Comparing Miami Heat to Boston Celtics at Every Position: Who Has the Advantage?
The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics hold one of the NBA's most intriguing rivalries. Last season, the two teams battled in a seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series for the ages, and the year before that, Rajon Rondo suffered a dislocated elbow early in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and the Celtics fell in five.
After struggling to get past Boston while he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James decided to emulate his rivals by teaming up with two All-Star-caliber players in Miami. Since then, no love has been lost between the two organizations.
Both rosters are similarly built. Here's how they match up, position by position.
Avery Bradley vs. Mario Chalmers
Avery Bradley is the best on-ball perimeter defender in the league. He has an offensive game that's clearly limited, but he's slowly coming into form. Mario Chalmers is a complementary offensive point guard capable of knocking down open shots and taking advantage of wide driving lanes created by the presence of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
He doesn't initiate Miami's offense or make plays for others like other elite point guards in the league, and on the defensive end, he can best be described as "pesky," doing whatever it takes to make a play—whether that be gambling or flopping his way toward a call.
In the end, Bradley's skill on the defensive end far outweighs Chalmers' ability to fit in with Miami's two-way scheme. When these teams face off, he's able to pick up Miami's ball-handlers full court or shadow Wade everywhere he goes.
Bradley's a player who could fit in on any team in the league, whereas Chalmers' success is the byproduct of playing beside a couple of all-time greats.
Courtney Lee vs. Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade might be the fourth-best player in basketball. This season, he's sixth in the league in made field goals, eighth in free-throw attempts, eighth in points, eighth in steals per game, eighth in points per game, seventh in usage percentage and fourth in PER, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Even though he takes plays off and occasionally fails to hustle back on defense in reaction to a call not going his way, Wade started in the All-Star Game just a few weeks ago and is probably the best player at his position in a league that features James Harden and Kobe Bryant.
On the other end of the spectrum sits Courtney Lee, a struggling complementary piece whose primary skills are pressure defense and a corner-three shot that hasn't been consistent this season.
Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James
LeBron James is the best player in the world and obviously the most important player on his team. It'd be a total shock if at the end of this season he didn't win his fourth MVP award in five years and lead his team to its third straight NBA Finals appearance.
Meanwhile, Paul Pierce is a first-ballot Hall of Famer who's past his prime yet still capable of taking over a basketball game with an elite scoring ability and defense that doesn't take a night off. Pierce's playmaking ability remains underrated, but James might be the best in league history at making those around him better.
When sizing James up against any player in the world, he comes out on top by a wide margin.
Brandon Bass vs. Udonis Haslem
Both power forwards on these teams are fifth options on offense who rarely see much fourth-quarter action. Likewise, both also have somewhat similar offensive roles, that of the mid-range marksman who occasionally is tasked with crashing the glass.
Now in his 10th season, the 32-year-old Haslem is shooting a poor (for him) 38.8 percent on mid-range jump shots this season—on only 85 total attempts—according to NBA.com/Stats. Bass, on the other hand, is knocking down 44.3 percent of his mid-range shots on well over 200 attempts.
Haslem and Bass are one-dimensional players, but where they differ is unquantifiable yet obvious. Haslem's reputation as a tough two-time NBA champion who knows the ins and outs of playoff basketball vastly outweighs Bass' lone relevant season as a playoff contributor last year.
Still, the Celtics' starting power forward is younger, more athletic and undoubtedly possesses higher value on the court.
Jeff Green vs. Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh is an eight-time All-Star who's clearly in the middle of the most efficient season of his career, which is extremely bad news for the rest of the league.
Even though he's the clear cut third fiddle in Miami's offensive attack, Bosh is crucial as a big man able to spread the court with his devastating jump shot, while also holding a distinct speed advantage off the dribble against most opposing centers.
In Boston, Jeff Green stands out as a young athletic marvel just starting to live up to expectations this season in a reserve role he's probably too talented for. This will be just his fourth start of the year, but Green is more than up for the challenge, and despite holding a height disadvantage against the taller Bosh, should be able to draw him out on the perimeter.
His constantly improving ability (especially on the defensive end) could tip the scale in Boston's favor more so than many think. Since the All-Star break, Green's averaged 14.8 points per game on 47-percent shooting.
Celtics Bench vs. Heat Bench
With Ray Allen, Shane Battier and the occasional Mike Miller sighting, Miami has made sure the majority of its complementary players can shoot the three-ball. It's a major part of its game, its offense and its advantage over just about any defense in the league.
Boston has shooters, too, in Jason Terry and Jordan Crawford (knocking down a respectable 34.5 percent of his three-pointers this season) but it's just not the same. Jeff Green being inserted into the starting lineup severely limits their versatility, and with no real experience in the front court, Boston is in trouble with how they want to match up against Miami's more mature backup units.