The 2013-14 Miami Heat roster appears set, at least for the chunk of players who will play meaningful minutes.
The Heat swapped out one of the league’s gimpier players with the gimpiest one of all when they subtracted Mike Miller and added Greg Oden. The main core of the last two title teams is still intact, but the individual players still have room for improvement.
Here’s what each member of the two-time defending champions should focus on for next season.
Improvement: Free-Throw Shooting
It’s not like LeBron is a poor free-throw shooter, connecting on 75 percent last season (about the league average). It’s more that great shooting at the charity stripe is the only thing keeping LeBron from being a full-blown basketball cyborg. Weakness is a part of humanity, but not a part of LeBron James. Expect over 80 percent next season.
Improvement: Mid-Range Bank Shot
Remember that efficient bank shot Wade utilized in the 2006 NBA Finals? Remember consistently seeing it the last few seasons? I don’t. I’m not sure if Shaq told him it wasn’t cool to go glass, but Wade needs to reutilize this weapon because it will prolong his career.
Bosh needs to hit the weights and hit them hard. Too often the ball gets knocked out of his hands. He needs to improve his hand strength, which will help him in two key areas: rebounding and ball-handling. Shed that soft label once and for all.
Improvement: Decision Making
Mario’s style has always been like an EKG machine, electric ups and downs. He may never be a steady point guard, but it’s a position that requires poise to succeed in the long run. A little less head-scratching turnovers would go a long way.
Shane, don’t change a damn thing. Keep the threes coming. Keep the old-man tricks flowing. But above all, continue to shower us with “turd sandwich” quotes throughout the too-long NBA regular season.
I’m talking She Got Game: The Rise of Mary Shuttlesworth. Denzel is back as a grandfather, and Jesus is a father to the next young high school phenom who happens to be a girl. There will be a struggle for Jesus to keep his father out of his daughter’s life as she becomes the next big thing on the court.
Cole drastically improved his jumper last year, jumping eight points to 36 percent on 3-pointers. As he continues to sharpen the long ball, he needs to also figure out how to score more efficiently inside (54 percent at the rim).
He isn’t getting any taller, so adding a floater would do wonders for the Cleveland State product. It’s one of the most difficult shots in the game to master, one that Tony Parker (68 percent at the rim) has perfected.
Why not? There’s still some white skin somewhere.
Everyone knows Udonis is the epitome of a warrior. But we haven’t seen quite the same level of nasty since he shed the cornrows. Is there a connection? I want the old UD back, the one who would break a neck to protect a teammate.
Yoga. Pilates. Mommy and Me. Greg, do whatever it takes to allow your body to compete for 15-20 minutes a night. A healthy Oden may be like saying a skinny America, yet it’s tantalizing to think about the Heat defensively with the former Buckeye.
If he can could score from beyond six feet, his playing time would rise. It’s that simple.
Improvement: Perimeter Defense
Jones is in for an increase in minutes with the departure of Miller and a getting-older-in-a-hurry Allen. One of the best shooters in the game, his top priority is to spread the floor. His help defense is adequate, showing the ability to anticipate and take charges. But to play big minutes, Miami needs the same as a perimeter defender.
With Juwan Howard likely finally cementing his departure from NBA life, who will take his place as stoudt high-fiver, violent flatulator and motivational speaker? Rashard has the potential to fill the void in these areas, but he’s going to have to put in the work.
Already an elite shot-blocker, Varnado needs to give the Heat something offensively to separate himself from Anthony. In NBA Summer League, he displayed a mid-range jumper. Show that against NBA competition, and he may have a chance at some minutes in 2013.
Improvement: 3-Point Shooting
A wing in the Heat’s offense needs to be able to shoot the basketball. He connected on 35 percent from three in college and the NBA distance is three feet further. Catch-and-shoot should be his primary offseason focus.