Next Season’s “Celtics”: The Miami Heat

 Dwayne Wade might not be able to get into Sir Charles’ five, but the round mound of rebound and his current corpulent cuerpo could probably have fit into the Heat’s sad starting five before the arrival of The Matrix.

I know it might seem crazy to predict something as absurd as the title of this post given Miami’s 9-41 record, but the whole point was to get you to read it so, um, whatever.

Anyways, the Heat are terrible right now.  They’ve dealt with innumerable injuries, both to role players and the heart and soul of their team.  Players have aged rapidly and underperformed.  They lost some glue guys from past seasons.  Time had run out on the Heat, who were destined to rebuild for the next few years.

The arrival of Shawn Marion and the exodus of South Florida’s most famous cop has changed all that.

The champions, twice removed, now feature two ultra-athletic, all-around studs at the 2 and the 4, a quality young player at the 3 in Dorell Wright (I know he doesn’t make waves but he’s coming around, is still only 22, and his production has spiked of late), and Udonis Haslem, Daequan Cook, Marcus Banks and Mark Blount to fill out their bench next year if they all remain on the roster.

Additionally, now that the lumbering Shaq and his cap-killing contract have morphed into a 29-year-old All-Star and a decent back-up point guard, the team has a chance at filling the two remaining holes in its roster, starting point guard and center, much more easily.

Despite contract extensions kicking in and a cap number for a lottery pick next season, Miami figures to be within a few million dollars of the cap in 2009 thanks to more than $20 million in expiring contracts, as opposed to nearly $20 million over this year’s number.  Because of this increased flexibility, and the likelihood of a top five pick, the Heat will have the ability to quickly re-enter the East’s elite (no, that’s not meant to be a joke, and with the return of Gilbert Arenas to the Wiz and revivals in Miami and Chicago, the East might even find itself boasting 8 or 9 teams over .500 next season). 

Ideally the Heat would play Dwayne Wade for another twenty or so games in order to build some chemistry with his new running-mate before shutting the pretty boy down and finally allowing their franchise pillar to patch his crumbling columns–which in turn would cause the team to finish with one of the three or four worst records in the NBA.  If Miami could then end up in the top two, it would then most likely garner the right to select either Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose.  Rose would be a better fit for this team right away at the point, but Beasley should end up being the better player long-term.  Even a lower pick would be a great bargaining chip for Pat Riley to leverage into a nice piece or two to round out the roster.  A point guard who can shoot from range and take some of the playmaking pressure off of Shaq’s latest former best friend and a defensive-minded, athletic finisher of a center should be Riley’s main targets.

Miami finds itself expecting to hold a whopping 4 second-round draft picks in the coming draft, many of which will be in the top of the round.  The Heat own their own pick, Philadelphia’s, Indiana’s, and Orlando’s.  Unfortunately Miami must send a first-round pick to Minnesota by 2011, but given its lottery protection status this year, the Timberwolves will most likely receive this pick in 2009 when it’s only top-10 protected.

Given all this information, the Heat should focus on trading up and using its spare second-rounders to acquire veterans and talented youngsters to fill out its roster, as well as look to pick up future assets.  As such, Riley’s bench should be filled to the brim next season with valuable and intriguing players, as opposed to this year’s crop of talentless scrubs and vets hanging on for their last ride on the pine. 

Consequently, if Miami can show a slightly more deft touch than the recently departed Antione Walker in using its assets to fill one or both of its major needs–point guard and center–we could be looking at another Eastern Rennaisance.

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