Yes....the Miami Heat were 4th in the Eastern Conference last season. And, yes....adding Shaq to that mix would make them one of the elite teams in the NBA next season.
But don't go buying your Miami Heat 2005 NBA Finals tix yet.
Sure, Shaq can team up with Dwayne Wade and form the next "Dynamic Duo". He had Penny in Orlando and Kobe in Los Angeles. That added up to 5 NBA Finals appearances and 3 NBA Titles. Of course, both ended very sour and led to Shaq's departure.
And those teams also had guys like Dennis Scott, Nick Anderson, Horace Grant, Derek Fisher and Robert Horry helping out. As it stands, Miami has only Eddie Jones [who is know for disappearing in the playoffs], Udonis Haslem and Malik Allen as vets on this team. Remember, they'll have to send Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and Caron Butler to the Lakers to get Shaq. They also drafted Dorrell Wright, a high school kid, in the recent NBA Draft.
Raefer "Skip To My Lou" Alston recently agreed to sign with the Toronto Raptors. Alston was the Miami Heat's leading assist man last year. So, as it stands, the 2004-5 Miami Heat starting lineup should be Shaq, Wade, Jones, Rasual Butler and Udonis Haslem. It is unlikely that the Heat can add much more to that mix. Eddie Jones makes more than Kobe Bryant did [that will change soon]. His $13M salary is unattractive for anyone else to take off Miami's hands. And with Shaq already due to make $28M this year and $30M next year.....it will be hard to find any cap room at all. Plus, the entire reason Shaq wanted out of LA was because they didn't want to pay him that kind of cheese in an extention....something Miami is probably agreeing to do. And that is why the Lakers had to field an old, shallow team like they did last year. No money to spend. They'll have to build thru the draft....but they are sending a future 1st rounder to the Lakers as part of this deal. And with Shaq in the East.....they won't be looking at too many high picks soon either.
Also remember that the Detroit Pistons MANHANDLED a Laker team that had both Shaq AND Kobe and better role players than the Miami Heat do now in the NBA Finals. Also, the Indiana Pacers had the best record in the NBA last year. Who knows what is in store for the New Jersey Nets? Orlando now has Steve Francis and the #1 overall pick. Don't get me wrong. Miami will end up with one of the top 3 seeds in the East next year. Hell, they may end up #1 overall. I mean, they'll play in a division with the Orlando Magic [who just dealt away T-Mac], Atlanta Hawks [if they don't land K-Mart...they are screwed], Washington Wizards [who have talent], and the expansion Charlotte Bobcats. Shaq will DOMINATE that division. The other starting centers are Kelvin Cato, Brendan Haywood and Jahidi White.
But, as was obvious in the NBA Finals.....it takes more than 35 pts and 20 rbs from Shaq to get past the best in the East. And it will be hard for Miami to make improvements. And that [get it folks!] is why this whole thing of Shaq leaving the Lakers came about.
Good luck Miami.