Starting Five: PG Mario Chalmers, SG Dwayne Wade, F Shane Battier, F Lebron James, F/C Chris Bosh
Key Bench Players: Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem, Norris Cole, Chris Anderson, James Jones
Notable offseason additions: Greg Oden, Michael Beasley
Notable offseason subtractions: Mike Miller
FACT OR FICTION: Three-peat?
Fact. If you had to bet on either the Miami Heat or the field, who do you like? The Heat have LeBron so I don’t see anyway to pick the field. James is the closest thing to basketball perfection right now and maybe ever. He’s not perfect, and he can’t do it alone, but with the same core, some veterans and some potential, and a flat-faced coach who gets his guys to commit on the defensive end, the Heat are definitely the favorites.
We all have the same questions about the ‘13-’14 Miami Heat: Can D Wade stay healthy enough to be a consistent contributor? Can Bosh and Chalmers be the players Lebron needs if Wade isn’t a superstar? Will the bench have enough firepower or are Ray Allen and Udonis Haslem too old? Does is matter that Mike Miller is gone and Greg Oden is in? Does Michael Beasley still do drugs?
We asked most of these questions last summer. Mostly the answer was “yes”: the Heat won the title so they clearly did not have many major flaws. They beat a very deserving Spurs team, and faced some stiff competition along the way. It was no cake walk. Of course, with a guy like LeBron James, some nights the answers to the those questions were “no”, and it didn’t matter. There are going to be nights like that this year too. The worry for Heat fans is that at some point we are going to remember that James is a human being. But for all us NBA fans, let’s hope we aren’t forced to remember that for a few years.
So let’s focus on what’s different.
Wade is no different. His knees don’t work very well and when they do he rests them properly by complaining to officials and not getting back on D rather than exerting himself on both ends of the floor. Smart. It’s really been this way for two years and it has still has been enough. If Wade needs to miss substantial time during the season, it means either more strain on LeBron OR maybe, just maybe, we can finally see Chris Bosh turn into the guy everyone expected him to be.
Bosh added the 3 point shot to his game last year which was a plus, but then got hammered for not being a strong rebounder (6.8 rpg in 2012-2013). Other guys can shoot threes, and while it’s a nice quality to have, if Bosh can get back to being a main option and not a role player, I don’t see why him and LeBron can’t be the dynamic duo that Wade and LeBron have been in the past. Also, Mario Chalmers has turned into a solid PG who can put up 20 if he needs to. If Wade can’t do it and Bosh can’t do it, Chalmers may see more shots but Bosh is certainly the guy who would get the chance first.
With limited cap flexibility the bench is very similar to last season. Ray Allen is a year older but his effectiveness as a shooter shouldn’t change with age. Rashard Lewis didn’t add very much last season and I wouldn’t expect it to be any different moving forward unless there are injury problems. Norris Cole is a guy who showed potential and if his skill set continues to improve he could see a lot more meaningful playoff minutes this postseason. Haslem and Battier will both start some games I’m sure, depending on matchups, but both will continue to contribute.
The real interest is Oden, Beasley, and Mike Miller. Miller’s body just doesn’t work well and we’ve all known it for awhile now. It’s really no surprise that he was waived via the amnesty provision during the offseason, especially considering Miami’s luxury tax concerns and his $5.8 million. He wasn’t going to be a regular contributor during the season and now he’s not around to have one or two good playoff games. Miller did make a difference but if you use a roster spot on a guy hoping that he has one good game when it matters, you’re really missing out on the chance to have a more regular contributor. The Heat got everything they could out of Mike Miller and I don’t think it’s a problem that he’s gone. James Jones is a good shooter so he may see some minutes, but Beasley is a guy who can give 10 points every night off the bench. He could actually turn out to be a great fit. Just like last time he was in Miami…
Greg Oden is the name most of you have heard over the off-season and I think Miami is lucky to have landed him. Chris Anderson is a great hustle player but his skill set is very limited; same with Joel Anthony. NBA teams can never have enough bigs and if you get one with some skills, you’re in really good shape. Oden doesn’t have those skills yet, but we’ve been told for about four years now how good he is when he’s healthy. Well, he’s never been healthy so I’m not sure Heat fans can expect much. But there is always potential. If Spoelstra works him in slowly, gives him plenty of time to get in shape and feel good, he could turn into a solid defender/rebounder and a big body who can go up against the Roy Hibberts of the league.
Speaking of Roy Hibbert, the Pacers are going to be better this year and will contend for the top spot in the East. Derrick Rose is back. The Nets added some firepower. The Pistons have an interesting team that could make some noise (and we’ll get to that later!). The point is, the NBA knows it’s the Heat’s title to lose. Every team that could, added some skill and depth and geared up specifically for LeBron and Co. With an extra year of mileage, the challenge becomes even greater. But LeBron knows it, and he’ll be ready for it. My bet is we’ll see him reach another “another level,” as impossible as it sounds. My money is on the three-peat.
Best case scenario: Wade stays healthy and regularly takes pressure off of LeBron. Oden works out. Bosh keeps shooting his 3s but shows that he’s still capable of scoring on the block. The East puts up a good fight, but LeBron takes his headband off come May, and Miami earns a spot to compete for another championship. The West offers up a worthy opponent but LeBron in his prime proves to be too much for the…..LA Clippers!
Absolute Apocalypse: Wade goes down early and either never comes back or comes back and isn’t good but thinks he is (like last season x5). Bosh and Chalmers both get their opportunity but neither can fill the void. Oden does his thing. LeBron dominates but there’s no help. The Heat fall to the 3 or 4 seed and can’t get through the Pacers or Bulls.
Expected outcome: The Heat will win 60 games and they’ll be the number 1 seed in the east. Wade will give as much as he did last year and LeBron will do more (somehow). The Heat don’t want to coast but at some point, if they aren’t threatening to win 30 games in a row, they’ll take their foot off the gas but not for the worse. Spoelstra is a good coach and he’ll have his guys ready. If their spot at the top is in jeopardy, that headband is coming off. The playoffs will be challenging and there may be more than one 7 game series, but it’s impossible to bet against LBJ.
1st in the Southeast Division, 1st in the Eastern Conference