In looking at the trades and signings that have happened in the two days since the moritorium ended the Miami Heat have definately been the most busy. The moves they've made all look great on paper but they also have some possibility for disaster. Let's take a look and try to answer the question: Is Pat Riley a genius?
First Move Of The Day
Signing Shaquille O'neal was absolutely necessary and anyone who says otherwise sniffs too much glue. Shaq, as we all know, took the Heat to the next level and almost single handedly took them to the Finals - no, I didn't forget about Dwayne Wade, but this is about Shaq. O'neal made $30.6 Million last season. Yeah, that's a lot. The deal the Heat signed him to was $100 Million over 5 years, coming out to roughly $20 Million per. A gentlemanly gesture to take that pay cut, although to those of us who make 1% of that, he can piss off. Sorry, the poor guy in me came out for a second. But in a world where Penny Hardaway makes $14 Million a year and Allan Houston is making $20 Million per season, getting the most dominant player of our generation at that price is definately a bargain. The question, or possible disaster I see, is the length of the contract versus the age of the player. Giving a 33 year old a 5 year contract seems a little bit of a stretch. Now, I'm not one to doubt Shaq's ability to continue playing, but I do question his ability to play at the level he's currently playing at for the length of his current contract. I also realize that it was a good gesture by the Heat to give Shaq a longer contract, so as to really make him feel apart of the organizations plans. So the question remains, will there come a day when the Heat are buried in a crippled old man's contract that takes up nearly half their payroll, or will Shaq continue to dominate as he is until he's 40? Only time will tell.
So with Shaq locked up, the orchestration continues for Mr. Riley. Udonis Haslem is resigned, shoring up their PF position for the next 5 years, and now it's to the fun! Helping complete the biggest trade in NBA history - strictly based on number of teams (5) and players(13) - the Heat made significant changes to their roster. Eddie Jones, Rasul Butler, and Qyntel Woods are out. Jason Williams - aka White Chocolate, James Posey, Andre Emmit, and Antoine Walker are in. Holy crap! So they dumped their starting SG and SF and replaced them with a sleu of players who can play multiple positions. I like that. I think it's always a good idea for a team to stay as versitile as they can so as to create matchup problems for their opponents. Let's break this down player by player.
Eddie Jones. At 33 Eddie is certainly past his prime, but still a serviceable player. He's a good defender, but not as good as he was 4 years ago. He's a good outside threat, but with age he's become more streaky - remember when he started the first two months of the season shooting 20%? When Miami signed him to the contract they did, he was slightly overpaid, but not too significantly so. Now the $14.6 Million is certainly an over payment, but he's nearing the end of that contract. Miami most likely doesn't harbor any ill feelings towards Jones as he has never done anything except play hard, but his continued descent to retirement and his big contract were two things that don't follow their plans for the future. I presume that Memphis was most interested in taking his salary off the cap the year after next as well as getting rid of two headaches. But we'll get to that in a moment.
Jason Williams. White Chocolate. What a nickname. J-Will is a flashy passer who can be pesky on defense and kill a team from three-point land. Which team - his or the opponent - is a coin flip on any given night. He's shown glimpses of the player he could be, a great passer who can run an offense in the full or half court and make the opposing point guard work for everything on both ends. More often though, he shows all of us how much of a headache he can be with errant passes, complaining and erratic shot selection. He and Jerry West had a rough relationship in Memphis, thus leading to his departure, so a change of scenery could certainly help him out. Wade, who's a combo guard, will most likely be moved over to the SG spot on a permenant basis, and Williams will gain the starting job - for now. On paper, that's a scary backcourt. It's even more scary in actuallity. If Willams gets his shit together, they'll kill every backcourt they play, but if he keeps to his current bag of tricks, he'll cause the Heat backcourt to implode. Again, it's a toss up, but Shaq will hopefully have some influence on his adjustment to his new team mates.
James Posey. He's a Gifted player who can play both sides of the floor, assuming he's not pouting about his playing time or role with the team. He's not going to start in Miami so it'll be interesting to see how he reacts to a similar role on a different team. Atleast he won't start in the dog house. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.
Antoine Walker. This is the one move that could make or break this team. Known as an over excited dribbler and shooter, 'Toine will have to calm himself down if he doesn't want to incur O'neals wrath, as Kobe did in LA. For his career he averages 19ppg, 9rpg, and 4apg. Pretty good numbers for a guy who plays the 3 and 4. With those stats though, comes 41.5% FGs, 32.3% 3's, 64.2% FTs, and 3.15tpg. He has the ability to take over games, both positively and negatively. Walker has been a headache everywhere he's been, mostly because he has to have the ball in his hands a lot and his shot selection is poor, at best. If he can step back and stay within the offense, he will be a very dangerous player for Miami to have, but if he can't, then they'll be really sad they traded for him.
So on paper, the new Miami roster looks incredibly dangerous.
PG Jason Williams
SG Dwayne Wade
SF Antoine Walker
PF Udonis Haslem
C Shaquille O'neal
Two superstars, two second/third teir guys, and an up-and-comer. Not bad Pat, not bad at all. Of course, as it does when any team adds new pieces - we Wolves fans know how that goes, it all comes down to how the new guys fit in, and with the guys they added, that's a big question mark for the Heat. If Van Gundy can get them all on the same page, the East will have a new champion and so could the NBA. If not, they'll still be there in the hunt, but not at the top of the heap. Van Gundy is a good coach and a guy who's coming into his own, but this will be his biggest challenge yet.
So, is Pat Riley a genius? His aggressive moves have certainly made his team better, on paper atleast. I mean, this is the guy who tricked the Lakers into trading Shaquille O'neal, so one has to think he knows what he's doing, but only time will tell as to his genius.