Blueprint for a Miami Heat 3-Peat Next Season
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However, if the Heat win the title again next season to become just the sixth team in NBA history to win three consecutive championships, well, that might satisfy some appetites.
The pressure didn't just come from fans and media. No, an awkwardly over-the-top entrance promised "not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven" championships.
Caught up in the moment, James' words in the summer of 2010 created boundless expectations.
So, although Miami's home locker room may still be soaked in champagne after back-to-back championships, the immediate and inevitable head turn settles on the franchise's potential three-peat.
Here's what it will take:
Keep the Big Three Together
It would be hard for Pat Riley to break up the Heat’s trio of superstars at this point.
The superteam has made the NBA finals in each of its three seasons since being formed, and there’s little support of going in a different direction after two consecutive championship trophies.
Just as importantly, though, is what other teams would be willing to take on the massive contracts of Bosh or Wade anyway?
The Heat surely expected more from Bosh this past postseason. The 29-year-old averaged just 12.1 points on 45.8 percent shooting, 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in the playoffs.
Bosh was scoreless in the Game 7 victory. It would be hard to find a team willing to pay him the $19.1 million he is owed in 2013-14.
As for Wade, he finally came alive in the finals after sleepwalking through the first three rounds. Wade must have set a record for the amount of times he was "shaken up" this postseason.
Do you think the Heat should keep the Big Three together?
Playing through injury, Wade appeared more mediocre than he did a superstar throughout the playoffs. Wade ultimately averaged 15.9 points on 45.7 percent shooting, 4.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists in the postseason.
His health and ability to endure another long championship run is obviously questionable, and he is set to make $18.7 million next season.
It would be hard for Riley to find another franchise willing to pay Bosh or Wade that type of money. The Big Three should stay together because it makes basketball sense as a clearly successful formula, but it also makes sense because there’s not truly another alternative.
LeBron James may be the only of the Big Three who could find more money elsewhere when the three have the option to opt-out after next season.
Keep Bench Together with Small Tweaks
Just ask the Spurs how good the Heat’s bench was this past postseason.
Ray Allen’s three-point shot in Game 6 was the capping highlight for a Miami bench that produced consistently and heavily throughout the postseason when Bosh and Wade did not.
Allen, who should return next season for the second year of his two-year contract, shot 54.5 percent from three-point range in the finals and averaged 10.6 points per game.
Will Miami's bench be enough in 2013-14?
Mike Miller, after playing just 8.8 minutes per game in the conference finals against the Indiana Pacers, ended up with 11 three-pointers in the finals. He remains under contract at $6.2 million next season.
Shane Battier, who awoke for 6-of-8 three-pointers in the Game 7 of the NBA Finals, should return for the last season of his contract. Backup point guard Norris Cole is also under contract at a steal of $1.1 million next season.
The biggest loss off the bench is Chris Andersen, whose defense and energy may have earned him a contract elsewhere that the Heat might not be able to afford to keep.
Outside of Andersen, however, the Heat’s productive bench will remain mostly intact as the team seeks a three-peat.
The team will need to find a defensive big man like Andersen and bring in youthful legs to support the aged reserves.
Who’s the Competition?
In the relative realm of sports, the biggest question may be: Who is actually going to beat the Heat?
The Heat are not unbeatable, as the Spurs appeared ready to knock them off before collapsing in Game 6, and the Pacers pushed Miami to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But the same thing happened last season when the Boston Celtics pushed Miami to seven games in the conference finals. The Heat have established that claiming home-court advantage from their great regular-season records will help them win crucial Game 7s.
The competition will always increase, just as it was supposed to do in 2012-13, yet the Heat remain the constant.
Out West, the two favorites heading into last season both fell to injuries. The Los Angeles Lakers put together a superteam that suffered through a multitude of fallen stars and proved chemistry is never automatic.
A Russell Westbrook season-ending injury cost the Oklahoma City Thunder a chance to return to the finals. The Thunder should be back next season, but they didn't prove capable of competing with the Heat in the finals the first time. Now, Miami is only more polished.
As of now, which East team has the best shot to stop Miami next season?
Champions of the West, the Spurs are still capable of a return to the finals with a 31-year-old Tony Parker and 21-year-old Kawhi Leonard. But can Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili continue to be a part of that further-aged dynasty?
The Boston Celtics disintegrated without Rajon Rondo, and they now look ready for a rebuild. Derrick Rose was never healthy to lift the Chicago Bulls within the league's elite tier, but if he returns to superstar form the Bulls could push the Heat.
The Pacers remain the biggest threat in the East to beat the Heat, but will they be able to overcome a Heat team that's knocked them out of the postseason two years in a row?
Plenty is in flux this offseason, but the Heat's ability to maintain a consistent roster only works in their favor.
To Capture a Three-Peat
The Heat will return its core of superstars and a bench that had significant improvements in production from Miami's 2012 title to its 2013 title.
To win again, Miami needs to remain patient with its formula and allow Erik Spoelstra to continue guiding the path as he has.
The role of Wade may change in the future, and that's fine to accommodate the ever-strengthening game of James.
To prepare for the improving quality of centers and power forwards on the league's elite teams, Bosh may need to revert to the physical post player he once was.
For now, though, it's just small tinkering in strategy that will allow for the Heat to win a third consecutive title.
It won't be easy—this year proved it never is—but Miami is again the favorite to win the championship in 2013-14.
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