Ranking Biggest Threats to Miami Heat Championship Throne

Ethan Sherwood Strauss@SherwoodStraussNBA Lead WriterAugust 1, 2012

The Miami Heat do not have many challengers in the East. Well, perhaps they do if Derrick Rose makes a miraculous recovery or if Jeff Green somehow finally lives up to his draft status.

For now, it looks like a clear path to the NBA Finals for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

So our attention turns to the West, where a slew of possible Heat usurpers vie for the chance to try. The old-guard Spurs came up short last year, but they have a drive-and-kick attack that exploits some of Miami's weaknesses.

Oklahoma City got bounced in five games by the reigning champions, but it's a young team on the rise. Do we really think Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden will not improve going forward? Their collective growth can overtake the Heat at some point.

The Mavericks have beaten Miami in the finals (duh), and they feature a drive-and-kick, three-point-heavy approach reminiscent of San Antonio's offense. The Lakers also loom, especially when Dwight Howard might be in purple and gold the next time you refresh your Internet.

The Heat are the clear favorites, but nothing in life is guaranteed. A strong Western Conference presents a variety of formidable obstacles.

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