On Monday, news broke that Josh McRoberts—the Miami Heat’s second-biggest summer acquisition—tore his meniscus and was feared to miss the rest of the season.
McRoberts, signed for four years and $23 million after a career year in Charlotte with the then-Bobcats, struggled to get into the lineup early this season due to nagging foot, back and toe injuries and only played 17 games before his latest and most severe setback.
In his 2013-14 season in the Queen City, McRoberts was a fulltime starter for Steve Clifford and averaged 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists in his role as a stat-stuffer for the defensive-minded Bobcats. Miami, trying to make up for the loss of LeBron James and other supporting cast members this offseason, brought the former Duke Blue Devil over for his defense and floor-spacing ability.
This latest injury doesn’t help Miami, which has suffered through a ton of injuries early on this year to almost its entire roster. Right now, Chris Bosh is dealing with a calf problem that has him out indefinitely. Still, as shorthanded as they are, the Heat beat the Nets in Brooklyn on Tuesday night to hang on to the No. 7 seed in the East.
But the loss of McRoberts, even though he isn’t a star by any stretch of the imagination, really hurts Erik Spoelstra’s squad that has attempted to rebrand itself as a defense-first team. With LeBron the past four seasons, Miami was a top defensive team but could afford to slack off here and there due to its top-notch scoring ability.
The Heat certainly do not have that luxury anymore but they should still be able to keep pace in the conference even without McRoberts. Miami is just one game behind No. 6 Milwaukee—which just lost top rookie Jabari Parker for the season due to a torn ACL—and three behind No. 5 Cleveland. They definitely are within striking distance of the teams right above them.
Meanwhile, they moved to a game over No. 8 Brooklyn with yesterday’s win and may not have to worry about the Nets creeping up on them as Lionel Hollins’ team is totally out of sorts right now. Even with their current troubles and lack of healthy bodies, the Heat are in a good position to make a run in the East late in the regular season to establish decent seeding.
In the postseason, though, things could and will get tougher for the Heat because of their inability to establish an offensive flow so far.
Wade, Bosh and Luol Deng are known quantities but the point guard trio of Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and rookie Shabazz Napier runs hot and cold in terms of effectiveness. After those five guys, the situation gets pretty dire. Danny Granger, also picked up in the offseason, unsurprisingly can’t stay on the court while Shawne Williams, another pickup, has been shooting great this year but has a tendency to fade away as the season progresses.
There are a lot of questions for Miami to answer and it’s not going to be easy to solve those problems in the playoffs against more well-rounded teams such as the Raptors, Bulls, Wizards and Cavs. Even with a fully healthy roster, this team was going to have a rough go of it against the East’s good teams. Now with McRoberts’ and others’ injuries, it just doesn’t appear to be in the cards.