Monday, September 10, 2012

A Potential Dynasty? - Miami Heat Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Mario Chalmers, SG Dwayne Wade, SF LeBron James, PF Chris Bosh, C Joel Anthony

Key Bench Players:
SF Shane Battier, SF Mike Miller, PF Udonis Haslem, SF James Jones, SG Norris Cole, PF Dexter Pittman

Notable offseason additions: SF Ray "Judas Shuttleworth" Allen, SF Rashard Lewis,

Notable offseason subtractions:
PF Juwan Howard, PF Ronnie Turiaf

What better way to start off the 2012-2013 NBA season previews than with the reigning NBA champs? I’ll be honest, I am rooting against the Heat to the point where I’ve considered consulting a voodoo shaman, but they truly look like the class of the East and a threat to repeat. It’s hard to hate on LeBron right now, as he has been invincible and undone a lot of damage by tuning everyone out and just playing. Luckily, Dwayne Wade was a real punk last year and took the torch to new heights. I look forward to booing him in person this season.

In my opinion, this team SHOULD be hard to cheer for if you’re not in South Florida and last year’s Heat finally understood that. Their role in the NBA narrative is the villain, as the favorite should be, and their all-black uniforms only confirm a sinister intent. A Heat dynasty may usher in the apocalypse and end everything we’ve ever loved, which makes it even more fun to root against. Heat fans should embrace that they are relevant enough to be hated, which is a big step for them, and every team in the league would want that core. It’s good to be a Heat fan – but like Lakers fans know all too well – you can’t ever count on an impartial stranger to join your side ever again. You’re either with us or whatever underdog we’re playing against. People are far more likely to actively cheer against your team in your face. Welcome to the club, Miami.

Led by the power trio of a God-mode LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, the Heat have established the modern model for a contender with their overwhelming star power and slow upgrades of its supporting cast. Last year saw the Heat pick up Shane Battier and finally get some timely production out of Mike Miller, but this year they added some real shooters off the bench. As the NBA watched the rich get richer, the Heat gained the right to dish open threes to Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis for peanuts. Honestly, the Celtics are better for it, but where does Judas Shuttleworth's signing in Miami for less money rank in the all-time free agent disses? It's a lock for Top 10. And after this off-season, is there any doubt that the new CBA may improve long-term parity by making it harder to sustain winners but make the short-term worse? Teams are either building to the top or racing for lottery position, which will benefit the contenders as long as high salary players are shed to avoid payment.

Not 1, not 2, not 3...
While the Heat faithful were promised an unreasonable 7 titles, there’s no question they should be considered the favorite for a repeat. Although Boston and NY could put up a fight, Miami will have a smoother road to the Finals than whoever survives the imminent slugfest out West. The Heatles 1.0 were a formidable team, but the 2.0 version put the pieces together in a way that should have the rest of the league running scared. They figured out their hierarchy (give the ball to LeBron), got better role players, picked up the team defense, and even got the Wizard of Oz to give Chris Bosh a spine, who provided the gutty play and gritty post defense that the Heat desperately needed to win a title.

This year, they should be better. They’re deeper, LeBron looked All-Universe in the Olympics, and they should be even more comfortable this time around. No one is going to be able to beat the Heat through mental errors anymore and a business-like LeBron and Co is a scary prospect. The bullseye on their back will be larger this year, but the Heat no longer have any doubt in themselves or their ability to win a championship. Gulp.

Looking at their roster, however, provides something of a reality check. It’s clear that the Heat are not invincible. While they finally have the kind of open 3 point shooters that will make it possible for LeBron to average 10 assists a night, they are still soft in the middle and lack the bruising low post presence that would really complement Chris Bosh. Who knows how much Udonis Haslem has left in the tank and relying upon Dexter Pittman is not what a championship contender wants to see on its depth chart. I think they will eventually sign another frontcourt player, but it’s going to be highly speculative or retread. A big front-line can still grind out this team.

In addition, you have to wonder what Mike Miller has left in the tank with his back problems and myriad health issues. I’m a Shane Battier fan, he’s a cerebral player who makes the right plays, but he will never play as well as he did in the NBA Finals again. Mario Chalmers confidence may be unrivaled, but despite big cajones and great defensive pressure, he is not a consistent enough shooter or playmaker to be the PG of the future for this team. Eric Spoelstra did a masterful job of shuffling around his lineup last year, I just wonder if the Heat’s depth chart will hurt them more this time around.

Because of the 3 star system, the Heat are severely restricted in terms of cap flexibility. Their mission every year is to surround their core with whatever upgrades they can get, but they can’t offer much. The Heat are a threat to get anyone who gets cut or bought out from their contract, but the NBA’s new amnesty system means they won’t get the first look at amnestied players anymore. Still, there’s no doubt they have enough here to make a run to the title and who can bet against them the way LeBron is playing?

There's a lot riding on those ankles Ray

Best Case Scenario: The Heat entered the off-season as the prohibitive favorites in the 2012-2013 and they only improved their prospects with their free agent signings. The Heat’s ceiling is cruising through an absolutely dominant regular season and firing on all cylinders in the playoffs. Although I don’t think they’ll stay healthy enough to win 72 games, they could easily win 60+ and repeat as NBA champs once more. If so, this season could be the springboard for a potential dynasty.

Absolute Apocalypse: Injuries could ruin everything. This team doesn’t have the depth chart to sustain any kind of major injuries, especially in the frontcourt where-I-can’t-believe-I’m-typing that they might miss Ronny Turiaf. They can’t win without their Big 3 (especially LeBron) being healthy, so the regular season needs to be carefully managed so that they peak health-wise in the playoffs. Even with an aging roster and Ray Allen’s glass ankles, this team’s worst case scenario still results in a mid-level playoff berth and chance to make some noise in the depth-starved Eastern Conference. The Heat got better, but so did the Celtics, Knicks, Lakers, and Thunder. They are the title favorite, but I could easily see a combination of injuries and match-ups result in the Heat failing to make it out of the second round in the East.

Expected Finish: 1st in the Southeast Division, 1st in the Eastern Conference

Check out our 
NBA season preview gauntlet:

Southeast Division 
Atlanta Hawks 


  1. Why is everyone this season ruling out the Bulls? they finished 1st last season, in the regular season, and had it not been for a injury to D-Rose they probably would have given the heat a run for their money. i personally feel that Boston is done and kidding themselves. Ray Allen saw what pierce and garnette should have, they are solid off-the-bench players now. i agree that the Heat have to be the favorite to win but (and i can't believe im typing this)the Lakers have the best chance to beat them due to their front court of what im calling super bird. (howard super man and gasol looks like a bird) other then this duo i dont see many teams that can overcome the star power of the Heat.

  2. Totally disagree with you on the Bulls - they will have a real hole dug by the time Rose is back and sacrificed a lot of quality depth (brewer, asik, korver) because he'll be gone. I still think that KG and Pierce, with a quasi-reloaded talent base, will be much better than you do, but injuries are always the x-factor.

    Long live Super Bird.