With the post-LeBron James Heat making its preseason debut Saturday against New Orleans in Louisville (no TV), what’s the lowdown on the Heat’s new players? For input, we asked two veteran scouts and ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy:
▪ Small forward Luol Deng. Van Gundy: “He hasn’t shot efficiently the past couple of years, but he’s still a very good player, very good defender and very good without the ball. A better corner three-point shooter than when he came into the league.” …
First scout: “Best as a third or fourth scoring option. He’s not making a lot of plays for other people. He didn’t play very well in Cleveland. But in Chicago, he was very good. Can get you a basket without running a play. Can put it on the floor, take a dribble or two and score. Plus, you get complete effort every night.” …
Second scout: “Had some injuries but still at an age  where he’s in his prime. Good defender but quick two-guards would give him trouble.”
▪ Swingman Danny Granger, who hit four threes in Wednesday’s scrimmage. First scout: “Can’t create his own shot like he used to. Not the same player he was, but he has something left. He’s still a good catch-and-shoot guy. His ability to rebound and play defense have dropped off quite a bit.” …
Van Gundy: Even at his best, “he wasn’t great in any one area but good at a lot of things. And he gives them size on the wing.”
▪ Power forward Josh McRoberts, healing from toe surgery. Van Gundy: “A terrific team offensive player. Can make quick decisions with the ball. But he has to fight his hesitation to shoot the open three.” …
First scout: “He and Chris Bosh complement each other well. Josh is much more aggressive than Bosh, a little tougher than Bosh. He’s obviously not as good as Bosh but can mix it up a little more.” …
Second scout: “Passing is his single best asset. He’s a facilitator and you can run offense through him, which you can’t do with a lot of power forwards. Not a great percentage shooter but can make threes. Very good athlete, good basketball IQ.”
▪ Forward Shawne Williams, who impressed with 17 points in Wednesday’s scrimmage. Van Gundy: “Mike D’Antoni thinks he can be a very effective player, really likes him.” …
Second scout: “Why did they give that guy a guarantee? I can’t understand that. Streak shooter. Had one good year with the Knicks. The rest of his game is very questionable.”
▪ Guard Shannon Brown. Scout: “He can't consistently make shots, was a shell of himself last year. He wasn’t even that good of a defender with the Knicks last year, and that’s supposed to be his strength.”
▪ Rookie point guard Shabazz Napier. Scout: “He couldn’t score in summer league. I was shocked. He was missing everything, turning it over and doing this against college competition. But this happened to Trey Burke last year and he started to play pretty well [for Utah].” (And as Erik Spoelstra noted Wednesday, Napier “looks much more comfortable than he did this summer.”)
▪ Rookie swingman James Ennis. Scout: “Good athlete, but I’d be surprised if he’s a [long-term] NBA rotation player. Needs to improve his ball-handling.” (Still, the shooting and athleticism intrigue.)
▪ Say this for Dolphins linebacker Phillip Wheeler, who was justifiably a target of derision last season: He’s much better. In 2013, he was the 35th and worst 4-3 outside linebacker according to Pro Football Focus, was delinquent against the run, missed 18 tackles and had a 108.7 passer rating in his coverage area. This season, he’s rated third (behind only teammate Jelani Jenkins and Denver’s Von Miller), has a positive grade against the run, no missed tackles and a 68.7 opponent passer rating.
His long-term future here remains dubious, but the Dolphins believe he’s playing more disciplined and less recklessly.
▪ UM’s linebackers — who face a huge test at Georgia Tech — also are exceeding modest expectations, beyond top defender Denzel Perryman. Thurston Armbrister’s combined sacks (four) and forced fumbles (two) are fourth nationally; Raphael Kirby comes off the best game of his career, and coaches love the improvement of Jermaine Grace and freshman Darrion Owens. ...
UM wants to keep expanding Joe Yearby’s role in the offense; UM coaches compare him to Clinton Portis and Warrick Dunn.
And another skilled quarterback is on the way to compete to back up Brad Kaaya: 2015 oral commitment Dwayne Lawson threw for 279 yards and ran for 119, with a role in four touchdowns, in Tampa Hillsborough’s most recent game. ... Privately, UM coaches are very worried about the loss of right tackle Taylor Gadbois, who had started to play as well as anybody on the line, coupled with Kc McDermott’s injury, too.
▪ Though Jose Fernandez has begun throwing after Tommy John surgery on May16, the Marlins don’t expect to have a sense of a timetable for a return until February or March.
“Given the history of the procedure, it’s fair to think 12 months out, he could be ready,” Marlins executive Michael Hill said.
Stephen Strasburg needed six minor-league starts before returning to the big leagues 12 months and one week after his Tommy John surgery. Such a speedy but ambitious timetable could put Fernandez back in the majors in late May.
▪ Broadcast notes: NBC-6 has told applicants that Stefano Fusaro, a Univision sportscaster in Houston, will be its new No.2 sportscaster, replacing Courtney Fallon. ... CBS Radio plans to keep an all-sports format for WQAM-560, which it purchased Thursday from Beasley Broadcasting.