By Ben Standig and Brian Jackson
Best offseason move: How about the team owner not blasting LeBron James for bolting in a comic sans-fonted email? Not sure why the four-time MVP received such a pass for essentially doing to the Heat what he did to the Cavaliers four years prior, but oh well. Now, as for the team, let's go with the decision to stay in the mix for the upcoming season rather than punting. Handing Chris Bosh a max contract is debatable, but keeping him sent a message that Miami remains a player in the East. Luol Deng provides the possibility of a low-wattage Big 3.
Key player: Dwyane Wade, the spotlight is yours again. If the former NBA Finals MVP can return to such starry levels -- meaning his balky knees hold up - then Miami has a legitimate claim as a top team in the conference. However, if Wade misses 20 or more games, if he can't play heavy minutes or if he can't dominated at an All-Star level, then the Heat are no better than a middle-of-the-pack playoff team,
Storyline to watch entering training camp: Beyond the obvious change post-LeBron, beyond how all the new pieces fit, let's go with the point guard situation. With James essentially running the offense, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole were tasked with little more than filling in the gaps. Now the tandem along with first-round pick Shabazz Napier must take on a larger role. Can they do so effectively is the question.
Best offseason move: After losing LeBron James to Cleveland, Miami opted for a reload rather than a rebuild. There is no replacing James but signing Luol Deng to a two-year $20 million is a decent start.
Pat Riley: “Signing Luol Deng is one of the most important free agent signings that we have ever had in the history of the franchise."— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) July 15, 2014
This was a solid move for the Heat even if Pat Riley oversold it. At 6’9” Deng is a terrific defender and underrated offensively.
Key player: Give Chris Bosh credit for taking on lesser role to fit in with the “Big 3.” But after inking a 5-year, $118 million deal this summer Miami will ask him to improve on his 16.2 points per game average from last season. It’s easy to forget that Bosh was the primary scorer in Toronto where he averaged nearly 23 points in his final five seasons with the Raptors. You can bet come next season we won’t see Bosh hanging in the corners waiting for kick-out three-point attempts.
Storyline to watch entering training camp: What are the realistic expectations for the Heat? If Dwyane Wade is healthy Miami should compete for a top four seed in the Eastern Conference. If not, look for the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, or Atlanta Hawks to fill out the East standings following the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers.