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Heat vision beginning to take shape

The vision is beginning to take shape.

Pat Riley and Micky Arison met with Derek Fisher for three hours at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in downtown Miami on Saturday and apparently made Fisher a “compelling” offer.

Given the contract situations of Udonis and Mike, the compelling nature of the offer was more likely a vision of Fisher as the starting point guard on a team that also features among the most talented trio the game has ever produced than it was of monetary reward.

At the same time, the coup from Cleveland appears it may continue. Free agent center Zydrunas Ilgauskas is contemplating the option of rejoining LeBron James, his close friend, in Miami. It will certainly be interesting to see if the fanatics of northeastern Ohio deem the 12-year veteran center a Benedict-Arnold-like traitor, or if that title is devoted exclusively to far more talented but far less tenured former members of the organization.

More interesting are the implications the two additions could have on the Heat organization. Riley’s vision appears to change by the day, as new and unexpected possibilities avail themselves. As of now, it seems to follow along the lines of:

Starting Rotation: Derek Fisher, Dywane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Second Unit: Mario Chalmers, Raja Bell, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony.

The concept of the two units, however, is likely to be fluid. There may never actually be a moment when Dwyane, LeBron and Chris are all resting comfortably together. Perhaps the best part of having three legitimate superstars that can each dominate a basketball game in his own right is that each can take long, rejuvenating rest stops, in rotating fashion, throughout the course of a game. The concept of tearing down a body by playing forty-plus minutes per game may be a thing of the past for each of the three, vastly decreasing the potential for injury and prolonging the career.

When you consider the bench that Pat seems to be putting together, such a rotation system may even be a preferred alternative. The natural concern about such a Big Three trio is the perhaps less than complementary nature of their games. On the other hand, Bell, Miller and Haslem are all knock-down shooters that would complement the games of a superstar wonderfully – with the range of Bell and Miller stretching all the way behind the arc and that of Haslem to the top of the key extended.

The lesson we can take from the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns of yesteryear is that when you surround a playmaker or two with a gaggle of shooters, it makes it exceedingly difficult to defend and nearly impossible to double-team. It creates wide open driving lanes which, if closed, will leave Mike Miller wide open for a three point field goal attempt (where he shot 48% last season) and, if not, will produce a series of thunder-dunk highlight reels the likes of which the NBA has yet to ever see from a single team.

A fully-rested Big Three on the court together in the final minutes of any game that happens to be tight has to be a scary proposition.

The Heat figures not to be just an offensive powerhouse, but a severe match-up problem for just about every team in the league. Consider the flexibility afforded by having a Second Team All Defensive shooting guard, a First Team All Defensive small forward who has the quickness to cover opposing point and shooting guards and the frame to cover opposing power forwards, and a lanky 6’11” power forward who, despite the lack of hardware, is among the game’s best statistical rebounders, as well as a strong pick-and-roll defender who moves his feet and alters shots with his length and leaping ability.

But there are issues that need to be dealt with. This is by no means a team, even if it comes together as envisioned, without its flaws.

Ilgauskas, 35, is an aging center whose defensive capabilities are oftentimes not on par with the expectations of a Riley-run organization.

The more athletic but less  coordinated or “big” big man, Joel Anthony, figures to spell the 7’3″ center for large portions of the game, including key stretches during close ball games. But he is by no means a definitive answer. Joel has made steady progress over the past two seasons, but he still can’t catch a basketball nine inches in diameter, let alone place it inside a rim 18 inches in diameter. And while his shot-blocking prowess is absurdly good (third in the league last season in blocks per 48 minutes, at 3.96), his rebounding prowess is not (9.0 per 48 minutes, good for 71st in the league).

The script down low has yet to be fully written. None of the Heat’s current options are starter-quality, certainly not for a title contender. The Heat would be better served sliding Bosh over to center, James over to power forward, and inserting Miller into the starting rotation, in what would become a very offensive-minded unit. But that takes a collective buy-in.

The other glaring weakness of the team also figures to be at the point guard position.

Fisher would be a decent addition, as a floor general, clutch performer, strong locker room presence and overall proven winner. He is also a bull, who uses his brute force to cover bigger guards without any trouble. But he’s well past his prime, not a great shooter or distributor, and he has more trouble staying in front of quicker guards than does projected backup Mario Chalmers, who himself struggles in that role.

The team desperately needs a defensive-minded point guard option who can stay in front quicker opponents, preferably one that has the ability to space the floor with his three-point shooting capabilities.

Perhaps the answer could come in the form of 21-year-old 2009 second-round draftee Patrick Beverley.

After four years of failure, there is reason to hope in South Florida. The prospect for a healthy, fresh and fully-rested rotation that features three of the best players on this planet has us all salivating. But there remains some work to be done.

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  1. Remote Heat fan
    July 11th, 2010 at 14:56 | #1

    Albert – I had a discussion with a friend about this. He is on the benedict arnold side . . .

    I stated that by teaming these three together that they have extended their career by at least one if not two years. The demands to be the man and have to play long extended minutes is now over. That their minutes per game is going to drop by 10-20% per night.

    I see the team you are painting, I also see some very specialized role players coming in.

    I see Kwame Brown on the bench. All he has to do is play 5-10 minutes per game against Howard and we will win. He has the strength to push him out of his comfort range. He could easily have 10 mpg/2 rebounds/0 points/5 fouls and have a tremendous impact.

    It is Nelson and Rondo that concern me.

  2. javier
    July 11th, 2010 at 14:59 | #2

    Found your blog whilst trying to understand the salary cap ramifications of bringing the Three Kings to Miami, and became an instant fan of your site. Great job; looking forward to future articles.

  3. mnahmad
    July 11th, 2010 at 15:32 | #3

    Why do some teams have to pay a luxury tax? Can you spend more than the salary cap if you don’t care about paying the tax?

  4. July 11th, 2010 at 17:11 | #4

    @mnahmad
    The NBA has a salary cap which, as its name suggests, limits teams’ ability to spend beyond it.

    However, the NBA salary cap is a “soft cap.” A soft cap contains exceptions which allow teams to exceed the cap under certain conditions, primarily for a team to re-sign its own players. The basic idea is to try to promote players’ ability to stay with their current teams.

    Even though the “soft cap” allows teams to spend beyond the salary cap in certain circumstances, teams that get too far beyond it will start to approach the tax threshold. The tax threshold does not limit a team’s ability to keep spending, but it makes it more costly to do so. For every dollar a team spends beyond the tax threshold, it needs to pay an additional dollar to the league.

    The cumulative dollars of all teams that have paid the tax are tabulated, and then re-distributed to all the teams that have not crossed the tax threshold.

    The salary cap for next season is set at $58.044 million. The tax threshold is set at $70.307 million.

  5. vincent
    July 11th, 2010 at 17:27 | #5

    javier I hope to see you and other around more

    Derek is going to be a hard pull for Riley
    but if any1 can pull Fisher for LAL it’s Pat

  6. BillyRush
    July 11th, 2010 at 17:43 | #6

    Offensive system. Do you see the Heat installing an offensive system this year? There is so much talent that that may not be priority. What offensive system do you think they would install and/or should install? As much as I love to see DWade do his thing, I would love to see more of a motion offense, where any open player can get the ball and make the shot…rather than simply running isolatation play.

  7. AJ
    July 11th, 2010 at 18:30 | #7

    Im starting to think that a pg that can guard the rondos out there isn’t so critical. Raja bell can cover that guy on one end and then dw or lbj can run point on the other.

    The idea that kenny hasbrouk could make this team, let alone see any playing time is laughable.

  8. Remote Heat fan
    July 11th, 2010 at 18:50 | #8

    AJ

    Actually I see it the opposite.

    Off the top of my head, the strong PGs are:
    Rose
    Rondo
    Jameer Nelson
    Chris Paul
    Deron Williams
    John Wall(?)

    Assuming Wade is the 2 LeBron is 3, I would suspect that Wade will have to play defense against those guys. None of them are BIG in stature. So Wade just locks them down. The issue is who they have as the 2. Can our PG cover their 2. The problem lies in trying to cover the Ray Allen’s.

    But look at it in simple terms :)

    If we let Rondo get 25 points, what does Garnett get? What does O’Neal/Perkins/Davis get? What does Pierce get? What does Allen get?

    We can’t stop 100%.

  9. Remote Heat fan
    July 12th, 2010 at 00:25 | #9

    Ira is reporting that a few teams are making pitches to Haslem. He has Dallas making a 3yr 20m deal.

  10. lucas fb
    July 12th, 2010 at 03:25 | #10

    man,if joel was only 1inch(1inch and a half) taller!!!

    basicaly our problems would be even “smaller”.

    cause he s the defensive presence we need. but he should be a bit bigger to push stronger centers around.

    everybody is bringing shaq coments and forget that pitman could provide what we r expecting from shaq,with a >defense(at least in mobility and energy)

    ofcourse if pitman dont payout i know i ll be in trouble,but i think he s going to be a very positive surprise to a lot of people!!!

  11. lucas fb
    July 12th, 2010 at 03:28 | #11

    how many players or million dollars can we get with the vet.minimum?

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