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Depth or Despair?

Even in an improved Eastern Conference, it's safe to say the Miami Heat - even in its current form - should stack up pretty well in pre-game introductions. O'Neal-Chalmers

The Heat certainly has a top-four starting five in the East.

That's if Mario Chalmers (right) makes the kind of progress Rajon Rondo did in Boston between his first and second seasons as a starter.

That's if Dwyane Wade continues to be the typical Dwyane Wade. He doesn't exactly have to put up another career year across the board, but he does have to stay relatively healthy.

That's if Michael Beasley gets starters minutes or, perhaps, even starts at small forward and shows the type of improvement we've only been able to hear about from those offseason workouts.

That's if Udonis Haslem remains two things: Here and his usual rugged, defensive-minded self. 

And that's if Jermaine O'Neal can somehow fight off the injury bug and re-establish himself as one of the top three centers in the East - even as he's paid as the top center in the league.

If you're a Heat fan, you should like your chances with a Chalmers, Wade, Beasley, Haslem and O'Neal starting five. But the question you then ask yourselves essentially represents the biggest dilemma facing the Heat this coming season after you get past the opening act.

Then what?

Where does this team go from here?

The critical issue facing the Heat as training camp looms in a handful of weeks isn't whether or not Chalmers or Beasley will improve on last season's promising rookie campaigns. They should.

It's not wondering if Wade can deal with the distractions and lure of his pending free agency next summer and produce another dose of "anything-my-team-needs-from-me-to-win" antics. He probably will.

And it's not about whether O'Neal will live up to the $23 million he'll make in the final season of his contract. Because he won't. It's unrealistic at this point. But he needs to give the Heat at least as much alongside Wade as Shaq provides LeBron James in Cleveland.

So in essence, this team will only go as far as the rest of the roster can push it. Chalmers, Wade, Beasley, Haslem and O'Neal can keep you pretty much even with Cleveland.

But can you win in moments when you have to rely on Chris Quinn?

James Jones How many points can you book when Wade sits and in comes Daequan Cook?

Can James Jones (left) deliver in spots when he's not left alone?

Would it be a tough night if your next best reserve defensive forward is Dorell Wright?

Heck, what's in store if you need extended minutes from Joel Anthony or Jamaal Magloire?

For all of the debate about Beasley's role - or lack thereof at times - last season, the standard reason for bringing him off the bench was to infuse the second unit with some form of life and spark. If he moves to the starting lineup - it opens up a huge void for the Heat.

This is where a Tinsley might be useful, an Iverson helpful or even a Flip (below right) serviceable. Otherwise, this team - as it currently stands - can only do so much, get so far, with what it has in reserves.

Meanwhile, Orlando can turn to Mickael Pietrus. Atlanta has the option of Jamal Crawford or Marvin Flip Murray Williams. Charlotte can summon Raja Bell, D.J. Augustin or Boris Diaw, depending on who doesn't start. Washington acquired Mike Miller and Randy Foye as reinforcements.

And that's just in the Southeast Division.

Heat president Pat Riley took his longshot at a major pickup in free agency this offseason, and it didn't work out. But a minor move or two will be needed for this team to realistically compete in the East.

Otherwise, Chalmers, Wade, Beasley, Haslem and O'Neal will only spin their wheels this season if the team doesn't make a deal to fortify the bench.

(For live news, notes and updates on the Heat, follow me on Twitter @ twitter.com/wallacesports. To post a question or join our live Heat chat each Thursday from 1-2 p.m., click here.)

Comments

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if toronto makes the playoss will miami have 2 first round picks and 2 secound round picks next year?

I like the Heat but I feel they do not have anyone to help Wade to really compete in the East. This is just too many what ifs and hopes about current players. I know I am just a fan but did not like how Odom did the Heat but you can not blame him he wants Championships. I do not understand what happen with Boozer and now we look like a team with a bunch of overpaid, tired, hurt, overrated guys except Wade and Haslem. I am hoping the young guys can improve quickly, but I think this season we will be doomed. As much as I like the Heat I do not think they will be able to make much noise in the East. I will still cheer them on but I hope that I am wrong. GO HEAT!!!

The Heat suck, thanks Riley.

I just have a good feeling about this year for a few reasons. 1- Beasley will get heavy minutes and prove he is a great #2 option. 2-Cook and Chalmers will both make decent strides in their improvement and contribute. 3- JO, JJ, Wright and Magloire will all have a full offseason healthy and will start the year healthy and ready to go. 4- Wade led us to 43 wins and the 5th seed by himself last year and if he gets any help expect the wins and the seeding to look better. That may be wishful thinking and an optimistic outlook but what team in the East is perfect and has nothing to worry about. The Celtics need Garnett back healthy, the Cavs 2nd best player was a dud in the playoffs and they added a 38 year old Shaq to guard the most athletic center ever, the Magic lost three of their starters from their playoff run last year, the Hawks need Horford and Williams to improve as well as needing Bibby not to age and lose a step, the Bulls need Salmons to replace Gordon and Deng to stay healthy and Rose to improve, the Raptors need Hedo to remain productive and Bosh to remain commited, Washington needs Arenas healthy and the Pistons have a whole new squad compared to their conference finals runs. The Heat are only missing a back up point guard. I'd go with AI if he wants to be a back up, if not then Flip Murray and Tinsley are my 2nd and 3rd options in that order.

Thats what i thought last year until
Beasley did a continued sit down on the
pine even after putting up great #s.They
are talking about using him more but lets
see what happens when he does what even
the veterans do frequently(make a mistake
on defense).He is still young and the trAck
record isn't good with this organization
since Stan left.D Wright can testify.

Beasley and O'Neal are holes on defense. In defensive situations, Diawara and Magloire (or Anthony) are much better at guarding on the ball, and team defense. But hey, that's only 50% of the game, let's just focus on the stats that ESPN will throw at us. No, not shots per minutes played or shots per touches, just PPG and playing sagging defense to catch rebounds that bounce uor way. Wallace was almost right with his top '4' suggestion, I'm just not ready to add ONeal to the group of Wade, Haslem, and Chalmers. Just like Beasley, he has to prove it this year. Not just statistically, but heart and soul.

With the bench players that we have, I really do not think we are even the sixth best team in the East. There are just too many holes to fill with this team. It will be a long and dissapointing season ( I hope I am wrong ). All we are doing by doing nothing is pushing Wade out the door at the end of this season. With Riley's plan to get ready for next season, all it says is that we will have a lot of money to spend. But the star players we are targeting may not even want to play for the Miami Heat.

The heat must add some depth by the trading-deadline or the heat will not compete in the east, even worse D-Wade will depart.And I wont blame him, how could he commit to a team that won't commit to him.Pat Riley has been enamoured with 2010 believing that he will be able to lure 2 top free agents.I think he better worry about just 1... that being D-Wade.We could all be optimistic in this blog, but lets face the truth Miami fans are by far the worse.Do you think one of the best players in the world wants to play in front of a couple hundred fans every night.Because we all know thats exactly what will happen as soon as the Heat lose a couple games to Orlando,Cleveland,Atlanta, & Boston!As a season ticket holder I have witnessed this the last two seasons.

Michael, in this article you say the Heat has a top-four starting-five... You mention such is the case if "That's if Michael Beasley gets starters minutes or, perhaps, even starts at small forward and shows the type of improvement we've only been able to hear about from those offseason workouts."

Well my response to that is this, Beasley most certainly has the skills to play SF, we all know what he can do on the offensive end. What we need to see is he realizes that their is whole other aspect to this game called "defense" that is very important as well. Beasley's defense was non-existent to say the very least. Yeah, he got some boards and a block here and there but thats it.

Offensively he can play SF but not defensively. All he is, is a PF, and we already have a quality PF in Udonis Haslem. And, with Beasley at SF being a liability to this team defensively, he should not start... James Jones is the better defender along with Jamario Moon. Those two should be the top two getting considertation to start at that position. I am all for giving Beasley minutes, IF he earns it, not just because he is Michael Beasley the second pick in the draft. Give him starter minutes, if he has earned it and actually doing something good for you out there not if he is doing things to hurt the team as was the case last season. His shot selection was HORRIFIC, opting for jump shots when he couldnt even make a lay up.

Re-heat: "...how could he commit to a team that won't commit to him."

The Heat team is committed to him, willing to sign him to a max contract. Heck, he could re-up today and sign a new contract that would keep him a Heat player for life. I'm sure everyone in the Heat organization wants him to be here. How are they NOT committed to D-Wade? Instead of making the mistake of adding or subtracting players this year, just to make headlines, the Heat have stuck with their plan of keeping space open for 2010 to HELP D-Wade and the Heat win more ball games. Sounds like a committment to me.

BeasleyisaBustbutGoHeat! I see you can also get past the infatuation with B-Easy. It seems we are in the minority on this one. B-Easy had better pack his lunch if he thinks he is going to take Haslem's minutes. He's a typical young 'entitlement' player, without having drive to earn it. I hope that changes soon!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this has to be THE MOST BORING HEAT OFFSEASON EVER. We have made no moves, lost Moon and Head. No summer league. We only got 2nd rounders out of the draft. Wade didn't resign. No assurance Beasley is starting. We still don't know who will start at SF. Our superb master plan is "wait till next year".


POLL: JUDGE THE MIAMI HEAT
How would you grade the Miami Heat's offseason and future plans so far? Great Job, Mediocre or Failure?
http://www.micropoll.com/akira/mpview/601588-189436

Results so far: 59% Failure, 26% Mediocre, 15% Great Job

"Chalmers, Wade, Beasley, Haslem and O'Neal can keep you pretty much even with Cleveland."

REEAAALLLLYYY?

"The Heat CERTAINLY has a top-four starting five in the East."

Really?

gotta say Michael is a true heat fan!

I believe the Celtics are again the team to beat in the east. And position for position, we wouldn't do well on paper.

Other than SF, I think the Heat, by position, don't need to feel inferior to the Cavs.

But, let's remember: there are usually 7-8 guys who determine the outcome of NBA games, and sometimes the quality of a team is more than the some of it's parts.

Orlando made a lot of moves this summer, but I don't think they are better than last year. Glad we aren't making trades just to be in the news.

Mandated government run health insurance (not care) is an inside job.

"Offensively he can play SF but not defensively. All he is, is a PF, and we already have a quality PF in Udonis Haslem. And, with Beasley at SF being a liability to this team defensively, he should not start... James Jones is the better defender along with Jamario Moon. Those two should be the top two getting considertation to start at that position."

anyone else catch that this guy still thinks Moon is on the team?

Mandated government run health insurance (not care) is an inside job.

Damn right about that. Actually, its so obvious at this point it doesn't even seem like they covered it up good enough.

Finally, a move.

Mark Blount to Minnesota for Quentin Richardson. Richardson also has a year left on his contract and he can contribute at the 2 and 3.

The move for QRich solidifies the SF position with J. Jones, Diawara, and DWright (if he can finally get on the court) in the rotation. My only question is, what now with Beasley? I bet he gets the same minutes he got last season, around a half (25 minutes) per game because of this coaching staffs defensive mentality. I hope they realize that BEasy has too much offensive talent to just play one half...Please Spo wake up!!!!

dudes orlandos gonna be beast this year howard's working on his game there gonna have jameer nelson healthy again and they added depth with vince,bass,anderson,and barnes they are loaded in every position and for me they only lost to key guys lee and turk but they make up for it with vince alone
plus the heat have holes in there bench i think they will be 6th or 7th seed in the east

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