The Miami Heat's Big Four of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen make the team a favorite to repeat as NBA champions this season, but all it takes is one injury to derail those lofty hopes.
While the Big Four concept has worked out fantastically, it also leaves the Miami roster extremely top-heavy. Losing one of those four players would lead to a massive drop in talent and, depending on the player, could put the team's championship chances in jeopardy.
Obviously, no one goes to bed at night hoping to see a player get injured. Still, injuries are a reality of the game and the team has already played without Wade this season.
Here is a complete breakdown of how the Heat would play in the hypothetical scenario that they lost a member of the Big Four. And, just for fun, we're breaking them down in order of impact, beginning with the least and ending with the most.
Heat Without Ray Allen
Acquired in the offseason to make the Heat's offense even more dynamic, Allen has been nothing short of sensational on that end of the floor. The 37-year-old guard is scoring 12.5 points per game while knocking down 50.5 percent of his field goals, including an astounding 53.6 percent from beyond the arc.
At this point in his career, he's essentially a turnstile defensively. It also pretty much goes without saying that he's the most replaceable star on Miami's roster.
If Allen went down with an injury, fixing the situation would be pretty simple. Mike Miller and Rashard Lewis both share Allen's ability from beyond the arc and would see increased minutes on the wings.
Allen's ability to stretch the defense and knock down open three-pointers make him a fantastic luxury.
Nevertheless, losing him would have a rather negligible effect on Miami's record. Seeing as I projected the Heat at 64-18 before the season, I'll knock two off their win total here based simply out of respect for Allen.
That being said, they would still be favorites to win the championship.
Record Projection: 62-20 (championship favorite)
Heat Without Dwyane Wade
Yes, you are reading this correctly. I am saying that Wade is the least vital member of the original Big Three, but don't take it as a degradation of him as a player.
Wade's ability to take the defender off the dribble, knock down midrange shots and careen into the lane with amazing finishes all make him one of the five best players on the planet. However, those skills are replicated by James, who actually does those things at a higher level.
Replacing Wade in the rotation would be the toughest transition. The Heat started Miller in the three games this season that Wade missed due to a foot injury, so there is no real reason to think that would change.
Losing Wade would also lead to an increase in responsibility for Allen. Erik Spoelstra has done a great job of limiting Allen's minutes this season, but that wouldn't be possible anymore without Wade.
It also goes without saying that a Miller-Allen combo meal cannot even sniff Wade's stratosphere at this point in their careers.
Bosh and James could probably keep the ship afloat in the regular season, but losing Wade would be a crushing blow to the team's championship hopes.
Record Projection: 58-24 (championship contender)
Heat Without Chris Bosh
Easily the most underrated player amongst Miami's trio, Bosh may actually be the most important player on the team's roster.
He is our most important player, and he’s as steady and consistent as he always has been for the last two and a half years. He makes it look easy and he makes it look quiet, and yet he’s so impactful in the game. He was big under the rim and not just his scoring, but the big plays defensively at the end.
While Spoelstra's words are true and Bosh is a fantastic player, Bosh's status as the team's most "important" player comes from the complete dearth of big talent on the roster. If Bosh, who has become a center this season, goes down with injury, the Heat will be stuck with the Joel Anthony, Josh Harrellson and Udonis Haslem pu-pu platter.
A drop from Bosh to that trio would be crippling and put exponentially higher pressure on James in the middle. And while LeBron has never disappointed, let's just say there was a reason the Indiana Pacers put a scare into Miami with Bosh out of the lineup last season.
The weakness in the Eastern Conference keeps Miami among the favorites. Still, Bosh is infinitely more important than originally believed.
Record Projection: 56-26 (conference championship contender)
Heat Without LeBron James
We all know by now that King James is an indestructible cyborg who will never go down with an injury, but let's just entertain the thought for a second.
Obviously, the league's best player going down has massive and immeasurable implications. James leads the Heat in points, rebounds, assists, minutes, PER and about 5,000 advanced metrics I could cite.
His increased emphasis on using the post has allowed the team to move Bosh to center and James to power forward without destroying the team defensively.
Nevertheless, the same redundancy in skill-set we had with Wade applies somewhat to LeBron as well. A team led by Wade and Bosh certainly is a playoff team and would stay in the top tier in the Eastern Conference.
But subbing Haslem for James in the lineup would represent the biggest decline since the 1985-86 Chicago Bulls had to replace one Michael Jordan.
It's hard to quantify with concrete predictions, but one thing is for certain: without James, the Heat have no chance at repeating as NBA champions.
Record Projection: 50-32 (playoff team)