NBA Playoffs 2012: How the Heat Matches Up in Eastern Conference Playoffs

Joye Pruitt@hoopselectSenior Analyst IApril 28, 2012

NBA Playoffs 2012: How the Heat Matches Up in Eastern Conference Playoffs

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    The Miami Heat are in for a treat this season. This is going to be one of the most important seasons of King James’ career. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh need to prove that it was all worth it.

    They have to prove to all the haters that the 2012 NBA Playoffs is their moment to shine. Nobody said this journey would be easy, however.

    The Eastern Conference is in no way deeper than the Western Conference, but it presents matchup problems for Miami.

    Whether it is against the New York Knicks or the Chicago Bulls, the Miami Heat are going to be in for the fight of their lives as it seems everyone’s primary goals are to: A) Win a championship and B) Prove Miami’s 2010 declaration painfully false. 

    Miami gets everyone’s best and the same will go for the rotations in this year’s playoffs. Every team has a different array of skills to offer up. Nonetheless, Miami needs to be prepared for them all. 

Vs. Chicago Bulls

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    Point Guard: Advantage, Chicago Bulls

    Even though the two will rarely be matched against each other when Derrick Rose has the ball, the former MVP obviously wins this confrontation over Mario Chalmers. Chalmers isn’t nearly as athletic, agile or overall as talented as Rose. Knocking down shots and staying in front of his man will give Chalmers more of an edge in the game, but ultimately Rose, if healthy, wins this battle. He is a better shooter and a more effective floor general.

    Shooting Guard: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Dwyane Wade may not have always been totally involved in the strides that Miami made this year, but he is undoubtedly one of the league's best shooting guards.

    The Chicago Bulls have Richard Hamilton coasting at this position. With Hamilton's age and inconsistency, this is no competition. Hamilton does have a fairly lengthy wingspan that makes him a solid perimeter defender, but Wade is a better all-around scorer.

    Center: Advantage, Chicago Bulls

    Joakim Noah does not get half the credit he deserves. As probably the most versatile center in the league, Noah is a good passer from the high post, contributes scoring around the rim, gives Chicago an edge in rebounding and is athletic enough to defend guards and return to the low post to block layups or dunks.

    Just because he isn’t averaging Andrew Bynum or Dwight Howard numbers does not mean Noah doesn’t heavily influence Chicago’s offense. At the center position, Miami has players like Ronny Turiaf and Joel Anthony, at least title-wise. Enough said.

    Small Forward: Advantage, Miami Heat

    LeBron James wins this battle every time. As arguably the best player in the league, James has the defense and offense to top this chart without hesitation. Luol Deng is a good defender and a dependable scorer. However, he is no match for LeBron’s offensive facilitation, sheer athleticism, speed, agility and scoring potential.

    Power Forward: Advantage, Miami Heat

    We’ve seen what Carlos Boozer can do in the playoffs and it is far from impressive. His offense was unreliable in each of last year's playoff series. Had he stepped up, we may not be discussing LeBron’s failures in an NBA Finals series against the Dallas Mavericks.

    Boozer needs to prove that last year’s performance was a fluke before anyone can take what he has done in this year’s regular season seriously. Chris Bosh was strong against the Chicago Bulls in last year’s playoffs and needs to return to that form after having a lackluster regular season for Miami.

    Bosh is a key for the Heat. If he doesn’t show up, Miami could be packing its bags and going home while simultaneously packing his and shipping him around the league.

Vs. Boston Celtics

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    Point Guard: Advantage, Boston Celtics

    Rajon Rondo is one of the quickest decision-makers in the league, which makes him such a threat to the Miami Heat. Chalmers' biggest problem with covering Rondo is his lack of speed and ball-handling skills. Chalmers' potential is there, but those attributes are wildly underdeveloped.

    Shooting Guard: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Since Ray Allen remains questionable for the start of the playoffs, Avery Bradley may be the designated shooter in Boston’s lineup. But even with an impressive steal on Miami’s Wade that left Wade very complimentary of the young guard, Bradley has not yet arrived. The play was reminiscent of Wade in his prime, but Bradley isn’t close to the same level as Wade.

    Center: Advantage, Boston Celtics

    With Kevin Garnett in the middle for Boston, things get interesting. He has been relentless this season and has appeared to turn back the hands of time. Miami’s center are not nearly as strong or experienced, so the responsibility to handle him will likely be handed off to Chris Bosh.

    Small Forward: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Paul Pierce is an excellent scorer and is undoubtedly Boston’s most clutch player. But he’s no match for the renewed stance LeBron has taken on the game.

    In the last few months, we have seen LBJ transform into the player that we all expected him to be from Day 1. Pierce will get a few plays off James, but ultimately James is just too talented to get outplayed by Pierce.

    Power Forward: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Brandon Bass has been a surprising addition to the Celtics' starting lineup. When Garnett was pushed to the center position, Bass became the starting power forward and has thrived, becoming quite the fantasy candidate. Still, Chris Bosh’s mid-range game, his post moves, his finishes and his passing ability all trump Bass’.

Vs. Indiana Pacers

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    Point Guard: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Rarely does Miami ever have the matchup edge on anyone at point guard. Mario Chalmers may not be one of those top-10 point guards who have firmly planted their franchises in the playoffs, but he sits a step or two higher than both George Hill and Darren Collison. Collison’s injuries have forced him to surrender his spot to Hill, who may be listed as a shooting guard, but alternates in Collison’s position as the team’s starting point guard.

    Shooting Guard: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Paul George is showing spurts of growth with the Indiana Pacers and will likely keep a lock on the starting shooting-guard position as the first round of the playoffs begins. While George is just finding his niche, Wade has been there and done that—with a championship trophy to show for it. Wade will be able to lock down George defensively and his athleticism will carry him around George consistently on the offensive end. Don’t sleep on the kid, however. George will make a bit of noise.

    Center: Advantage, Indiana Pacers

    When it comes to big-body centers, Miami will come up short until it adds a strong and offensively and defensively valuable center. The Pacers have that in Roy Hibbert, who has averaged 12.8 points and two blocks a game. Hibbert has been pretty consistent this season. His ability to battle for second-chance rebounds will be tough for Miami to handle.

    Small Forward: Advantage, Miami Heat

    This is where the true matchup battle will occur. LBJ is no slouch. Yet, as the season pushes on, we have all come to the realization that neither is Danny Granger. He has turned up the heat, no pun intended, as the playoffs have drawn near, and his increased intensity in a possible seven-game series matchup with LeBron would be a treat for all true NBA fans who favor the grit of the league instead of just the flash.

    Power Forward: Advantage, Miami Heat

    David West’s game is coming together at the perfect time. However, his inability to be a rebounding force is where he loses his edge over the Miami Heat. West faced Chris Bosh earlier this season and turned in an uninspiring performance, shooting 2-of-6 from the field. Bosh was the more confident and more poised player in the matchup. Don’t see that changing anytime soon. 

Vs. Orlando Magic

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    Point Guard: Advantage, Orlando Magic

    The biggest knock on Jameer Nelson is that his only consistency lies in missing large chunks of the season due to injury. However, without Dwight Howard in the lineup, Nelson has become the focal point of Orlando’s offense. As a result, his points per game and production from the free-throw line have shown a slight increase.

    With his increased role, Nelson will get the better of Chalmers in this matchup.

    Shooting Guard: Advantage, Miami Heat

    All he does is shoot. This is all that can be said about Orlando’s J.J. Redick. All the kid does is shoot. There is no other aspect of his game that can or should be highlighted, besides the fact that he is a decent ball-handler and passer.

    Confusion: This is where it all gets tricky. With Dwight Howard sidelined, there are a lot of mangled roles. For instance, instead of being solid at the center position, as they were with Howard, Orlando is forced to push both Glen Davis and Ryan Anderson into that role.

    Jason Richardson is struggling to fill in as the power forward. Miami will find it ridiculously easy to dominate Orlando in everything except perimeter shooting. The Magic always give the Heat a run for their money with their outside shooting.

Vs. Atlanta Hawks

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    Point Guard: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Jeff Teague is a good point guard and his future in the league looks very bright. However, Mario Chalmers has a leg up on him. Chalmers is not nearly as athletic as Teague, but his game is more refined. He is a more disciplined ball-handler—I can’t believe I’m saying this—than the Atlanta starter.

    Shooting Guard: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Kirk Hinrich vs. Dwyane Wade Enough said.

    Center: Advantage, Atlanta Hawks

    Without the playing status uncertain for Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia, Miami would have to deal with Josh Smith as Atlanta’s starting center. That's not a matchup that favors the Heat. Smith against either Joel Anthony and/or Ronny Turiaf is a total mismatch in Atlanta's favor.

    Therefore, the comparison must be between Smith and Chris Bosh, who would likely occupy the center position. But even Bosh is not as big, physical and powerful as Smith.

    Small Forward: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Joe Johnson is one of the best one-on-one players in the league, so LeBron would undoubtedly have his work cut out for him. However, Johnson has yet to make that leap to superstar status.

    He is missing the defense that separates the solid players from those befitting the throne (i.e. Kobe Bryant, LBJ, Wade). James has a better overall game than Johnson and would force him to struggle and take tough shots.

    Power Forward: A draw

    Marvin Williams started at power forward against the Heat in the regular season and was not a complete disappointment, unless you count a missed dunk that kept Atlanta from winning the game.

    Atlanta should see this as another opportunity for Williams to win his individual matchup, probably  against Udonis Haslem. Haslem’s hustle and Williams’ scoring potential would make this an interesting battle. 

Vs. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Point Guard: A draw

    This will be a one-on-one battle between Mario Chalmers and Jrue Holiday. Neither player demands a double team. Both have shown blasts of growth, with Holiday’s shooting seeming consistent one second, and Chalmers court vision improving the next.

    Shooting Guard: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Jodie Meeks, regardless of Evan Turner’s seemingly heightened role, will have the primary responsibility of taking on Dwyane Wade, although not alone. Meeks is a great player, and Doug Collins loves him when he’s shooting the three and spacing the floor as he should.

    Not hitting those beyond-the-arc shots is not going to be an option for Meeks in this potential matchup.

    Center: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Spencer Hawes will probably snatch the starting job back from Nic Vucevic, the not-so-savvy replacement center for the Sixers. Hawes is a better player than Vucevic and Philadelphia is better with him on the court. However, as the 76ers saw their production and value decrease throughout the season, Hawes experienced the same decline.

    Small Forward: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Andre Iguodala would be so much more than a good basketball player and great perimeter defender if he could become more offensively involved with the Sixers. As the leader of that franchise, they need him to make that leap. Yet, Iguodala has yet to become that offensive threat. He only possesses a fraction of what makes LBJ such a great player.

    Power Forward: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Elton Brand would be an asset for any team, but comparing him to the likes of Chris Bosh leaves Philadelphia wanting for more. Brand is not an explosive player, nor would you ever see him taking over highlights or high-flying to the rim. Bosh is more offensively efficient, more athletic, has much more lift and is just a more dependable player all-around. 

Vs. New York Knicks

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    Point Guard: A draw

    As of late, Baron Davis has not been the same player the NBA is used to seeing. With questions about his conditioning still looming, Davis has become more of a liability on defense. And on offense, while he's had a few throwback moments, he just can’t dunk anymore.

    Mario Chalmers is younger, faster and a better defender when he is all in. What takes away the leverage he has on Davis is that you never know when he’s going to be fully engaged.

    Shooting Guard: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Iman Shumpert is too inconsistent offensively to give Dwyane Wade a run for his money. His defense, on the other hand, keeps getting more impressive.

    The rookie takes huge gambles going for steals and they pay off occasionally, which makes him an asset for the Knicks. Still, Wade plays so well in the paint, is Miami’s best all-around scorer and is more athletically primed than Shumpert.

    There is absolutely no way Shumpert can or will trump Wade’s effort.

    Center: Advantage, New York Knicks

    Chris Bosh and Tyson Chandler will be matched up in this first-round series. Bosh is Miami’s power forward, but this matchup will force him to play center, a position he is more than able to play.

    Neither Joel Anthony nor Ronny Turiaf will see much time against Chandler. Chandler’s intensity and power trump Bosh, but only by a few inches. Bosh has been devalued in a lot of fans’ minds because of how many games he has missed so close to the playoffs. However, he can’t be counted out.

    He has shown himself to be Miami’s X-factor more than a few times before. His length will undoubtedly give Chandler trouble.

    Small Forward: Advantage, Miami Heat

    Forcing James to focus on his perimeter game is the only way to stop him. Attacking any other part of his game is a waste of time. LeBron continues to get so much better. With him operating primarily in the paint, clearing the lanes and still clamping down on defense, Carmelo Anthony is in some trouble.

    Anthony has played a better defensive game this season, but he is not nearly as consistent as James. Anthony will not average 40-plus points in this series, no matter how much of a pure scorer he is. James is the best floor general in the league. He is the answer to 'Melo’s game.

    Power Forward: A draw

    Haslem has always been said to be the hustler and dirty-work player for the Heat. However, he has lost some of his notoriety this season, having gone through a stage in which his shot would not fall, making him a bit transparent.

    Coming into the playoffs, Haslem will be a huge factor against the likes of Amare Stoudemire, even if he isn’t on the floor all the time. Stoudemire is the second-best player in New York, and his athleticism, a little less effective due to injury and absence, will make this a struggle for Haslem.