What the Miami Heat Can Learn from Past One and Done NBA Champions
The Miami Heat haven't repeated just yet.
But they probably won't remain on hold for long. The Heat should have a good shot at claiming another title for years to come so long as they avoid the mistakes made by the one-and-done champions of the last decade.
We've seen the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs frequent the NBA Finals since the 1980s, and Miami has plenty to prove before it can join that list. Otherwise, it will find itself in a category with the handful of teams who've struggled to defend their titles in recent years.
Here's a look at what the Heat can take away from those flashes in the pan.
Detroit Pistons: 2004
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It's still sort of amazing that this Detroit Pistons team twice made it to the NBA Finals, once knocking off the Los Angeles Lakers in the process.
Besides the exceptional defense, this club included a handful of very good players in their primes: Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Mehmet Okur and Ben Wallace. And with Antonio McDyess taking Okur's place, that unit was good enough to take the San Antonio Spurs seven games in the Finals a year later.
So what went wrong?
After Larry Brown got his ill-fated job with the New York Knicks, Detroit landed a guy who lost in the first round seven consecutive times before finally taking the Minnesota Timberwolves to the conference finals in 2004, the season before he got canned.
Detroit's famed defense unsurprisingly went south, and Saunders' Pistons lost in the conference finals three straight times.
Miami probably doesn't have to worry about Erik Spoelstra going anywhere, but someone should tell Dwyane Wade to stop yelling at him just in case.
Miami Heat: 2006
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What can the Miami Heat learning from themselves? Well, the 2006 iteration of the franchise doesn't have many of the same faces you see on today's champion roster.
And that's precisely because Pat Riley had already learned something from that first time around, namely that it usually takes more than one man to win a championship. The team that won it all in 2006 was a motley crew of good players in decline, ring-chasers that had put their faith in Dwyane Wade.
Apparently, for good reason.
But that's clearly not a sustainable formula, and that's why all those has-been ring-chasers are now joining Wade, along with a couple of other superstars in their primes. Shaquille O'Neal, Antoine Walker, Jason Williams and Gary Payton all saw their production decline markedly in the season following that title.
Perhaps it was age; perhaps decreased urgency. Whatever the explanation, it became abundantly clear over the next four seasons that Wade needed the right kind of help, and that's exactly what he got in 2010.
Boston Celtics: 2008
The Boston Celtics were one and done in only the loosest sense of the phrase.
They haven't repeated since their 2008 title, but they've remained strong contender, twice making it to the conference semifinals, returning to the NBA Finals in 2010 and coming within 48 minutes of a third trip to those Finals in 2012.
The "Big Three plus Rondo" era was an unmitigated success, and the team has in some ways gotten even better as Rondo's taken center stage.
But Boston lost some of its depth, including Sam Cassell and James Posey in that summer of 2008, and eventually, Kendrick Perkins and Tony Allen along with them. With that depth went some defensive toughness, a reminder of just how important Shane Battier was to Miami's 2012 title.
You can't say the same for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, who were 31 and (almost) 32 respectively when the Celtics landed them in 2007. Dwyane Wade will turn 31 in 2013, and he's the oldest of Miami's Big Three.
Dallas Mavericks: 2011
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The Dallas Mavericks were by no means conventional champions in 2011.
Aside from Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Caron Butler and Shawn Marion, the roster consisted of veterans (Jason Kidd, Peja Stojakovic), defensive specialists (Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, Corey Brewer) and spark-plugs (J.J. Barea, Rodrigue Beaubois).
Though deceptively deep, this roster wasn't flooded with superstar talent. It was just a well-coached squad with a proud defensive identity.
Needless to say, it wasn't meant to last. Determining that it was time to prepare for the long haul and avoid becoming the next Pistons, Mark Cuban blew the team up and parted ways with Chandler, Butler, Stevenson and Barea. Stojakovic retired, and Brewer was traded to the Denver Nuggets.
What followed can only be described as a transitional season, and a first-round exit predictably ensued.
The Miami Heat appear to be committed to keeping their rotation as consistent as possible going forward, though the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis will certainly require some adjustments. So long as the organization avoids this kind of obscene turnover, it shouldn't have to worry about taking such a rapid step back.
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The Miami Heat have only gotten better since this whole experiment began in 2010.
They're a significantly deeper team today, and it's hard to imagine this current formulation falling short of an NBA Finals appearance for at least another couple of years. They could again be tested in the conference finals, but would remain the favorites in any conceivable scenario.
Whether the Heat have a formula as sustainable as the ones most recently employed by the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs remains yet to be seen.
The Lakers have relied upon surrounding an iconic scorer with dominant big men, and the Spurs have simply coached and scouted their way to maintaining a deep pool of talent. Miami's blend of talent is unique, but it's developed exceptional chemistry that should continue, at least so long as things are going well.
Plenty could go wrong.
An aging supporting cast could be thinned by injury, and we did see this core succumb to frustration at times during the 2012 run. And maintaining the roster could be difficult over time on account of cap flexibility issues. It's always nice when you can find a veteran or two willing to chase a ring on the cheap, but you can hardly count on it.
Unless it all goes wrong at once, though, the Heat have a wide margin for error and look poised to take home at least another O'Brien Trophy or two.