Miami Heat: 5 Reasons LeBron James and Co. Can't Afford to Be Cocky in 2013
2013 should be a great year for them as well. They've added a future Hall of Fame player in Ray Allen. He'll fill a weakness on the Heat as he provides the team with a bona fide three-point shooter. Allen is the best three-point shooter in the history of the NBA.
While they will deservedly be the favorites to repeat as champions, they shouldn't get too cocky. There are still reasons they could fall short of their lofty expectations of a repeat.
They Are Still Thin in the Middle
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The Miami Heat are one of the worst teams in the NBA in terms of production from the center spot.
They ran into a fortunate situation last year with their path through the playoffs, avoiding teams that could seriously exploit that weakness.
While the Heat are not horrible when outplayed form the center spot, they're significantly worse. In games where their center won the battle as judged by efficiency recap, they were 19-14. When they won the position battle, they were virtually unbeatable, going 26-6.
Adding Ray Allen might help with making more threes here and there, but that won't help as much as they would have been helped if they had added a true center. If they run into a team that can dominate inside, they could be in jeopardy.
They Might Not Stay Healthy Next Year
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When Chris Bosh went down for a brief period during the postseason, the Heat seemed remarkably fallible. In fact, if the Pacers hadn't sustained an injury of their own in Danny Granger, the Pacers series might have gone differently.
There will always be this tightrope with the Heat. They have so much invested in their big three that if they lose one of the big three for the postseason, they could be seriously in trouble.
While they certainly had issues when Chris Bosh went down, it's likely they would struggle even more if LeBron James were going down.
Fortunately for the Heat, James has been virtually indestructible his entire career, but it remains the case that they are one severe injury away from a serious impediment to the finals.
Their Path Might Not Be as Easy
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The Miami Heat aren't the only team that's an injury away from seeing their championship hopes dashed against the rocks.
Last year, that's precisely what happened to Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 of their opening-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers. Then, Joakim Noah went down in the next game. Neither was seen again in the postseason. The Heat may have beaten a healthy Bulls team in the finals but maybe not.
They were struggling against the Pacers, losing two games to one before the Pacers fell into injury problems including their best player.
Against the Celtics in the conference finals, Boston was missing one of their best perimeter defenders in Avery Bradley. Another player, Ray Allen, was playing hurt.
Yes, the Heat had some injury issues, including Dwyane Wade playing hurt and Chris Bosh missing some postseason games. However, they got the benefit, for the most part, of the injury situation in every series. They can't count on that kind of fortune every year.
Other Teams Are Making Moves
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The Lakers and Kobe Bryant aren't content to let the Heat win the next several titles. They've made some major moves, acquiring Steve Nash through trade, and most recently, according to the Los Angeles Times, Antawn Jamison through free agency.
Last season, the Mike Brown-coached Lakers were a reasonably good team on defense, but they struggled on the offensive end. Nash is an enormous upgrade at point guard and adding Jamison on top of that will make the Lakers one of the most potentially explosive teams in the league.
Beyond that, they'll have a huge advantage at the point and the center positions. Shooting guard and power froward will be a draw. Small forward will be a handy advantage by the Heat but not by quite as much as it was.
In short, the Lakers are already a team that can contend with the Heat and could be getting even better if they acquire Dwight Howard.
Oklahoma City Is Getting Older
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Finally, let's not forget about the Oklahoma City Thunder who, although young, have been maturing quickly through the last several seasons.
It wasn't too long ago that they were one of the worst teams in the league, but now, they're easily one of the best. They can be expected to do what the Heat did last season—come back even hungrier and even more mature than last year.
Likewise, the Bulls will be as hungry as ever but could be peaking at the postseason if Derrick Rose is able to come back in early February and hit his stride by the time the playoffs start.
That's not to say the Heat won't be able to improve as well, but other teams could improve more than the Heat do.
In the end, the Heat may win another title next year, but it won't come without a fight.