I. Team Needs/History
|In my Heat analysis last year, the first thing I wrote
was "This was a season full of promise for the Heat that went sour." This
statement unfortunately held true for the 1999 version of the Heat as well. Ironically,
the season began in disastrous fashion with serious injuries to two of the team's most
important offensive players, Voshon Lenard and Jamal Mashburn. Even before then, most pundits figured that the revamped Knicks would
beat out the Heat for the Atlantic crown. Teams like Boston, Washington, and New Jersey
were mentioned as squads that might finish ahead of the Heat. The Heat were never a sexy
team, and some thought that Mourning was too much of a flake to lead his team deep into
Instead, Mourning kept his composure the entire season
and led a dominant defense that held opponents to 41% shooting and 84 ppg. Aged free agent
pickups Terry Porter and Clarence Weatherspoon played crucial roles in
keeping the team together with all of the injuries. And when Lenard and Mashburn
finally made it back, they helped the Heat clinch not only their third straight Atlantic
crown, but home court advantage throughout the Eastern playoffs. Things looked good for
the Heat to make it to the finals for the first time. But then they got perhaps the worst
possible first round opponent: their arch-rivals, the Knicks. The Knicks are one of the
few teams not intimidated by Miami's defense, and as has been made clear by their
improbable playoff run, New York was a team that had just found their rhythm. It took a
buzzer-beater by Allen Houston
to defeat the Heat in five, but hindsight says that if Tim
Hardaway had had even an average playoff series, the Heat
would have won it in four. Instead, Hardaway shot an abysmal
26% and scored 8 points under his average. On the other hand,
Mourning was near- heroic in keeping the Heat alive, scoring a little above his average
under heavy pressure.
Hardaway had a good season
overall, but his overall numbers were down and he never quite recovered from a leg injury
suffered midway through the season. Furthermore, there were internal problems. Riley
wanted him to lose some weight and threatened fines if he didn't follow through. Hardaway responded by complaining to the
player's association, and eventually won. Still, there was no question that there was some
tension. After the season, Hardaway pretty much blamed himself for the Heat's loss to the Knicks and vowed to
not only play better next year, but to fall in line with Riley. He did speak of a lack of
team comaraderie that might be a concern. I think one reason why Riley prefers veterans is
that older players can handle getting fewer shots if it means that the team will win, as
opposed to soothing the egos of younger players. It's also why Riley likes using players
thought of as being washed up, because he knows they're desperate to produce and he's
willing to give them playing time.
Riley recently talked about
the team's current psyche and the lack of camaraderie that Hardaway noted. He blamed some of it on himself, saying that he was too hard on
the team at times. He realized that if he kept picking at his players, they might reach a
point where they think that nothing they do will ever be good enough for him, and just
quit. Riley has talked a lot
about healing, but just how he intends to go about doing that is still a mystery.
Which brings us to this draft. The Heat have the #25
pick, but Riley has already said
that he may have very little use for it. He is skeptical that the Heat can find anyone of
use at that position, and it's hard to disagree with him. Furthermore, the Heat are trying
to put together a deal to get a top-20 pick so that they can send it to Utah. They owe the
Jazz a top-20 pick this year (to complete the Martin Muursepp trade), or else the Jazz
will get the Heat's top pick next year, no matter what it is. The deadline for that deal
has passed, but the Jazz have indicated that they're still open to renegotiation or
changing the deal. As it stands, they will get next year's pick from the Heat.
The draft won't be the place to watch the Heat in the
offseason. Look for them to make some trades and sign a couple of free agents, in an
attempt to get the off guard they so desperately need. In general, the Heat will remain
pretty much the same. Riley
pretty much still believes in this group, but he has mentioned that he wants a greater
offseason commitment. This means that he will expect the team to work out together this
summer. We'll see how that goes.
Team Roster/Contract Status:
||Defensive POY; 1st team All-NBA; 20.1 ppg, 11 rpg, 3.9
bpg, 51% FG
||2.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg
||11.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg
||3.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg
||8.1 ppg, 5 rpg
||1.1 ppg, 7 games
||14.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.1 apg, 43% 3FG, 29 games
||7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.1 apg, 33% 3FG
||1.6 ppg, 33 games
||6.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 34% 3FG, 17 games
||3.1 ppg, 1.8 apg
||17.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 7.4 apg, 1.2 spg, 36% 3FG, 3rd team
||10.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.9 apg, 41% 3FG
The only thing you need to know is that the only first
rounders Riley has drafted are Charles "Spider" Smith and Martin Muursepp. 'Nuff said. Riley hates
rookies and has never had a high enough draft slot to do anything interesting with a pick.
Riley prefers seasoned vets and building through free agency and CBA projects. Pre-Riley,
the last big first round pick of the Heat was Kurt Thomas, whom Riley traded pretty quickly.
II. Player Overview:
Overall: Mourning really proved himself as an elite player this year, after he left so many
questions unanswered in '98. But since the team lost Ike Austin to a dumb trade, the Heat
have had nothing in reserve. PJ Brown is a solid player, but he's not big enough to deal with that much time in
the post. The Heat could use a big man with a particular skill, be it shooting,
shot-blocking, or rebounding.
It's hard to overstate just how great a season Alonzo Mourning had. He was truly persona non
grata after his meltdown in the '98 playoffs, but he redoubled his efforts and it showed.
While his offensive improvement was obvious and dramatic, what was truly remarkable is how
much better a defender he became--and he was a great one to begin with. He learned true
team defense, having his teammates funnel players into him, where he would block shots and
recover them in the tradition of Bill Russell. He carried the team through injury and underachievement by certain
players. He learned how to ignore the taunts of others that previously would have had him
retaliating physically. There were many in the league who thought he was MVP and I am
certainly one of them, which is miraculous when you look at my past evaluations of Zo.
Hopefully, he will carry this new person with him for the rest of his career. He's only
started to reach his peak, and if he continues to work on his already-improving jumper, he
could be Pat Ewing with good knees and a better work ethic.
Duane Causwell wasn't really
used much this year, partially because of Mourning's dominance. But the truth is that he's
rarely been much more than a big body. He's signed through 2002 but the Heat would gladly
move him if necessary. Most likely, he will stay on as insurance and a bench presence that
Overall: The Heat are in pretty good shape here, with the
solid PJ Brown and capable Weatherspoon as his backup. They also have
the young legs of Mark Strickland,
although he still has yet to receive much playing time. The one thing this platoon doesn't
provide is big-time scoring, but that has become less of a need with the blossoming of
Mourning's all-around game.
PJ Brown can be described
with your pick of cliches: lunch-bucket, blue- collar, workhorse, unsung hero. And they're
all apt descriptions. He knows what's expected of him and he does it, every night. Every
now and then, especially when Mourning is double-teamed, he even steps up his scoring a
bit, but his points are mostly a luxury. He's there to play D, rebound, and not complain,
and he does all three.
Clarence Weatherspoon was a
nice off-season pickup, adding some depth and experience to the frontline. He fit in well,
because he's always been a player who thrived on his toughness and effort. He never did
much offensively, but he played solid D and hit the boards hard. Always a bit of a
tweener, he's learned how to survive in the post.
Strickland is big and quick
and capable of some explosive moves. But Riley generally prefers to play his tougher
veterans. A good project player who fills out the roster and may yet develop into a real
contributor. The less said about Marty Conlon, the better. He is skilled at holding down
the bench and being the last man in, but little else at this stage of his career.
The Heat also had Terry
Mills and Blue Edwards for portions of the season, but both were released. Mills in particular
was a free-agent bust; he was really hurt by the three-point line being moved out further
Overall: It's tough to evaluate. This was the first year
that Jamal Mashburn really
showed his potential for the Heat, as he was the team's leading scorer before he went down
early in the season with an injury. Mash has long had star potential, and he may yet prove
himself. Dan Majerle was healthy
most of the year, and actually went back to his old slashing ways, but his days in the
league are growing shorter and shorter. The Heat could use some more youth and depth at
the wing, and this will be a consideration when I pick.
Jamal Mashburn had some
major offensive outbursts, and he may yet become the third superstar the Heat have needed
desperately. He's at his peak age and has become accustomed to Riley's hardass ways. He
must stay healthy and productive; his target should be at least 17 ppg, with 20 ppg not
unrealistic. Anything else will not be acceptable. Riley does consider him to be one of
the team's core players (along with Mourning, Hardaway, and Brown), so expect him to be
around for awhile unless the Heat can get a major upgrade.
Majerle continues to soldier
on despite injuries and age, and he's still effective. He went to the hoop much more often
this year, and also hit his share of outside shots. But he's streaky to say the least, and
when he's cold he really can hurt the team. Unless the Heat can unearth a great shooter
who is also athletic, Majerle might be the best they can do for a top wing sub.
Askins is the grand old man
of the team, Mr Heat. He's been with the Heat his entire career, and as long as he keeps
proving himself during the summers, he will stay around. A solid practice player who can
provide a defensive lift, plus he can hit a shot every once in a while.
Overall: The team's biggest weakness by far. Lenard is just OK and there are no real
Lenard had been an iron man
throughout most of his career, but he had a serious injury this year that kept him out of
most of the first 38 games. The Heat were forced to use Majerle at the position more extensively, as well as play Porter there. Once Lenard came back and
readjusted, he started to play well, and was one of the better performers in the playoffs.
His strengths and weaknesses are obvious: he's a pure shooter who prefers to spot up
rather than drive, but is somewhat undersized. He's perfectly competent but the Heat have
needed an upgrade for quite some time. As I've said before, Vo would make a perfect
Rex Walters was forced into
some back-up duty for 15 minutes a game this year, which was about 10 more minutes than
Riley would have preferred. He played in 33 games, or the bulk of time Lenard was out.
Most of his shots were threes, and not very many of them went in. I doubt that he'll be
around next year unless it's absolutely necessary.
Porter and Majerle both spent time here and did
reasonably well. Porter has always been an offensive force and hit 41% of his threes.
Overall: On first glance, the team's strongest overall
position. But there are potential problems lurking here, with some questions regarding Hardaway's health and relationship with
Riley, and some doubts as to whether or not Porter will come back.
Tim Hardaway is still one of
the top point guards in the NBA, but this was clearly not his best season. He was still
distributing the ball at an All-Star level, but his shooting percentage fell to a
miserable 36% from three point range. He was never quite the same after an injury even
though he didn't miss much time, but the real problem was some indefinable loss of
confidence. Part of that may have his problems with Riley over his weight, and part may
have been his sense that the team wasn't that close. Regardless, he was still the leader
of the team and it was partly his responsibility to fix such matters. From all he's said
in the postseason, it looks like he's owning up to his mistakes. We'll see how this
translates next season. Beyond any mental errors, he must stay in good shape, because at
his age (32) and with his history of injuries, he has little margin for error.
Terry Porter was a
revelation. At 36, he may have lost some of his quickness, but none of his scoring
ability. As the primary PG backup and part-time SG backup, he had all the minutes he could
handle and he really made something of them. As a seasoned veteran, he wasn't afraid to
take big shots down the stretch, and he made his share of them. He was the kind of vet
that Riley loves working with and trusts to make big plays. Rumor now has it that he will
opt out of his final year since he played so well; if I were Riley, I'd renegotiate right
away to retain this ageless wonder.
As a GM, Riley had a pretty good year. He picked up Porter and Spoon for a
song and they played big roles. Even Blue Edwards did OK on his stint with the Heat. The sting of the Brent Barry fiasco was eased with the way
these guys played.
As a coach, the results were somewhat more mixed. It was
a remarkable achievement for the Heat to win the Atlantic once again, considering their
many injury woes. Riley held the
lineup together with paperclips and glue, and it somehow worked. But it became very clear
that the Heat just freeze up in the playoffs. It's not just that their offense went south,
it's that they got shredded defensively by a team that had looked inept all season. The
Heat looked tentative and confused on defense. This all boils down to a lack of
confidence. Is Riley too harsh
on his players? Did he beat them down too much when they needed to be pumped up? It would
seem that this may be the case. Riley is well-known as a dictatorial type who squeezes the maximum effort out
of his players. But it may be that he squeezed too hard, and at the wrong time. His
players looked like they had nothing left emotionally once the playoffs hit.
Riley was the first coach to
turn the Heat into a consistent winner that went to the playoffs every year. He must now
consider what he must do to make them a consistent winner in the playoffs.
III. Draft Needs:
|The Heat still have glaring needs at off guard. They
need scorers of any kind, though. They are set at center and point guard, although they
could use a solid backup C as Causwell has rarely done much. Mashburn is adequate at SF but if they don't resign Majerle, they will need a decent sub. Lenard is only adequate at best; the Heat have long needed a superstar upgrade
at this position. Again, with the 25th pick, they are unlikely to find this. There is talk
that Terry Porter might jump ship, seeking a more lucrative contract after his solid year;
it's the player's option on his contract. If so, then taking a young PG might not be such
a bad idea, especially in a draft where good points are plentiful.
What this all boils down to is: Take a really
good wing man or guard, and if none are around, take the best player available.
IV. My Selection:
|Dion Glover, Georgia
A very risky pick, but one with
high reward potential considering it's only a #25 pick, not a lottery selection. A very
strong player who can muscle his way to the basket who is also very quick. Not a great
outside shooter but the potential is there. The big hangups are his knee injury (though
doctors have cleared him to play) and the potential that he might pull out of the draft
(though all indications are that he'll stay in). Even if he does return, the Heat would
hold his rights, and since Miami isn't in any dire need of a rookie contributor, waiting
on him for a year is no big deal. Might be a lottery pick next year. He's the
anti-Langdon: high risk, high reward. He's a good ballhandler and can definitely create
his own shot; it's hitting it that's a mystery. The best thing about him is that he brings
qualities the Heat lack, like athleticism, the ability to penetrate, the ability to create
his own shot, etc. His young age and maturity level are definite question marks,
particularly with the way he's been vascillating on his draft status. I'm not sure Riley
would pick him but I couldn't pass him up. The key word here
is potential; it's important that he react well to a coach
like Riley, someone who is as different from Bobby Cremins as I can imagine. I figure I'll
either wind up with a + rating in the post-draft evaluation or I'll be minus infinity!
V. Others Considered:
|Trajan Langdon, Duke. Initially fell out of the first round because of his slowness,
history of a knee injury, and average defense, his stock has picked up a bit with some
good workouts. If nothing else, he can help in a way the NBA desperately needs: shooting.
Langdon is a great shooter with excellent range, though he works best coming off picks,
rather than creating his own shots. Still, he'd be a nice fit for any number of highly
structured systems, and Miami's slow, grind- it-out style would suit him perfectly. He's a
lot like Lenard, though, in that he's slow and a good shooter; the Heat may not want two
of that kind of player. He also may be a little short to play SG in the NBA, but he is
extremely strong, which helps. Not a great ballhandler, but if he's only asked to shoot,
it may not matter. It was down to him or Glover as my pick, and Utah made the decision for
James, U of Miami. A solid, solid player whom I thought
might be around, but to no avail. Not a great shooter but a tough player who can score
James Posey, Xavier. This was the guy I really wanted. An incredibly athletic sleeper
who is a better offensive player than many think. He'd improve the team's quickness and
can play defense the way Riley likes. But recent hype took him out of my reach.
Kris Clack, Texas. Great athlete who can really go to the hoop, but his outside game
is weak. Glover can do everything he does and more. He'd definitely be my first choice if
Glover wasn't available, though.
I briefly thought about Kenny Thomas and Lee Nailon, but the Heat don't really need any help at PF and those guys are classic
Rico Hill, Melvin
Levett and Rodney Buford were
considered but each had some negatives. Hill was a strong candidate, but like Glover he
has injury problems. Unlike Glover, we don't know how serious they are. Levett isn't a
good enough shooter and had a tendency to disappear at times, although he's a great
defender and by far the best leaper in the draft. That fact that he's 6-3 doesn't help
matters. Buford was very strongly considered, but again came up as a Glover-type who
wasn't quite as good.
VI. What The Heat Should Do:
- Make sure Porter doesn't leave by offering to extend his contract. It's unlikely that the
Heat could do better in terms of back-up points.
- Re-sign Majerle to keep team continuity.
- Find a solid SG or SF and sign them with the 2 mil or 1
mil exception. Scott Burrell
might be a good choice, or perhaps a bomber like George
McCloud. Another intriguing player whose contract is up is Cedric Henderson, a hard working forward who
would fit in well with the Heat. It may be hard to pry them away from their original
teams, but there's a good number of decent wings that can really shore up the Heat,
especially if they don't re-sign Majerle. Mitch Richmond's contract is up, and he's often been associated with the Heat in trade
rumors, but I don't think the Heat can afford him.
I'm not in favor of radically restructuring the team, but
if the Heat can get a big-time scorer without giving up PJ Brown, I'm in favor of it. Mash
and Lenard may not be enough to trigger such a deal, though.
VII. What The Heat Will Really Do:
|I would guess that the Heat may trade the pick, although
the deadline has passed to get Utah a top 20 pick to complete an old deal. The Heat will
thus forfeit next year's pick, no matter what it is. If Riley makes a play for another
scorer, he will likely have to give up PJ Brown to make a deal. Brown is greatly desired because he's a no-frills forward
who plays hard every game, plays solid D, gets 7 or 8 boards, and throws in 10 points.
Plus, he has an affordable salary (about 4 mil a year with four years left on his
There have been a number of
interesting rumors going around about what the Heat will do. My favorite has Glen Rice going back to Miami, Brown and Lenard going to Vancouver, and
the Lakers getting the #2 pick. The Heat would then use their
2 million or 1.1 million dollar exception to sign a veteran power forward like Otis Thorpe or Charles
Oakley. (Other names mentioned on that front have included AC Green, Mark Bryant and Jermaine o'Neal.
o'Neal is intriguing because of his youth and athleticism.) It's unlikely that this will
happen, however. Another deal mentioned has the Heat picking up Ron Mercer and Tony Battie from the Celtics in exchange for Brown. While Mercer would certainly make the Heat younger and solve some of
their penetration problems, he wouldn't help much in the perimeter shooting department.
As far as free agents go, I expect Askins and Dan Majerle
will both be back. Askins will probably sign a 1-year deal. Majerle is another matter. I
imagine he'll try to get another three year deal but may have to settle for a 1-year.