Pat Riley and the Post LeBron Facelift

Let’s go back to a year ago when the Miami Heat’s 2014 offseason was marked most notably with the departure of superstar LeBron James and the haphazard scrambling which followed it. With little notice or forewarning of the four-time MVP’s impending hometown reunion, Miami Heat president Pat Riley was forced to fill the vacuous black hole left on his roster in LeBron’s wake. After it appeared Chris Bosh was destined for Houston, Riley and the Heat righted the ship, signing their star forward to a max contract, and with additions like Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts, the Heat’s prospects seemed a bit brighter.

Following a lackluster 2014-15 campaign, and with the new season right around the corner, the latest iteration of Pat Riley’s post-LeBron roster facelift is upon us. After the whirlwind frenzy that was last offseason, this one seemed comparatively calm. The team retained its trade deadline trophy in Goran Dragic and despite some brief concerns were able to re-sign Dwayne Wade to a one year, $20 million deal. Not done yet, though, the Miami Heat made some other head-turning moves which they hope will pay off this season, bringing in free agents Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudamire as well.

While Green will need to acquaint himself with his new home and teammates, one familiar face will be Goran Dragic. Green and Dragic played alongside each other in Phoenix from 2012 until last season’s trade deadline and the high-flying forward is ecstatic to have his old backcourt mate in the fold.

“I’m so excited to play with him again. It’s not even funny. I played my best basketball (with him)…I never had anybody make me better like that,” Green told Miami reporters after signing a free agent deal with the Heat in July. “I think we played really good with each other.”

Green’s optimism is not misplaced as the swingman had his best statistical season in 2013-14 alongside Dragic. In the only 82 game season of his career, Green posted a career-high 16 points per game and shot 40% from 3 point range, an area in which the Miami Heat are severely lacking. Green looks to have a similar role in Miami, spelling Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng as one of the first men off the bench, and, moonlighting as starting shooting guard when Wade misses his yearly twenty or so games.

Another key player off the bench for Miami will be forward Amar’e Stoudemire. After toiling in New York for four and half years, hamstrung by injury, Stoudemire was jettisoned to the Mavericks at the trade deadline. But in case you weren’t paying attention (and honestly, I can’t blame you if you weren’t), Stoudemire quietly had one of his best seasons last year since his inaugural campaign with the Knicks. After being traded to the Mavs, the big man posted 10.8 points in fewer than 17 minutes per game. In an incredibly small sample size of only 23 games, Stoudemire boasted a 22.3 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) in his brief stint in Dallas, a mark which would have ranked 15th in the league last season, ahead of players like Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol and Kyrie Irving.

The Heat look to utilize Stoudemire in an expanded role, more akin to his time spent in New York last year, bringing him off the bench in place of Bosh and playing center against smaller lineups.

While these acquisitions bring with them some much needed offensive punch, the obvious critique is the Heat’s deplorable defense. Last season, Stoudamire and Green recorded only 2 defensive Win Shares (WS) combined, a stat which estimates the number of wins contributed by a player due to his defense. To put that into perspective, last year’s defensive (WS) leader, DeAndre Jordan, posted 5.4 defensive Win Shares by himself.

With center Chris Andersen’s trade status in limbo, the Heat could become a defensive sieve when starting center Hassan Whiteside exits the game.

Far less tumultuous and panic-stricken than the last offseason, the consequences of this offseason still leaves the Heat with considerable question marks. Will this latest edition of Pat Riley wand-waving yield more favorable results than last year? The team will undoubtedly feature a far more potent offensive attack, but their defense, especially off the bench, is suspect, to say the least.

If the Heat want to live up to their offseason hype, they will need to find a defensive identity to match their offensive punch.

follow Ryan on Twitter: @rgthorner

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