The Miami Heat set its roster for the 2014-15 season on Saturday, and will begin its first season without LeBron James since 2009 with three new starters, nine newcomers and four rookies.
The Heat rounded out its roster after Friday night’s preseason victory against the Grizzlies by keeping free-agent rookie Andre Dawkins for the start of the season, and waiving rookie Khem Birch. The Heat’s roster now stands at 15 players with Norris Cole, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Shawne Williams and Chris Bosh projected as the opening-night starters against the Washington Wizards at AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday.
Williams, an NBA journeyman who has worked himself into shape to begin the season, is the team’s unexpected opening-night starter at power forward. The former University of Memphis standout was injured last season but lost about 25 pounds in the offseason, earned a guaranteed contract with the Heat and worked his way into the starting five after it was clear Josh McRoberts would not be healthy for the start of the season.
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McRoberts, one of the team’s big offseason acquisitions, had surgery on his left great toe after the 2014 playoffs and then had a setback physically on the first day of training camp. It’s unclear when McRoberts will be cleared for full-contact practice and games. In the meantime, Williams will serve as the team’s new stretch forward, a position manned by Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis last season.
Fan favorite James Ennis will begin the season as the Heat’s brightest rookie, but the team’s scouting and player personnel departments have done well in identifying and cultivating several young players. Justin Hamilton, like Ennis a former second-round draft pick, is a 7-0 center with shooting range to the three-point line. Dawkins is a shooting specialist and point guard Shabazz Napier has established himself as a legitimate back-up to Cole and Mario Chalmers.
Cole will begin the season as the team’s starting point guard for the first time his four-year career. Chalmers started for the Heat for three seasons until being bench in Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals. Chalmers will now come off the bench as the team’s Sixth Man, and he has played well in that role this preseason.
Cole started all but the first preseason game. The Heat went 4-4 in the preseason, winning its final four games entering the regular season.