The Miami Heat won the NBA championship and they're immediately tinkering with the roster. This isn't a case of blowing up the team, so much as it's adding some more aging stars and facing up with the reality that Chris Bosh is going to be the starting center.
Bosh is reportedly looking to add a few pounds of muscle over the off-season in preparation for his formal move to the middle. It's not the first time he's been the starting center going into the season. That was his formal position for long stretches in Toronto. It was also one of his complaints about the Raptors. When he came to Miami, he was firm in wanting to go back to his natural power forward position. Alas, the Heat play better when he's their center. Part of this is a function of the unusual athleticism of the Heat and the way that traditional positions don't necessarily impact their game.
When Bosh plays center, offensively he's playing in the high post or even out by the three point line. His points at the rim are far more likely to come off a drive or tip-in, than from posting up. When the Heat want to post up, LeBron or even Wade can go down to the blocks. This is not to say the Heat don't have any traditional centers on the team. They're stockpiling big men (6 fouls each) to potentially back up Bosh and/or launch at the Dwight Howards and Andrew Bynums of the world. While it's possible they might choose to have Udonis Haslem back up Bosh and preserve some of the high post look, the Heat are maintaining a lot of flexibility at what they can go with at the 3, 4 and 5 slots.
The two splashy auditions are Ray Allen's defection and his reunion with former Seattle teammate Rashard Lewis. And yes, adding Lewis is potentially a big deal. Lewis has been disparaged over the years for the size of the contract he signed with Orlando. He got a bit lost in the mess that was going on with the Wizards. Here, he's come at a cheapl price and could contribute solid minutes at both power and small forward, if there's anything left in the tank. At 33, he should have a year or two left.
What does the new-look line-up look like?
C: Chris Bosh > Udonis Haslem / Joel Anthony > Dexter Pittman > Mickell Gladness PF: Shane Battier / Rashard Lewis / Udonis Halsem SF: LeBron James > Shane Battier / Rashard Lewis / Mike Miller > James Jones SG: Dwayne Wade > Ray Allen > Mike Miller / James Jones/Terrel Harris PG: Mario Chalmers > Norris Cole
The questions at power forward and reserve small forward will really be about what roles Erik Spoelstra feels need to be filled in a given line-up. If you need extra rebounding on the floor, Halsem is the choice. If you want a stretch 4 to spread the floor, then Battier or Lewis. If you need physical defense, Battier or Haslem. If you need perimeter defense, Battier. Mix and match as you need. The biggest question will be if Battier is to have many of his minutes allotted to providing perimeter defense while LeBron is taking a blow.
The signing of Ray Allen makes him the obvious backup shooting guard, but does raise some questions about where and when Mike Miller will get his minutes. James Jones is likely to be riding the pine quite a bit. There's plenty of depth to rest players. There's plenty of depth for injuries, though the style of change would probably change a little without Bosh in the lineup.
Are the Heat the favorites in the East? Probably. They're on the short list and look pretty good on paper. They're easily the class of the Southeast Division.
Southeast Division Previews
Southwest Division Previews