Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Miami Heat Newcomer This Season
The Miami Heat roster is facing the most turnover since the 2010 offseason, except LeBron James is leaving South Beach and taking his talents with him. Instead, the Heat have seven returning players and seven new faces with guaranteed contracts going into the 2014-15 season.
The Heat still figure to be in the mix at the top of the Eastern Conference, even if James' new crew flush with Kevin Love is the early favorite.
The recent injury to Paul George eliminates the Indiana Pacers from contention, and teams such as the Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Bobcats are on the upside of a potential NBA Finals arch but seem a year or two away from truly contending.
Without James, the Heat will have to find a new identity on offense. That means being more creative to fashion open looks and relying on different guys stepping up most every night.
The seven new additions all have one thing in common—basketball smarts. The Heat will rely on the new role players to make an impact to compete in the Eastern Conference this season.
The Heat got away using a faux 4—such as Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis—in this spot for the last three seasons. Now Miami finally has a true stretch 4, and one who will be among the most versatile players on the roster.
Josh McRoberts isn't great at any one thing, but he is good at just about everything.
His per-36 numbers on Basketball-Reference.com reflect that, posting 10.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists (tops among qualifying forwards), 0.9 steals and 0.7 blocks. He also averaged just 1.3 turnovers per 36 minutes to go along with his assists. No other forward averaging at least three assists per 36 minutes is as efficient.
His defensive rating last season would have placed him fifth among players who finished the season with the Heat, per NBA.com/Stats.
McRoberts figures to be a starter and will complement a newly vested Chris Bosh. His ability to stretch the floor and find open teammates will give the Heat a Spursian ability to get open shots, which should help fill the void left by James.
If Heat coach Erik Spoelstra follows that blue print and expands on it with his own creativity, McRoberts is due for a breakout season.
*Mandatory disclaimer for everything regarding Danny Granger: if healthy.
For two years, $4.2 million, Granger is a low-risk roster addition. The Heat are looking at a best-case and worst-case scenario, depending on how Granger rebounds from his leg injuries of the last two years.
Granger had a rocky season dealing with injuries, but he finally got some consistent playing time when he landed with the Los Angeles Clippers. There, Granger averaged 17.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per 36 minutes in 12 games last season, per Basketball-Reference.com.
Miami's best-case scenario is that Granger fits right in as the first perimeter guy off the bench, provides some scoring punch with similar numbers while garnering Sixth Man of the Year or Comeback Player of the Year award consideration.
Granger does his best to rehab and get back on the court, but nagging injuries keep the nine-year veteran from seeing consistent time on the court.
He is used sparingly, much the way Mike Miller was used for much of his tenure in Miami. Maybe he drains an important three-pointer here and there, but that's about it.
I broke down Shabazz Napier's situation in detail here, but this is the gist of it.
Without James, the point guard will be relied on to initiate more of the offense. This is something that Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole struggled to do consistently last season but are still way ahead of Napier (who averaged 4.3 turnovers per game during summer league)in this regard.
Napier is the most naturally gifted scorer of the three and will see the court because of it, but he needs to develop in his role of leading an offense before getting regular time as the point guard. Until that happens, Napier figures to be a flash-in-the-pan scorer who can play some 1 and some 2.
Miami, who was in the mix for Kyle Lowry and Eric Bledsoe this summer, needs to focus on Napier's development. That means giving him the green light with the second or third team (or during garbage time) and, more importantly, having him run basic pick-and-rolls in the regular rotation.
If the college hero can grow into an impact pro, it will be a very good investment by the Heat.
This video basically shows what James Ennis will bring to the Heat this season. Ennis is the most athletic, explosive guy remaining on Miami's roster. His ability to play above the rim is reminiscent of Vintage Wade.
In his first NBA season, Ennis will sit closer to the end of the bench than veteran Granger and even possibly Reggie Williams.
But Spoelstra has mentioned that he views his bench as a bullpen and, if he needs an athletic spark of energy, he can pull Ennis.
Heat President Pat Riley mentioned Ennis in the team's press release announcing Ennis' signing:
We were excited to draft James a year ago and have been impressed by the growth of his game in Summer League and Puerto Rico, as well as his terrific experience in Australia, leading Perth to a championship. We are looking forward to the infusion of energy he will bring to our roster.
It's hard to tell how much time Ennis will actually get, but he will at least give Heat fans a reason to watch the garbage time.
This shot chart is from four seasons ago, the last time Reggie Williams saw regular playing time. Williams appeared in 80 games for the Golden State Warriors in the 2010-11 season and converted on more than 42 percent of his three-pointers.
Since then, Williams has played in 76 total games in three seasons, including just three last season before being cut by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Surely the Heat are aiming to get some version of that 2010-11 Williams, but I guess so were Charlotte, Houston and Oklahoma City.
But take a look at the shot chart. Williams shot better than 45 percent from the corner in his most successful season.
For his career, Williams is a 43.8 percent shooter from the corners, per Basketball-Reference.com.
The Heat will still invert the offense, with Wade posting up and Bosh stretching the floor and wings cutting to the basket. They will need three-point shooters to help space the floor, and, hopefully for them, Williams will be just that.
Williams hasn't played much lately and even spent time in the D-League during the 2012-13 season.
It's hard to see why Miami signed him by looking at his basic statistics—5.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game over his career—but if you dig deeper, you can start to see a semblance of what his role might be.
For his career, Williams is a "meh" three-point shooter, averaging 33 percent from beyond the stripe. However, Williams has shot better than 44 percent from the corner twice in his six NBA seasons, and more than half of his three-point attempts came from above the break those two seasons. For his career, Williams is a respectable 38 percent shooter from the corner.
Williams doesn’t show off an impressive defensive rating, but he has played with bench units and below-average defenses for most of his career. In moments, the 6-foot-9 forward offers some good defensive traits and is a strong shot-blocker, swatting 2.3 percent of shots for his career while on the floor (comparable to the 2013-14 numbers of Omer Asik and Brook Lopez).
His role figures to be a poor man's Rashard Lewis capable of hitting some three's and playing respectable defense while providing length on the court.
The Heat lost the best player in the NBA, but signed one of the only seven or eight true impact small forwards in the league.
Luol Deng is a Grade-A defender who will bring a Bulls-like intensity to the Heat rotation. He's also a versatile, if not flashy, scorer who can drain a corner three, post up, cut and drive to the basket with some consistency.
He was a much better player in Chicago than he was after being traded to Cleveland, but, back on a contending team, Deng should bounce back.
Bleacher Report NBA columnist Adam Fromal broke down Deng's situation nicely.
Chicago Deng would've been either the No. 3 or No. 4 small forward in the NBA, as well as a player with the potential to rank in the top 30. Cleveland Deng isn't even a top-10 player at his position. And here's the average, though I suspect he'll rebound rather nicely when he's fully healthy.
Deng has never used more than a quarter of his teams' possessions, per Basketball-Reference.com, and he won't be put in a precarious position of carrying a heavy load of the offense with Wade and Bosh as teammates.
A cerebral player similar to Shane Battier and hard-working like Udonis Haslem, Deng will fit right in and should have the most significant impact of the Heat's newcomers.