How Long Can Miami Heat Contend with Current Lineup?

Ethan Sherwood Strauss@SherwoodStraussNBA Lead WriterAugust 29, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 21:  (L-R) Chris Bosh #1 and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat celebrate against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 21, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Miami Heat won the championship last season—perhaps you've heard. Now, the focus turns to the future. Suddenly, those pundits who believed the Heat were unable to win a championship are now sold on "not one, not two, not three..."

It is easier to guess at Miami's contention time frame than their championship total. I say this because, so long as you have LeBron James, you have a shot at the title. The Cleveland Cavs of yesteryear proved as much with consecutive 60-plus-win seasons. Though they could not get to the NBA Finals, the Cavs were certainly contenders prior to their exit. 

So, how long will LeBron stay in South Beach? Based on his recent success, it is reasonable to predict that James will stay through his prime.

Currently, LeBron is at the peak of his powers.

Though he produced a better player efficiency number in 2009 and 2010, his game was less varied. While the younger, even more athletic LeBron James could better carve a bad team in the regular season, playoff teams could exploit gaps in his offensive arsenal. 

Principally, James was not leveraging his size as well as he could. He did not completely trust his post game, and post-ups could have been a valuable weapon in the 2011 NBA Finals. But this slowly changed as LBJ grew more comfortable down low.

The polished post game was on display in these last finals.  

Thabo Sefolosha was the kind of player who could capably guard LeBron James. The key word in that sentence is "was," because Thabo got rag-dolled in the finals when James went into the post. 

And it's not just improvement on the low block. LeBron has also suddenly added a floater, and he used it capably against the Indiana Pacers in these last playoffs. 

This all bodes well for LeBron's longevity. Considering his size and court vision (passers age well in this league, as John Stockton can attest to), it's reasonable to expect prime LBJ production till roughly 32 years old. This (admittedly conservative estimate) would give Miami five more seasons of James.

Dwyane Wade is another, trickier matter. He just turned 30, and he has a shaky outside shot. That jumper needs to improve for Wade to age gracefully. He was efficient in his minutes last season, but he played only 33 of them per night, and he missed 17 games. Look for D-Wade to be a productive player into his mid-30s, but one who's in and out of the lineup, a la Manu Ginobili.

Among the "Big Three," Chris Bosh may age most gracefully of all. He's tall and shoots well—two qualities that really augment a player's stay in the league. Like LeBron, Bosh just turned 27. CB4 is not quite KG, but he can look to Garnett as a model of a nearly ageless player. 

In summation, the Heat should contend so long as they have Chris Bosh and LeBron James. This would give them a championship window of at least a half decade (not one year, not two years, not three years..).

Of course, so much can happen between now and then. But in the meantime, the future looks brighter than the South Beach sun in Miami.