Re-Assessing Miami Heat's Title Odds Post NBA Trade Deadline

Sam Richmond@srichmond93Correspondent IFebruary 22, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 20:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts with Dwyane Wade #3 after hitting a three-point basket against the Atlanta Hawks as time expired in the first half at Philips Arena on February 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Prior to the NBA trade deadline, the reigning champion Miami Heat were considered by many to be the favorite to win this year's title.

The deadline has now passed, and the Heat didn't make any moves to further separate themselves from the pack. Their only deadline deal involved shipping Dexter Pittman and a second-round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for the draft rights to Ricky Sanchez.

The Heat aren't a better team than they were prior to the deadline.

However, the trade deadline was relatively quiet for most teams, so it's not as if their competitors are any more dangerous than they were, either. Overall, considering the Heat were more formidable than all of their competition before it, the happenings of this year's deadline were positive for Miami. 

The New York Knicks, currently the first team behind Miami in the Eastern Conference standings, made a tiny roster change, trading away seldom-used guard Ronnie Brewer and signing Kenyon Martin to a 10-day contract. Martin could have a defensive impact for the Knicks, but he's certainly not an addition of the caliber that would make New York be considered on equal footing as Miami. 

The deadline's biggest deal from an East team was the Milwaukee Bucks landing J.J. Redick from the Orlando Magic. While the Bucks are a potential first-round playoff opponent for Miami, Redick or no Redick, the Heat would have little problem dismantling Milwaukee. 

The other top East teams—the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets—all stood pat.

Due to their smothering defense (currently ranked first in the league in defensive rating) and excellent rebounding (first in rebounds), the Pacers pose real problems for Miami. That's why the Pacers have taken down the Heat in their only two matchups against them this season.

However, the Heat would obviously still be the heavy favorites in a playoff series. The Heat haven't been giving "postseason effort" on a night-to-night basis, especially on the defensive end, this season. We saw in last year's postseason against a pretty similar Pacers team what Miami can do to Indiana when their switch is turned on.

As for the Bulls, with them not making a roster-improving trade, the only way they can even compete with Miami in a playoff series is if Derrick Rose makes an Adrian Peterson-like comeback. Miami proved in their matchup against the Bulls on February 2 just how significant the talent discrepancy is between the two teams.

While the Nets' record (33-23) indicates that they might be able to knock the Heat out of the playoffs, Miami has embarrassed Brooklyn in their three meetings (all Heat wins) this year. The Nets are not contenders. 

On the other side, it's looking likely that if Miami were to make the NBA Finals, they would almost certainly face either the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder or the Los Angeles Clippers.

The only move made by any of those teams was from the Thunder in acquiring Brewer from the Knicks and trading away Eric Maynor. That's it. These teams pose the same threat to the Heat as they did a few weeks ago.

Speaking of a couple of weeks ago, the Heat recently took care of both the Clippers (22-point win on February 8 without Ray Allen and Chris Bosh) and the Thunder (10-point win on February 14).

That's not to say the Heat could easily knock out Oklahoma City or Los Angeles in a playoff series, but they would definitely be favored in either potential series. 

As for the Spurs, a trade could have really helped them in terms of having better championship odds than Miami. Not to at all say the Spurs don't have a talented roster, but they aren't on the Heat's level. We've seen it over and over again throughout the NBA's history: Talent wins out in the postseason.

The Spurs are an excellent team, but in the playoffs when benches shorten and stars are asked to play 40-plus minutes a night, Miami has the edge.

Miami was the title favorite prior to the deadline, and because their biggest competitors didn't make any significant moves, they remain the NBA's most likely champion. 

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