No, preseason games don't count in the standings and are often dismissed as meaningless.
But that argument doesn't fly with the Heat. After an 0-7 preseason set the tone for a disastrous 15-67 campaign a year ago, the importance of this preseason couldn't have been overstated for Miami.
The addition of several new players - including rookie draft picks Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers - and the return to health of Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Shawn Marion made this past month matter perhaps more for this team than any other in the league.
Preseason grades are in for the team overall and individually.
Team grade: (C) - At a time of the season when performance outweighs results, the Heat finished 2-5 but could easily have gone 5-2. It lost two games in overtime and another by two points. Considering the Heat has as many as seven players who are either new to the roster or are in new roles, it was difficult to expect much from Miami at this stage of the season. Injuries also kept the team from progressing at the preseason rate it probably should have. After an 0-4 start, a 2-1 finish at least offered glimpses of potential and improvement heading into Wednesday's opener at New York.
Joel Anthony: (C-) - Team members have raved about the improvements Anthony made over the summer with the Canadian National Team and the big plays he makes in practice. But he has yet to consistently carry it over into the live games. Shot-blocking and finishing pick-and-rolls at the rim are considered Anthony's gifts. He did lead the team with 10 blocks despite playing just 13 minutes a game.
Marcus Banks: (B-) Banks was clearly the most consistent point guard from start to finish in the preseason. When given extended the playing time, he proved he could be a steady shooter (.479 FG%/.409 3pt.%), a solid defender (11 steals) and a player who could get into the lane. But his decision-making (19-15 assist-TO) at times left plenty to be desired.
Michael Beasley: (B+) - Toughness, skill, confidence, swagger. Beasley showed it all in averaging 16.4 points and 6.0 rebounds. The offense is there, although when the ball goes in to Beasley, it rarely got kicked back out (team-high 93 FGAs vs. 10 assists). The defense remains in question. But when was the last time a rookie came into the league and perfected team defensive concepts? He not only handled the initial pressure of being the No. 2 pick, he basked in it.
Mark Blount: (D) - Had every opportunity to step up and fill the team's biggest void at center, but just didn't get it done. The seven-footer had just one rebound in three consecutive preseason games. He didn't even play in the finale at San Antonio. Blount has a nice mid-range jumper, but the last thing this vertically challenged team needs is for its tallest player to be floating around the perimeter spotting up.
Mario Chalmers: (B) - All you want from a rookie is progress from day to day. After a rocky start, Chalmers finished strong. He had nine assists in a win against Memphis and 10 against San Antonio. His shooting is a bonus. But Chalmers will continue to drive coach Erik Spoelstra insane if he doesn't stop gambling and freelancing on defense. Chauncey Billups, Devin Harris, Mike Conley, Chris Paul and Tony Parker provided a great league orientation for Chalmers.
Daequan Cook: (D+) You have to like his confidence. Because even when his shot wasn't falling - which was most of the month - he kept shooting and believing the next one would go down. The slump did affect other parts of his game. He had more turnovers (8) than assists (7). Cook shook out of an 11 of 38 shooting slump to hit 6 of 12 shots, including 4 of 6 from deep against the Spurs. But was it enough to keep the door to the rotation slightly cracked?
Yakhouba Diawara: (C) - Coaches continue to talk up Diawara's "defensive disposition" and ability to lock in on the opponents best offensive player. But aside from a couple of decent outings during the Europe trip, Diawara has yet to have that clear breakout performance on either end of the court. Diawara seemed like a rotation lock a couple of weeks ago. But with Dorell Wright back from knee surgery, Diawara might be relegated to spot-duty specialist.
Udonis Haslem: (A) - Despite playing out of position at center and on a banged-up foot, Haslem has risen to the challenge yet again of providing whatever dirty work the team needs. He has produced two double-doubles and has scored 14 or more points three times since he moved full-time to center. He's averaged 11.2 points and 8.8 boards. You have to wonder how long Haslem can hold up while giving up three inches and 40 pounds a night.
James Jones: (I) - Incomplete. The Heat's $4 mill-a-year mid-level investment is out for two more months to recover from wrist surgery.
Shaun Livingston: (B) - Simply give him credit for making it back after 20 months of recovery from that devastating knee injury he sustained with the Clippers in Feb. 2007. Livingston still drags the leg some as expected and lacks the explosion he once had. But he's shown glimpses of play-making ability that will only become more routine the more he plays. He averaged 6.5 points and 2.5 assists in two games.
Jamaal Magloire: (I) - Incomplete. Another of the Heat's hard-luck free agent pickups who was injured before he could be indoctrinated into the lineup. Magloire is out until Nov./Dec. with a broken bone in his hand he sustained in the second preseason game.
Shawn Marion: (C+) - Marion is still finding his way in an offense that will increasingly be catered to the abilities of Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley. But earning his production through relentless energy and effort is nothing new to Marion, who has made a career out of stuffing the stat sheet. Still either the Heat must find ways to get Marion more involved or Marion must alter his game to take advantage of the different perimeter looks he'll get this season.
David Padgett: (P) - As in present. The undrafted rookie center out of Louisville is still here - for now. That probably won't be the case when attendance is taken Monday evening after the NBA's roster cut-down deadline. Padgett never really got an opportunity to do much in Miami. He's a smart, skilled player. But he's played sparingly in just three games and lacks the defensive presence the Heat needs inside to justify keeping him around at the expense of a veteran.
Chris Quinn: (C+) - Steady. Rock Solid. Runs the offense well. Erik Spoelstra repeatedly uses those terms to describe Chris Quinn's impact on the team. An ankle injury kept him out for two games and he has barely played since. But Spoelstra insists not to read too much into the limited playing time. Spo says Quinn's shooting, knowledge of the offense and mistake-free play have secured his role.
Jason Richards: (I) - Undrafted rookie guard is out of the season after knee surgery, and could be released - with a full season's pay - by Monday's cut-down deadline.
Dwyane Wade: (A) - Carried his explosive play from the Olympics right into the preseason and has averaged 19.2 points, 5.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds in six preseason games. He took the night off on Friday in the preseason finale at San Antonio to rest his surgically repaired knee. But Wade said it was just a precautionary measure to give him some time off. Wade certainly looks up to the challenge of carrying this team through the first part of the season until the rookies and new players get going.
Dorell Wright: (B-) - Like Livingston, Wright made it back to play in the last two preseason games after recovering from knee surgery. Wright is still slowed some by soreness in his Achilles tendon, but he looks ready to close the gap on Diawara in what will be a battle to be Marion's backup. He has to show he's ready to respond to the physical challenge of playing games on consecutive nights.