Miami Heat Leaving Little Doubt the NBA Title Is Still Theirs

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 4, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 03: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat celebrates a basket against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 3, 2013 in New York City.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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Any lingering worries of complacency from the defending champion Miami Heat have all been all but exhausted.

Tying a franchise-best 14-game winning streak can be credited for extinguishing the few smoldering patches of doubt.

Miami has lost just once since the start of February and only six times total in 2013.

In the midst of their current win streak, the Heat are disposing of their opponents by an average of 11.9 points per game. They've handed double-digit losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers, both of whom are thought to be among the few teams capable of dethroning the Heat.

Coach Erik Spoelstra's offense may lack position designations, but a leadership ladder is undoubtedly in place.

On the top rung sits LeBron James, the reigning MVP and best player on the planet. He's not just cementing his fourth MVP award in the past five years (his unprecedented six-game stretch of 30-plus points and 60-plus percent field-goal shooting did that), but also establishing himself as the premier offensive and defensive player in the league.

Offensively, James has moved into an unguardable realm unseen by any player in this generation. Defenses can no longer force the 41 percent three-point shooter to beat them from deep, can't bring a double-team without risk of being shredded by the league's 10th-best assist man (7.3 per game) or crowd him on the perimeter only to watch him blow past them en route to another highlight finish.

Defensively, he's perhaps the most versatile player the game has ever seen. He has the size (6'8", 250 pounds), strength, speed and smarts to guard all five positions. He typically draws the toughest cover on the other team and still finds time to serve as a smothering, hovering help defender.

Then there's Dwyane Wade, more of a 1A than a true No. 2. The 31-year-old has brushed off the ridiculously premature talks of deterioration, pouring in the ninth-most points in the NBA (21.5) on a career-best field-goal percentage (51.6).

Chris Bosh rounds out Miami's vaunted trio as the only Heat player not named James or Wade playing at least 27 minutes per game (33.6). He's the Heat's third-best scorer (16.9), second-best shooter (53.9) and rebounder (7.0) and best shot-blocker (1.2).

With a collection of shooters (Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Shane Battier), hustlers (Norris Cole and Udonis Haslem) and defenders (Chris Andersen, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony) behind the Big Three, Miami is the deepest and most talented team in today's NBA.

And it's not as close as people would like to think.

But there's an undeniable feeling resonating around the league that the Heat have yet to play their best basketball, even in the midst of this impressive stretch. Miami needed a late-game charge to dispose of the 20-39 Cleveland Cavaliers and two overtimes to defeat the 20-40 Sacramento Kings.

There's not a more enviable position to be had than riding a 14-game winning streak and still holding areas of improvement.

The NBA championship hasn't looked quite so predetermined since a certain Michael Jordan was suiting up for the six-time champion Chicago Bulls. Don't forget: The Heat-Thunder Finals matchup that the basketball world pined for happened last year...and the Heat wrapped up that series in just five games.

The Heat can't sleepwalk to a title, no matter how talented they are.

But if they continue to play with this level of intensity (or even ramp up their efforts), then we all may be on our way to seeing "Not one, not two, not three..." titles in their near future.