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Posted: Monday October 20, 2008 9:42AM; Updated: Monday October 20, 2008 12:42PM
Chris Mannix Chris Mannix >
INSIDE THE NBA

Season preview: Miami Heat

Story Highlights

A healthy Dwyane Wade will only be able to do so much for thin Heat

The Heat have glaring holes at the point guard and center positions

Shawn Marion, who is in the last year of his deal, is a prime trade candidate

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Dwyane Wade has played only 51 games in each of the last two seasons.
Dwyane Wade has played only 51 games in each of the last two seasons.
AP
Projected 2008-09 lineup
Starters
PG Chris Quinn
SG Dwyane Wade
SF Shawn Marion
PF Udonis Haslem
C Mark Blount
Reserves
PG Marcus Banks
PF Michael Beasley
PG Mario Chalmers | Shaun Livingston
SG Daequan Cook
SF Yakhouba Diawara
SF James Jones
SF Dorell Wright
Blogger's Take
Alden Gonzalez of Crazy from the Heat offers his thoughts on the Heat's prospects for the season:

After a 15-67 season, the only place you can go is up, right? Well, the Heat will be able to do a bit more than improve on that NBA-worst record -- they can make the playoffs. In an Eastern Conference that doesn't feature a lot of dominant inside scorers, expect Miami to be a factor despite its lack of a presence in the paint.

With Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion and Michael Beasley, the Heat's offense will quickly shift from a slow, grind-it-out, dump-it-inside fashion with Shaquille O'Neal, to a more up-tempo, slash-to-the-basket, get-out-in-transition style. The glaring holes are obviously at point guard and center. But with Wade, Marion and Beasley likely making up the 2, 3 and 4 spots, respectively, the Heat won't need much out of those two positions. At point guard, the Heat need a guy who can play solid perimeter defense, steer the offense and hit open jump shots. At center, they need a big presence who can rebound and block shots. Don't discount first-year coach Erik Spoelstra using the 6-foot-8 Udonis Haslem at center at times.

SI.com will analyze each of the NBA's 30 teams as regular-season tip-off approaches. For a complete list of team-by-team breakdowns, click here. The information in the "Go figure" category below is provided by Roland Beech of 82games.com.

Heat at a glance

Last season: 15-67

Notable additions: Michael Beasley (R), James Jones (FA), Yakhouba Diawara (FA), Mario Chalmers (R), Shaun Livingston (FA)

Notable losses: Ricky Davis (signed with Clippers), Jason Williams (signed with Clippers before retiring), Alonzo Mourning (unsigned)

Coach: Erik Spoelstra (first season as NBA head coach)

Reasons for hope

1. Dwyane Wade is healthy. The Converse commercials that featured Wade "falling down seven times and getting up eight" were meant to be hyperbolic, but they weren't far from the truth. Wade's attacking style has taken a toll on his body. He played only 51 games in each of the last two seasons while battling knee and shoulder injuries. But Wade looked completely recovered in the Olympics and should be helped by some new looks in the Miami offense. Spoelstra diversified the offense during training camp and said he hopes to limit the number of "home-run sets" called specifically for Wade.

2. Michael Beasley can fill it up. Beasley, a fluid scorer with a polished inside-out game, is the most NBA-ready rookie out there -- at least at the offensive end. The Heat desperately need that production after ranking last in the league in points (91.4) and 25th in shooting (44.3 percent) last season. Like most rookies, however, Beasley has to improve defensively. "He's going to have to get with it on that side of the ball because we could use his offense," Spoelstra, who has been using Beasley off the bench in the preseason, told reporters recently.

3. Shawn Marion has a lot to play for. How many times have we seen it: When a player is in a contract year, he somehow finds a way to elevate his play. Marion has had no problem piling up gaudy statistics as a second or third banana; he did it in Phoenix for 8 seasons. But with his last significant contract looming next summer, the 30-year-old Marion will be especially motivated.

Reasons for worry

1. Who's the point guard? Will it be Chris Quinn? Rookie Mario Chalmers? Marcus Banks? What about Livingston? The Heat have a gaping hole in the backcourt and absolutely no idea how to fill it. Livingston, who hasn't played since February 2007 due to a knee injury, was signed earlier this month in hopes that he can stabilize the position once he is healthy. But until that happens, Miami is probably going to have to play Wade at the point for significant minutes or be stuck with a floor leader who would have trouble just making most teams.

2. Who's the center? Mark Blount and Joel Anthony are better served as backups and Jamaal Magloire proved last season that he was a shell of a former All-Star even before he broke his hand last week. Power forward Udonis Haslem likely will see see extended minutes at center (with Beasley alongside him at power forward), leaving the Heat vulnerable to bigger and more skilled lineups.

3. Spoelstra will need time to grow. Everyone in the Heat organization knew Spoelstra was the coach-in-waiting; in the previous two seasons, he was a dominant voice in practice and had Pat Riley's ear when it came to game strategy. But like every other rookie coach, the 37-year-old Spoelstra will experience growing pains. Spoelstra is an excellent basketball mind, and his decision to try to make the Heat a more up-tempo team is a smart one, but there will undoubtedly be bumps along the way.

Keep an eye on ...

Livingston's progress. If healthy, Livingston is far and away the most skilled playmaker on the Heat roster. But it might be wishful thinking to believe he will be a factor this season.

Go figure

The Heat last season shot a league-worst 31.4 percent in clutch time (five-point game in the last five minutes of regulation or overtime).

Bottom line

Wade, Marion and Beasley should put up big numbers, but with no help behind them, the Heat will lose early and often. If the team goes south quickly, look for Miami to try to trade Marion for either a point guard or a center who could join a Wade-Beasley-Haslem lineup.

Sports Illustrated's NBA preview issue will be on newsstands Wednesday, Oct. 22.

 
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