By all accounts it was a great season for the Heat. It went from 15 wins to 43 wins, the seventh-best increase in NBA history, before earning the fifth seed in the playoffs and taking Atlanta to seven games in a first-round playoff series."The expectation of our team this year was to make the playoffs," rookie coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The Heat did that. And guard Dwyane Wade turned in the best single-season performance in franchise history. He led the league in scoring and finished second in steals, eighth in assists and third in the MVP voting.
Now Miami looks to the offseason, where one of the big goals is taking a look at converting Michael Beasley from power forward to small forward.
"It's going to be one of the major areas of focus," Spoelstra said.
The 20-year-old Beasley came off the bench for most of the season behind forward Udonis Haslem, who is a veteran team captain and a more polished player. The hope is Beasley can start at small forward alongside center Jermaine O'Neal and Haslem.
"I think he's best at (power forward)," Spoelstra said.
But Miami needs Beasley's offense to support Wade.
So, Beasley, who struggled mightily defensively, will work this summer on defending quicker players on the perimeter. The trick is that you can't use your hands on the perimeter defending small forwards the way you would down low defending power forwards.
Beasley, who only played one year of college basketball at Kansas State, at least has better defensive grounding now. That's a big change from when he entered training camp as a 19-year-old rookie in October.
"It really was like getting a junior high level defensive player," Spoelstra said. He quickly added that's not a knock on Beasley but rather a reflection on how his offense allowed him to get by without learning defense.
Beasley said he feels comfortable at that end of the court now.
"Toward the end of the season, it started to become second nature," Beasley said.
If Beasley can make the switch, the Heat has a strong starting lineup of guard Mario Chalmers and Wade in the backcourt and Beasley, Haslem and O'Neal in the frontcourt. The first players off the bench could be guard Daequan Cook and forward James Jones. That's a good start.
If Beasley can't make the switch, however, Miami has two problems: finding a quality starting small forward who is a consistent scorer, and a second consecutive season of bringing Beasley, the No. 2 pick of the draft, off the bench.
"We have four or five months to give him a look at (small forward)," Spoelstra said.
SEASON HIGHLIGHT: G Dwyane Wade provided the best moments of the season and one of the best seasons in NBA history. There was the game at Chicago before the All-Star break when he recorded a steal in the final seconds. That set up F Shawn Marion's game-winning dunk with 1.5 seconds left. Wade victimized Chicago again at Miami when he stole the ball in the closing seconds of double overtime and then hit a running 3-pointer to win the game as time expired. There was also the game against New York at Miami in which Wade finished with 42 points, 24 in the fourth quarter. And then there was the triple-overtime victory against Utah in which Wade recorded 50 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, four steals and two blocks, the first time in NBA history a player reached those minimums. There was also the career-best 55-point game against New York. You get the idea.
TURNING POINT: The trade that brought C Jermaine O'Neal and F Jamario Moon to the Heat from Toronto in exchange for F Shawn Marion and G Marcus Banks helped and hurt. The trade, made during the All-Star break, landed Miami two starters and gave it financial flexibility for the future via O'Neal's $23 million expiring contract. However, Miami never had a quality defender at small forward after Marion's departure, and that proved hurtful. Still, it was a good trade.