Could Miami Heat Be the Best Team in NBA History with Dominant Playoff Run?

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Could Miami Heat Be the Best Team in NBA History with Dominant Playoff Run?
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Can the Miami Heat earn a spot alongside the greatest teams in NBA history with a dominant playoff run? How big would it have to be to saddle alongside teams like the ’72 Los Angeles Lakers, the ’86 Boston Celtics or the ’96 Chicago Bulls?

While Miami’s 27-game winning streak this season put it on the map, as did its best-ever second half of the season, it is still in need of a dominant postseason in order to secure its place as one of the greatest teams ever.

 

Fo' Fo' Fo' Fo'

The 1983 Philadelphia 76ers were one of the great teams in history, and Moses Malone was their starting center. After the Sixers won a league-best 65 games, Malone famously predicted the team would go “Fo' fo' fo'” in the postseason.

At the time there were only three series in a postseason, and Malone was boasting that the Sixers would sweep each of them, a boast which very nearly came true, as Philadelphia went 12-1. At the time it was the best winning percentage in postseason history.

In 2001, the Los Angeles Lakers, behind Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, finished their repeat with the most dominant postseason to date, finishing 15-1, their only loss coming against the Philadelphia 76ers in the finals.  

Sweeping in four consecutive series would certainly make a case for the Heat being the greatest ever, and the way they steamrolled through the second half of the season, coupled with the relative weakness of the Eastern Conference, makes it a distinct possibility.  Even being the first team to go 16-1 would make them a candidate for greatest ever.

 

200

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Many modern analysts consider that average margin of victory (MOV) is a better judge of performance than wins and losses. A team which loses one game by one point, and wins nine by 20 points is probably better than a team that wins 10 games over the same opponents by one point each.

In the history of the NBA only three teams have topped 200 net points in a single postseason. The Lakers did it in 1987 (205) and again in 2001 (204). The Milwaukee Bucks accomplished it first in 1971 (203). The 1991 Bulls just missed with 199 points.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that the Heat could do it the way they are playing. Last season they outscored their opponents by 163 points, which is ninth best, so they would just need an improvement of 37 points.

 

LeBorg

There is LeBron James, and there is LeBorg, the cyborg who has stepped in to take his place when the game has been on the line since last year’s conference championship against Boston. There are no more questions about who gets the ball with the game on the line in Miami.

If LeBorg dominates the postseason like he is able, that could be enough to bring the Heat into consideration as one of the most dominant teams ever.

When the great teams meet in imagined matchups, experts will frequently concede the hypothetical win to Jordan’s Bulls because of Jordan. His will to win and dominance under pressure are the reasons why.

That’s not a reputation that hasn’t been earned. Here are the top 12 postseason player efficiency ratings by an NBA champion through history.

 

7

Rk

Player

Season

Tm

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

WS

PER

1

Michael Jordan*

1990-91

CHI

6.4

8.4

2.4

1.4

31.1

4.8

32

2

Shaquille O'Neal

1999-00

LAL

15.4

3.1

0.6

2.4

30.7

4.7

30.5

3

LeBron James

2011-12

MIA

9.7

5.6

1.9

0.7

30.3

5.8

30.3

4

Michael Jordan*

1992-93

CHI

6.7

6

2.1

0.9

35.1

4.4

30.1

5

Shaquille O'Neal

2000-01

LAL

15.4

3.2

0.4

2.4

30.4

3.7

28.7

6

Tim Duncan

2002-03

SAS

15.4

5.3

0.6

3.3

24.7

5.9

28.4

7

Michael Jordan*

1997-98

CHI

5.1

3.5

1.5

0.6

32.4

4.8

28.1

8

Hakeem Olajuwon*

1993-94

HOU

11

4.3

1.7

4

28.9

4.3

27.7

9

Tim Duncan

2006-07

SAS

11.5

3.3

0.7

3.1

22.2

3.3

27.4

10

Michael Jordan*

1991-92

CHI

6.2

5.8

2

0.7

34.5

4.1

27.2

11

Michael Jordan*

1996-97

CHI

7.9

4.8

1.6

0.9

31.1

3.9

27.1

12

Dwyane Wade

2005-06

MIA

5.9

5.7

2.2

1.1

28.4

4.8

26.9

 

Note how Jordan’s name is on the list five times. You also might notice that James' performance last season is fourth.

If you look at players with the best postseasons, regardless of whether they won the title, James has the best PER in a single postseason with a minimum of 200 minutes played, at 37.4.

Only twice in history has a player scored 500 points while accumulating 150 rebounds and 150 assists in a single postseason. James did it in 2007 with Cleveland, and Larry Bird did it with the 1987 Celtics. If James achieved that and won a title, it would be arguably the most dominant postseason ever, especially considering the efficiency with which he scores.

Assuming at least two losses in the postseason (because if there is only one, the Heat would qualify on the first criteria) that would require a 27.3-point, 8.3-rebound and 8.3-assist season from James, averages well within his versatile range. That’s he’s accomplished those numbers before and won the championship before attest that he can accomplish both feats. Combining them seems quite feasible.

If he can have the most dominant postseason ever while winning a title, then he could eventually enter into that Jordan category of dominance, although that takes time. There was once an argument that Jordan would never win a title, believe it or not.

Legacies are never made instantly. Whether it’s because we have to wait for the legend to grow, or it’s because there needs to be time to separate us from the emotion of the moment, history tends to appreciate greatness more than the present.

Accomplishing any of these feats would mark the Heat as one of the great teams in history, but if LeBorg takes them through a record-setting postseason run, it would be almost impossible to keep them out of the conversation.

When this season ends it might not be whether this the best team now, but whether it's the best team ever. 

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