What are the limits of improvement? For bad teams, the ceiling of potential seems well beyond reach in just a summer. For a team like the Miami Heat coming off back-to-back titles, it's a bit harder to imagine the roster looking notably better, simply because there's not much left to do considering financial restraints and the fact that it's already a wildly talented team.
LeBron James is still on the upswing, but Dwyane Wade's injury count could threaten his production in 2013-14. The two combine with Chris Bosh to form Miami's vaunted Big Three, and it's a Big Three that is still pretty darn good. The key to improvement in South Beach and for coach Erik Spoelstra is at the back end of the roster.
LeBron James -- The King is in his prime, and he's shown no sign of slowing down. James will, as usual, do everything from guarding the opponent's dangerous point guard to playing as a point forward. He's a three-point shooter, facilitator and everything in between. James averaged 37.9 minutes per game, which somehow seems reasonable considering how much he stuffs the box score and how many roles he fills for Miami.
Dwyane Wade -- Wade will as usual play off James as an aging second option, but one who is still good for 20 points per game. The Heat's starting shooting guard will remain as that, but there could be a growing push to limit his minutes, opening opportunities for some bench players. Miami needs Wade healthy for the postseason, and dolling out some of his playing time to others could be an option, though one that irks Wade himself.
Chris Bosh -- Miami's starting center should continue spacing the floor to create driving lanes for James and Wade. Bosh may have had trouble against bigger teams like the Indiana Pacers last season, but there's still little reason to think he won't continue to play as an undersized big man. Then again, he could see more time at his natural power forward position. Chris Andersen made a big difference defensively last season, and the potential for Greg Oden to stay healthy could give Miami more options.
Udonis Haslem -- Another victim to the injury bug, Haslem has remained a favorite in Miami as a hard-nosed defender and rebounder. He will fight for a starting spot as he does every year, but there's now a lot more than Joel Anthony behind him looking for minutes. Miami's midseason pickup of Chris Andersen last season appeared to be a steal, and its signing of Greg Oden poses another threat to eat up time in the paint, giving the Heat more of a shot-blocking threat than Haslem.
Mario Chalmers -- No matter what Chalmers does to frustrate during the regular season, he always seems ready to redeem himself in the playoffs. The Heat have kept the status quo at the point guard position with Chalmers the likely starter and Norris Cole coming off the bench behind him. Unless Cole does something surprising during training camp and beyond, Chalmers will keep his starting job.
Ray Allen -- Allen is 38 years old, but he proved his value as a bench shooter last season, no more than in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Like last year, he'll be one of the first players off the bench. It's hard to tell if Allen is breaking down. The shooting guard averaged 26 minutes and played in 79 of 82 regular season games, and Allen's playoffs statistics didn't show any major drop-offs in production. His three-point shooting remains a big part of Miami's attack led by James.
Shane Battier -- In the playoffs, Battier's minutes fell off by nearly a third of his regular-season average, but the 35-year-old will be counted upon more this season after Miami's financial situation forced theteam to amnesty Mike Miller, who occupied a lot of minutes at small forward. Unless Michael Beasley becomes a bench option for Spoelstra, Battier's role will be a big one.
Chris Andersen -- Entering his first full season with the Heat, Andersen has a chance to build upon his energy-inducing role of last season. The athletic big man significantly changed Miami's ability to protect the rim. It's hard to imagine Anderson not earning more court time this year, though the health of Oden could change that.
Norris Cole -- Cole showed signs of pushing Chalmers last season, but he's still behind the ball and will remain as the backup point guard. He did, however, notably improve his three-point shot from 28 percent in his rookie season to 36 percent as a second-year pro.
Greg Oden -- When Oden has been healthy, he's always been a productive rebounder, shotblocker and decent-enough post scorer. But it's hard to expect too much considering his career-threatening knee issues. He's going to be brought along slowly but certainly could earn minutes if he's fit enough.
Deep on the bench
Michael Beasley -- Signed to a make-do training camp deal, Beasley could make the Heat roster and would provide a scoring threat off the bench at either forward spot -- one Miami hasn't had. He's coming off his worst statistical season but also battled multiple legal issues with the Suns last year.
Roger Mason Jr. -- Mason Jr. would actually be one of the younger players off the bench at 33 years old, but he could be a very valuable addition in a backcourt lacking depth. Though he's only invited to training camp, Mason Jr. could provide depth behind an aging Allen and injury-prone Wade.
Joel Anthony -- At this point in his career, Anthony is nothing more than an active body who shouldn't see many minutes behind Haslem, Anderson and potentially Oden.
James Jones -- The swingman appearing sparingly last season and should remain as a bench-warmer in 2013-14.
Rashard Lewis -- With so many miles on the 34-year-old, it's hard to see him playing much, especially if Beasley sticks.
Jarvis Varnado -- Varnado is simply trying to get to opening day roster spot and has a nonguaranteed contract.
Justin Hamilton -- The center joins Miami for training camp but is a longshot to make the regular-season roster.
Eric Griffin -- The Campbell product is likewise unlikely to make the opening day roster after a strong summer league with the Heat.
Larry Drew II -- The former UCLA Bruin is a pure point guard and son of Bucks coach Larry Drew. He's a longshot to make the team.
Charlie Westbrook -- A shooting guard from Riverside University, Westbrook is another camp invitee.
Erik Spoelstra -- James gets all the credit, but Spoelstra has only improved the Heat the last three seasons. Arguably, he has his best roster yet around the Big Three, though a lot depends on the health of Oden and Wade and the potential for Beasley to stay out of trouble and in tune with the Heat's plan on the court. If there's anything to worry about, it's replacing Mike Miller, a glue guy who leaves a hole off the bench that must be filled.