After losing the non-televised preseason opener against the New Orleans Pelicans in Louisville, the Miami Heat are coming back home in search for their first W this preseason. Our dynamic duo and the rest of the squad are preparing to square-off against the lottery-bound Orlando Magic tomorrow. There are multiple point of interests to look out for in Miami’s first televised exhibition, but here are the top 5:
1. Miami’s Future 3 – Shabazz Napier, James Ennis, Justin Hamilton
Perhaps the most intriguing topic coming in this game is one that has been circulating around since the Summer League: Miami Heat’s young trio of Napier, Ennis, and Hamilton. Shabazz has been hyped-up since LeBron James announced his support for him by stating that he was the best point guard of the NBA Draft, and so far he hasn’t really impressed. It’ll be interesting to watch how he’ll play against Elfrid Payton, one of the point guards taken before him in the Draft. As for James Ennis, it seems like his breakout summer is continuing on to the preseason, as he tied the game-high in points with 17 in Miami’s game versus the Pelicans. “Ennis the Menace” landed in every Heat fan’s radar after knocking down 7 three-pointers (of 8) on route to 29 points in 26 minutes against the Brooklyn Nets in the Orlando Summer League. Since then, he’s been heralded as a superstar-in-the-making. Against Orlando, we’ll be able to see whether Ennis can continue steamrolling his way into the minds and hearts of Heat fans everywhere. Justin Hamilton is perhaps the biggest question mark in terms of the “Future 3”. While playing a season with the Sioux Falls Skyforce (Miami’s D-League affiliate), the 7-foot California native carved out a niche for himself as a solid rebounder with a capable perimeter shot. He then was signed by the Miami Heat for the second-half of the 2013-2014 season, yet never earned a spot on the rotation. During the Summer League, though, he impressed quite a lot with his reliable range, and his consistent rebounding. However, a week ago, he underwent heart surgery due to minor heart abnormalities which caused him to miss the Red, White, and Pink scrimmage and the preseason opener. He is expected to make a full recovery and rejoin basketball operations on Monday, but it is not certain if he will be suited up for the game against Orlando.
2. The Dynamic Trio’s Response To A Slow Start
After LeBron James departed from Miami in favor of his homestate and the signing of Bosh / Wade/ Deng, the Miami Heat shifted from Big 3 status to a dynamic trio. Both Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade solidified themselves as #HeatLifers with their undying loyalty, while Deng softened the blow of losing the best player in the game. However, the transition of being the #3 option to #1 isn’t an easy (or quick) one for Bosh. This was visibly apparent in Saturday’s match against the Pelicans in which he struggled from the field; he shot 3-13 from the field, and failed to crack double-digit points. Yet, this isn’t anything to worry about. It is merely an indicator that his return as a leader of a team won’t be an easy one. D-Wade and Luol Deng, however, also struggled with shooting, both hitting just 2-7 from the floor. All three players will be looking to improve from their slow starts, and it’ll be very interesting to see how they will respond.
3. Danny Granger’s Health And Consistency
After an unexpected signing with Miami, Danny Granger revealed that he underwent another knee surgery this offseason. This led to tempered expectations, and some skepticism. However, he came out swinging during the Red, White, and Pink scrimmage. After a slow start, Granger began to become more comfortable, and ended up shooting the lights out from long-range (finishing with 4 three-pointers and 12 points). He continued with his hot shooting in Saturday’s exhibition, ending up with 12 points / 5-8 from the field / 2-4 from behind-the-arc. His ongoing health and consistency will be one of points-of-interest Tuesday night.
4. The Battle For The Starting Point-Guard Position
Day after day, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Miami wants more out of Norris Cole. He even addressed the topic by stating that he’s been asked to score more. This could mean everything or nothing at all, however it seems like the battle for the starting point-guard spot is heating up. With Chalmers and Cole increasingly playing at the same time, it seems like Shabazz Napier will be thrown into that battle as well. We should see more of this experiment from Spoelstra going into Tuesday’s preaseason game.
5. Which Players Will End Up On The Last Available Roster Spots?
After a few public-showings, we are no closer to being able to predict which players will be cut by the Miami Heat. However there are a few that have caught Heat fan’s attention so far: Shawne Williams, Shannon Brown, Khem Birch, Tyler Johnson.
Williams has emerged as the top replacement for Ray Allen’s sharpshooting, impressing with his accuracy from downtown. He put up 12 points against the Pelicans, while shooting 5-7 from the floor and knocking down both of his three-point attempts.
Shannon Brown has been defined by his crazy athleticism and pesky defense during his short tenures with the championship-bound Los Angeles Lakers, the Phoenix Suns, the San Antonio Spurs, and the New York Knicks. While he struggled against New Orleans (failing to put up any stats other than a turnover and 1 point), there has been universal praise among the Heat’s locker-room, including Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Coach Spoelstra.
The 6-foot 9-inch 22 year-old Canadian power forward Khem Birch has opened some eyes with his other-worldly wingspan of 7’2″. This wingspan was put to good use against the Pelicans, as Birch grabbed 4 rebounds and 1 block in 16 minutes. His play-style closely resembles that of Udonis Haslem, which is obviously good news for Miami.
Tyler Johnson, the freakishly athletic guard from Fresno State, has recently gained a fanclub with quite a few Heat fans, for good reason. Johnson is known for his amazing athleticism, and might make Miami’s roster.
However, we have yet to see enough of Reggie Williams and Andre Dawkins to count them out. It is likely that we’ll get to see these two play against the Magic on Tuesday, so we should keep an eye out to see if the Heat will get a step closer in finalizing their roster.
–By Alex Rosa