Updated: Oct. 27, 2006, 11:59 AM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
Bling on the Heat

Heat

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the Miami Heat finish in the Southeast Division and the Eastern Conference? Get 10 different takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST COMMENT
Greg
Anthony

ESPN.com
I'm picking them third, because they proved last year it's not about where your finish in the regular season -- this is a team built for the playoffs. With an aging Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O'Neal and Gary Payton, it's going to be all about the playoffs.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 3
Chris
Broussard

ESPN Mag
Dwyane Wade will carry them until April, putting up MVP numbers, despite his teammates' age and health concerns. And Shaq will be hungry and in top form come playoff time, leading the Heat to a second straight title.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 3
Ric
Bucher

ESPN Mag
Everything, including their disinterested demeanor, says they're primed for a tumble. But they looked awful for the better part of last season and wound up champions. Dwyane Wade, if healthy, will find a way to get this team back to the Finals.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 2
Chad
Ford

ESPN.com
Still the team to beat, but their whole season depends on Shaq and D-Wade staying healthy down the stretch. Look for them to get off to a slow start as Pat Riley tries to keep minutes down for his dynamic duo.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 2
John
Hollinger

ESPN.com
Tough to get excited when GP is the opening night point guard, but D-Wade should do enough to carry the defending champs back to the conference finals. If all goes well, Shaq will be in shape by then and Jason Williams' knee will be mended.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 2
Scoop
Jackson

ESPN.com
What D-Wade showed in the Finals cannot be carried out over 82 games. But if Pat Riley can find a way to get 18-19 points a night from Antoine Walker, the Heat'll be tougher to beat than the Detroit Tigers.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 2
Tim
Legler

ESPN.com
Dwyane Wade will be even better, but the cast around him is aging. Shaq is still a force, but his impact is limited to moments now. Still, just on pure talent and character, this is the team to beat in the East.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 3
Jim
O'Brien

ESPN.com
The reasons for their success are back and they can be just as good. Wade is awesome but it is Riley's motivational skill that will once again keep this group focused and defending at the top level.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 2
Chris
Sheridan

ESPN.com
Wade spent a long summer with Team USA and has wrist problems which probably won't get better over the grind of an 82-game season. They'll underachieve after winning the title, but they'll be feared in the playoffs.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 4
Marc
Stein
ESPN.com
You can't expect the Heat to post the East's best record because they know that, in this conference, they don't need to. But you obviously pick 'em to get back to the Finals if everyone's healthy at playoff time. Have to.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 2
 
Average ranks

DIVISION: 1 | Standings
CONFERENCE: 2.5 | Standings


The 15th Anniversary Edition Shaq
O'Neal
AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez
Shaquille O'Neal, the league's top FG shooter (60.0) who sports his usual terrible free-throw percentage (46.9), enters his 15th NBA season coming off his first non-double digit rebound average (9.2).


Lineup Breakdown

STARTERS ANALYSIS
Jason Williams
Point Guard
6-1 | 180
Back from knee surgery by November; at full tick by New Year's.
Dwyane Wade
Shooting Guard
6-4 | 212
That saddle on his back gets just a bit heavier this year.
Antoine Walker
Small Forward
6-9 | 245
62.8 percent from line. No wonder he won't attack the rack.
Udonis Haslem
Power Forward
6-8 | 235
Less Shaq means more UD. There might be just enough of him.
Shaquille O'Neal
Center
7-1 | 325
Is the end near? Had fewer than 10 rpg for first time ever.
Bench: James Posey returns as super sixth, and Zo and Michael Doleac give Shaq a blow. But who's spelling GP until J-Will comes back? Not Robert Hite.

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands October 25.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Jason Williams
Player efficiency rating
projection: 14.11
vs. NBA avg.: -0.89
Heat profiles

Scouting report: A slick ballhandler and deft passer, those skills weren't in high demand when Williams came to Miami. Fortunately, he's also a good spot-up shooter, and because the Heat didn't have him run 20 pick-and-rolls a game he didn't have as much latitude to take questionable shots. However, Williams still doesn't go to the basket enough and that's why he never gets to the line. He's a brilliant passer in transition and still occasionally breaks out the flashy J-Will of old, like his behind-the-back delivery to Alonzo Mourning for a dunk in the clinching Game 6 of the Finals.

Williams came to Miami with a reputation as a horrible defender, but he improved his effort and concentration with the Heat. Not that he was Ben Wallace or anything, but he was a bit more responsive in help situations and made a much more concerted effort to get through screens.

2006-07 outlook: Williams had knee trouble throughout the second half of the season and required surgery when it ended. The Heat will have their fingers crossed that he can make a healthy comeback, because they don't have much in the way of Plan B at the point. Considering Williams is 31 in November, it's fair to ask if he can contribute as much as he did a season ago even if healthy. Williams will miss the first month or so of the season while his knee mends, and will have to play his way into shape as the season goes on. The good news for Miami is that Williams should be in a much better position to contribute in June than he was last season, and for this team those are the games that really matter.


Face Of A Winner
Wade
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Dwyane Wade was an afterthought in last year's MVP voting. With a title under his belt, he'll need no P.R. campaign for recognition if he puts in a repeat performance.


SportsNation Speaks
Shaq's controversial plan to turn up his play come the playoffs seems to have worked. Adopting this as a regular procedure is a question SportsNation examined.

What should the Heat do?
52.6% Cruise through the regular season and turn it on in the playoffs.
47.4% Play hard all season and aim to get home-court advantage.

Vote: Heat in 2006-07



Ask A Blogger
Heat

What would it take for you to get a tattoo of the Heat logo on your chest?

This is Miami. The weather is hot and the people are hotter. A nice Miami Heat tat couldn't be bad under any circumstances. The Heat just won it all, and are setting the stage for a sequel . . . coming back for an encore with a total-cast recall.

This group of seasoned veterans has seen it all, and after wrapping up the franchise's first championship I can envision them making another run. They do that? I'll be planted in a seat at "Tattoo's by Lou" on South Beach getting "inked."

Vivek Wallace | Crazy From the Heat



Coach's Corner

PAT RILEY COACHING FILE
Experience: 23 years
Record: 1,213-609
Playoffs: 186-111
NBA titles: 5
Coach's profile

Pat Riley knows that his team of vets will find their stride sometime in the second half of the year, so he won't be sweating the small stuff through '06.

But he cannot afford to open too slowly and risk losing home-court advantage through most of the playoffs. Yet developing the raw but talented Dorell Wright seems a must for the Heat's playoff chances and their future.

And he starts the season without Jason Williams and with only Gary Payton to run the team.

David Thorpe, ESPN.com NBA analyst



Hollinger's Team Strength
Cohesiveness. Obviously having Wade and Shaq is a huge advantage, but beyond that what made Miami so tough in the postseason was that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

While much was made of the Heat's chemistry concerns coming into last season, especially as it related to offense, the bigger surprise was at the defensive end.

Players like Walker and Williams weren't regarded as quality defensive players, yet they were able to provide enough resistance that Miami overall was well above average at that end.

Some credit has go to Riley, for figuring out how to get a team of average-at-best defenders (with one or two exceptions) to play well beyond their capabilities.

Looking at Miami's lineup, especially with an out-of-shape center providing a magnet for opponents to run pick-and-rolls against and a converted power forward trying to chase scorers around the perimeter, it didn't seem plausible that they could be a top-10 defensive club. But they were, and they played even better in the postseason.

More Hollinger Heat analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Walker
Walker

Sleeper: Antoine Walker can't be as bad as he was last year, can he? Even though there's a huge dropoff from options one and two in Miami, in terms of touches, 'Toine should have a better understanding of his role and improve his scoring numbers.

Bust: If you're still calling Gary Payton "The Glove", you're also probably the same person who's still willing to hold a spot for him on your fantasy team. Don't be that person. There isn't one quality Payton possesses that makes him worth it.

Keith Lipscomb | Fantasy Hoops Index

 

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