raw talent. It’s a team sport, you need superior chemistry and a superb coach to win it all. The Heat might be acquiring the former without a decent center or a superb guard, but their head coach is definitely NOT the man for the job, nor is the system they’re working in/with.

  5. All you need is for LBJ to mentally clock in for 4 of the 7 games in the championship series and the heat are a shoe in.

    If LBJ averages 5+ points in the fourth quarter in the championship series they have to win. If he chooses to imposes his will on the game they will win the championship. I don’t care who the opposition, I don’t care if Miami play without a center and only have 4 men on the court. It all rests on LBJ’s head.

  6. The HEAT have enough.

    Release the Kraken!

  7. Norris Cole is going to take Chris Bosh’s spot in the “Big 3″ title. bet that!

  8. +10 for the “release the Kraken” Gnnr! the rest of the leauge is scared out of their minds lol, the defence and athleticism on this squad can’t be matched!

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