SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
|Marc Stein ESPN.com
||He has to coach in Riley's shadow. He also has to coach the league's most combustible collection of talent. Stan Van Gundy has the toughest job in the business.|
|Chris Sheridan ESPN Insider
||This is Dwyane Wade's team, and any moves that take the ball out of the hands of Wade or Shaq must be viewed suspiciously. That's why there's some skepticism here over the trade for Jason Williams and Antoine Walker, although the addition of James Posey fills a need for a defensive stopper.|
|Will Perdue ESPN Insider
||I hope Stan Van Gundy took chemistry in school. He needs to figure out how to make all these parts work together. Individually, no team has better talent.|
|Jim O'Brien ESPN Insider
||Shaq and Dwyane Wade are surrounded with more depth. You know how deep they are if they are thinking about bringing Antoine Walker off the bench. Shaq's minutes must be managed to insure he is healthy at playoff time.|
|Eric Neel ESPN
|Shaq says he'll keep everyone in line, but my guess is everyone continues to follow where Wade leads them.|
|Tim Legler ESPN Insider
See Item 7 for Legler's analysis of the Miami Heat.
|Scoop Jackson ESPN
|Too much movement in the offseason may come back on them, but Shaq's 'bout to straight get his MVP.|
|John Hollinger ESPN Insider
||On paper, a devastating offensive team. In the preseason, a horrendous one. With all that talent, one hopes they'll work out the kinks eventually.|
|Chad Ford ESPN Insider
||As loaded as any team in the league. Just not sure that's a good thing considering the ball should be in Shaq or Dwyane Wade's hands 90 percent of the time. And the Heat will suffer on the defensive end.|
|John Carroll Scouts Inc.
||Most NBA fans are watching how Antoine Walker, Jason Williams and Gary Payton will mesh with this team. If they do they will be in the Finals this year. If not, Stan Van Gundy will have some sleepless nights.|
|Ric Bucher ESPN Mag
||Antoine Walker is already saying what his role needs to be and Shaq already publicly disagrees with Stan Van Gundy's approach to the season. Yeah, this is working out just grrrrrrreatttt.|
|Chris Broussard ESPN Insider
||No one can beat them but themselves.|
|Starters: Shaq makes life easier for all.|
|Unselfish bruiser is a perfect sidekick to Shaq.||
|Unselfish slasher has to replace Eddie Jones.||
|Unmatched. (Yeah, still.)||
|If he'd been healthy, Heat might now be defending champs.||
|Points and minutes have decreased three straight seasons.||
|Bench: Zo, GP, Michael Doleac, Toine, Shandon Anderson and rookie Wayne Simien. Now that's quality off the bench.||
ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands Oct. 26.
Player Efficiency Rating
vs. NBA Avg.: +0.33
Alonzo Mourning simultaneously has become one of the most admired and most detested players in the league. On one hand, his determination in returning to the game after a kidney transplant and his setback in 2003-04 is an inspiration, and few players play harder when they're on the court. On the other hand, he whined his way out of New Jersey even though his contract was the main thing holding the Nets back from contending and the celebratory fist pumping every time he makes a positive play has become a tired act.
Regardless of one's opinion of his antics, Mourning was a huge help to Miami when he joined them late in the season. He was a major upgrade over Doleac as the Heat's backup center and his presence allowed Miami to rest Shaq more liberally in the opening rounds of the playoffs. Mourning also returned to his shot-blocking self in Miami, rejecting nearly a shot every eight minutes in his regular-season and playoff games with the Heat.
To understand how impressive that is, consider that it's a rate of 5.2 blocks per 40 minutes, and the league's leading shot blocker, Utah's Andrei Kirilenko, averaged only 4.0. It was the highest shot-blocking rate of Mourning's career, by far, and if he keeps it up, he'd be able to lead the league in blocks while playing 25 minutes a game.
Offensively, however, Mourning is a shadow of his former self. He still can finish around the basket and is a threat on the offensive glass, but he gets called for traveling once a game and a flat jump-hook shot is his main offensive weapon.
But as long as his health allows, Mourning should be one of the league's best backup centers. He's already signed for next season at a bargain rate, so it's just a question of getting cleared by his doctor to play. Now if they can just talk to him about that fist pumping
We asked SportsNation:
Will Riley dump Van Gundy this season?
58.2% Only if the Heat struggle
25.0% No, it's just a conspiracy theory
16.8% Yes, the writing's on the wall
Legs on Heat: So, Pat Riley, your team just won 58 games and came within a game of getting to the NBA Finals. What are you gonna do next? DisneyWorld?
Stick with what got you there?
Completely rebuild everything that goes around Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade?
You got it!
From a talent standpoint, adding Antoine Walker, Jason Williams and James Posey makes a lot of sense, but I'm a little concerned about the chemistry and acceptance-of-roles standpoint. It will take time to figure it out, and there is no doubt about that.
But I'm convinced that they will do just that and make that trip to the NBA Finals that was put off a year by injuries to the Diesel and D-Wade in last season's playoffs.
For good measure, the Heat also added veteran point guard Gary Payton as added security for a deep playoff run. The recipe Riley has concocted for Stan Van Gundy should lead to the Finals.
Tim Legler, ESPN Insider
Stan Van Gundy
Experience: 2 years
Reg. season record: 101-63
Playoff record: 17-11
Stan Van Gundy's Heat would have gone to the NBA Finals last year if they would have stayed healthy.
Shaquille O'Neal and Dwayne Wade are surrounded with more depth this year. Shaq and Van Gundy both understand the necessity of chemistry.
The coaching staff will have to decide how not to overuse the big guy in the regular season.
Jim O'Brien, ESPN.com Insider
Miami was a highly efficient offensive team a year ago, and part of the reason was because the secondary players were so accurate from the field. Damon Jones and Eddie Jones combined for nearly five 3-pointers a game at a 40 percent clip, and the threat of their long-range shooting opened more room in the middle for Shaq's power game and D-Wade's drives.
The question for Miami this year is whether they can space the floor as well, because none of the new guys are accomplished outside shooters. Antoine Walker has shot .326 on 3s for his career, Jason Williams .315, James Posey .329 and Gary Payton .321. Both Walker and Williams shoot an alarming number of 3s despite their shaky accuracy.
One might think those shooting percentages would go up a bit in Miami because Shaq will get them so many open looks, but don't hold your breath. Payton shot .333 on 3s in his last tour with Shaq, while Walker shot a measly .269 three years ago in Dallas despite playing on the best offensive team in the past 35 years.
If the four new players are going to make up for the loss of the two Joneses' shooting, then they'll have to do it in other ways -- getting transition points, making passes and cutting to the rim for layups when Shaq is doubled.
Sleeper: Udonis Haslem shouldn't be too worried about all the big-name acquisitions around him. After averaging 9 rebounds and shooting 54 percent from the field, Haslem was a fantasy find. Haslem will again start and be asked to hit the boards and put back misses. With Antoine Walker and Jason Williams around, there will be misses.
Bust: Jason Williams can be a magical passer, but what he can't do is pile on the assists if he doesn't have the ball. The Heat also have to find time for Gary Payton, while Dwyane Wade and Antoine Walker are used to handling the ball as well. Williams should cut down his turnovers and shoot well, but his overall numbers will suffer.
Eric Karabell | Fantasy Basketball Index