Heat training camp opens Saturday, and in constructing a roster in the post-LeBron James era, president Pat Riley has added a skilled defender/scorer in Luol Deng, a past-his-prime scorer in Danny Granger and one of the league’s deft passing power forwards in Josh McRoberts. All have demonstrated three-point range.
But here’s the concern: Deng and Granger have declined significantly in their shot-making in recent years, and with Ray Allen and James Jones gone (as well as James, obviously), there are legitimate questions for the first time in years about whether there’s enough skilled shooting on this roster.
And no, journeyman Shawne Williams (a career 33-percent three-point shooter) isn’t allaying anybody’s worries.
Without James --- who led all small forwards in shooting at 56.7 percent last season --- and without Allen, nobody expects Miami to come close to matching last season’s 50.1 percent shooting, the NBA’s third-best in 17 years.
The good news: In Dwyane Wade, the Heat still has a player who last season shot the highest percentage of any starting two-guard since 1980. In Chris Bosh, Miami has one of the league’s best shooting big men. In Chris Andersen, the Heat has an exceptional finisher who ranked fifth in field-goal percentage (64.8).
The issue is whether Deng and Granger can reverse offensive regression and whether Wade and Bosh can be as efficient without James. In particular, “Deng has got to get back to being an efficient shooter,” ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy told me.
Deng shot 52 percent in 2006-07 and was consistently in the 45 to 48 percent range for the next four years, including 2010-11, when he attempted a career-high 333 threes and still shot a solid 46 percent.
Deng, 29, hasn’t been nearly as reliable since. He took a lot of threes (189 to 233) and his overall percentage plunged to 41.2, 42.6 and 43.1, which ranked below average for starting small forwards.
He shot just 41.7 percent in his 40-game stint for Cleveland to close last season and his overall 30 percent accuracy on threes (57 for 189) was poor, ranking 35th of 37 qualifying small forwards.
A scout who has studied Deng cited three factors for the diminished shooting: injuries (including Achilles’ and back problems that cost him 19 games last season); taking more threes than he probably should have; and not having a healthy Derrick Rose during most of his final two years with Chicago. The scout said Deng would get a lot of open mid-range shots and open threes off Rose penetrations but didn’t get nearly as many open looks without him.
Playing with Wade and Bosh should produce more open looks for Deng.
The drop has been ever more precipitous for Granger, 31, who shot 37.8 percent in 41 games last season between Indiana and the Clippers. That ranked 60th of 65 small forwards who played at least half the games.
What’s more, he hasn’t shot better than 43 percent since 2008-09. He can still make threes (45 in 46 games the past two seasons), but the accuracy isn’t good (32.6 percent).
“Not the same player he was, mostly because of injury,” the scout said.
Fortunately, McRoberts’ distance shooting is an asset; his 105 threes (36 percent) were seventh-most among power forwards and help explain why his overall shooting (43.6 percent) ranked only 74th of 100 power forwards.
Meanwhile, Wade, Bosh and Mario Chalmers will score more without James, but it will be interesting to see how James’ departure affects their efficiency. Consider:
### Chalmers shot 41 percent overall his first two seasons (without James) and 43.4 in the four seasons with James.
### Wade shot 48.2 percent in his career before James arrived, 51.3 percent --- while taking fewer shots --- in the four years with James.
### Bosh shot 49.1 percent in Toronto, 50.9 percent since joining James and Wade in Miami. The scout predicted all their shooting percentages will drop because they will take more shots without as many open looks.
### In a special airing at 10:30 p.m. Friday, LeBron James suggested to CNN that he likely would have stayed with the Heat if Miami had won a third straight title in June… Curious that the Heat passed on giving guaranteed money to a bunch of veteran centers (Andray Blatche, Nazr Muhammad, Greg Stiesma, etc.) and instead opted to complete its camp roster with former LSU 6-11 center Chris Johnson, who has appeared in 71 NBA games for four teams.
### With Reshad Jones suspended for one more game, the Dolphins admit they are displeased with their safety play, primarily missed tackles (Jimmy Wilson has five of those) and communication breakdowns. “We’ve been too generous in giving our opponents too many free plays…. A lot of times that has to do with the safeties,” Joe Philbin said.
Quarterbacks have completed 11 of 16 passes against Dolphins safeties, but Miami --– for now --– has opted not to bring back free agent Chris Clemons or play promising rookie Walt Aikens. Clemons, cut by Houston in preseason after leaving Miami this past spring, was ranked 19th among 86 safeties last season, per Pro Football Focus.
### The good news on Miami’s offensive line: The Dolphins are second in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt, at 5.2.
The bad: Their nine sacks allowed are third-most in the league. “I don’t know what people expect,” left tackle Brandon Albert griped. “It’s not like we’re getting our [butt] whipped. But I would grade myself a C.”
Samson Satele said the Dolphins have not broached the issue of him moving to guard when Mike Pouncey returns, and Satele said it’s not his place to bring it up.
### An NFL personnel man, on the UM coaching staff: “I think Al Golden is a better coach with overachiever kids and a program he’s building from the bottom. You can’t coach [highly-talented] kids the same way as overachievers. I just don’t see enough kids getting significantly better there.”
### NFL Network’s documentary on deceased former UM star Sean Taylor debuts at 9 p.m. Friday.
### Please see the last post for the scoop on how Philbin privately handled this week's quarterback controversy with his team. And please follow us on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz).