- NBA Rank: 19
Conference Rank: 6
- Miami Heat
Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.William Arthur Ward
Lebron has taken his talents back to Cleveland. There is absolutely no way that this is not the headline for the Heat heading into this upcoming season. Lebron is quite simply the best all around player in the NBA, particularly if one considers durability, which quickly discounts Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. He's an all-time top 30 player in his prime and the history of what happens to teams that lose transcendent superstars like him is generally a cautionary tale.
The Heat, however, can point to a particular example and hope. In 1993, for some reason that I won't speculate on (what are the odds?) , Michael Jordan decided to go play baseball and retire. The Bulls were able to overcome losing the best player of his generation in his prime thru a combination of great coaching (Phil Jackson) , savvy acquisitions (Kukoc and Kerr) and just happening to have another two all time greats on their roster in their primes (Pippen and Grant) and only lose 2 wins from their regular season record. Can the Heat replicate this success? I'm thinking Pat Riley hopes so.
The central problem for the Heat can be summarized succinctly in looking at who they were last season using our new metric.
Lebron was the clear dominant force on the Heat. This is of course what you'd expect from an all time great in his prime. Dwayne Wade, even though by my numbers he had his worse season since 2008, was still 95th percentile overall, above average at everything but handling the ball, and easily a top five shooting guard. It is on him that the majority of the Heat's hopes will rest. Bosh was more problematic. He was below average overall (42nd percentile) and in fact last year was his worst since 2005. The Heat really need him to get back to his 2006 to 2011 form. This is not something that historically happens with big men in their 11th year, especially after three years of steady decline.
|LeBron James ||2902.0||29||.327||19.7|
|Ray Allen ||1936.0||39||.130||5.2|
|James Jones ||236.0||33||.207||1.0|
|Joel Anthony ||37.0||31||-.006||0|
Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.
It's really hard to look at this data and not see the giant hole left behind by the return of the King to Ohio.
|Luol Deng ||3.0||2330.4||30||.086||4.2|
|Josh McRoberts ||4.0||1802.8||28||.105||4.0|
|Danny Granger ||2.0||1142.9||32||.053||1.3|
|Shawne Williams ||3.0||1055.3||29||.035||.8|
|Shannon Brown ||2.0||696.3||29||.054||.8|
|Shabazz Napier ||1.0||409.4||0||.100||.9|
|Khem Birch ||4.0||309.8||0||.111||.7|
|Tyler Johnson ||2.0||282.8||0||.100||.6|
|Andre Dawkins ||2.0||282.1||0||.032||.2|
|James Ennis ||2.5||280.6||0||.064||.4|
Indicates that the player is new to the team.
Perhaps no player has more at stake from a historical legacy perspective this year than Dwyane Wade. If he can summon the will and find that extra gear that made him a superstar earlier in his career, he can carry this team to a fifty plus win season and a deep playoff run. By doing that, he can put himself in the public conversation as the true successor to Jordan.
He needs some help though. The baseline for this Heat season is 39 wins and it's rightly earned. I figure a throwback Wade year gets this team in the 45 win range. Bosh as mentioned is in the middle of a classic big man decline. Newcomer Luol Deng has been fantastic before but is also in the middle of a late career decline and had his worse year ever last year. Our draft model loved Napier and Birch but we don't know if they get on the court. McRoberts was great last year but he's already banged up.
There are a lot of ifs on this team.
The basketball fan in me wants the Heat to follow the path laid out by 1993-94 Bulls. It's a better story and it'll make for an overall better season in the East. The pragmatic analyst and number cruncher looks at all this risk and sees a likely fall in the Heat's future.
I suspect hovering around five hundred is the most likely outcome.