MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The two-time defending champion Miami Heat kick off their preseason schedule Monday night as they begin work on pursuing a three-peat as NBA champions.
The first team to be in the Heat’s way in the preseason is the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are in a rebuilding phase after letting power forward Josh Smith leave via free agency in the offseason.
The Hawks are likely to put the following lineup on the floor to face the Heat in the first preseason game: guards Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague; forwards Paul Millsap and Demarre Carroll; and center Al Horford.
The game will also serve as the debut of new Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer. The former San Antonio Spurs assistant is expected to bring much of the Spurs’ offensive game plan to the Hawks for the next few seasons.
One position to watch for the Hawks is point guard where Atlanta is expected to send rookie Dennis Schroeder in as the first guard off the bench. Schroeder could work his way into a starting role quickly with the Hawks.
The Heat will want to get a long look at guards Larry Drew, II and Roger Mason, Jr., along with small forward Michael Beasley. The trio is fighting for at most one or two open roster positions with the Heat.
Beasley still has great upside for the Heat, but the question is whether he will ever mature enough to be counted on a regular contributor for an NBA team. Drew and Mason could sneak onto the roster to help the guard rotation behind Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.
Unfortunately for Heat fans, the biggest free agent player the Heat signed in the offseason won’t be ready to go for the Heat in the first preseason game. Center Greg Oden is being brought along slowly as he tries to make a comeback from numerous knee injuries.
If Oden can give the Heat 10-12 minutes a game during the playoffs, his comeback will be a success and the Heat could become almost unstoppable with a big man underneath the basket to handle opponents like Roy Hibbert, Tyson Chandler, and Joakim Noah.
Miami and the Hawks will tipoff at 7:30 p.m. at the AmericanAirlines Arena. The game can also be seen on NBATV.