Could Miami Heat Take a Step Back in 2013-14 Attempt to 3-Peat?
As soon as the Miami Heat picked up their second championship in three years, talks turned right to the team's future, and how they can remain at the top.
Obviously, a lot of the concern is surrounding the 2014 offseason and whether or not LeBron James will hitch his wagon to a new horse, with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade possibly to follow him out the door.
However, there is a little something called "next year" to worry about before that all happens, and there should be concerns about the immediate future before they get into the distant future.
They've got two key players who are over 34, two others who ache every time they roll over in the morning and no more than $3 million to spend on their most sought-after free agent this summer.
It's a process they've gone through before, but never to this extent.
As the Heat stand, they're obviously going to be favorites for the title next season, but the odds that something trips them up along the way increase every year.
First, let's take a look at the positives, which probably outweigh the negative at this point.
The Heat just won a title, they have LeBron as he's entering into his prime and they'll have another year of the team growing together and the players learning each others' habits.
Other than LeBron continuing to be the best basketball player on the planet and getting better, there are a few young players to keep an eye on.
Norris Cole is bereft of offensive abilities at times, but he's growing into a fine little defender and his three-point shot is coming together.
Mario Chalmers is coming along as an above-average point guard as well as a deadly spot-up shooter.
They don't have any picks in the upcoming draft, but they do have the mini-mid-level exception to add a player.
It seems unlikely that they'll find a big man with that money (unless Greg Oden becomes a viable option), but they can add an additional wing defender or a spot-up shooter.
There were concerns following Miami's first championship in 2006 that Wade would eventually become an injury-prone, middle-aged shooting guard who becomes unreliable for stretches at a time.
That thought has grown into a reality for the Heat, as Wade's knees have turned on him and he remains a question well into the future.
After three rough performances in the finals, Wade followed up with solid games in three of the next four to get everybody off his back, but they're not going to forget about a playoffs in which he disappeared for nearly an entire series against the Indiana Pacers.
What are the odds he makes it another season without another major hiccough? And even if he does, how much will his game regress as that speed and athleticism continue to melt?
I'll stand by the belief that trading Wade is a viable option, but even if that is the case, it's highly unlikely that it becomes a reality sometime next season.
Another guy who played far under his expectations in the playoffs, Bosh's disappearance on offense gave the Heat fits throughout.
Luckily for them, he proved to the world that he was an improved defender and made huge plays throughout the final two games of the finals.
What becomes a problem is that he's still the third banana, but he might be the second-best player Miami has to work with.
How will Miami fare next season?
Trading Bosh has come up time and time again over the past two seasons, but is that really the best step to take?
Bosh would likely be pieced out for youth and depth, most likely in the form of a solid big man and a backup for Wade who isn't a 37-year-old.
Think about something like Bosh for Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and a protected draft pick, for example. Is Miami better off in that situation, or are they flirting with disaster?
Parting with Bosh for pieces would put extra pressure on Wade to stay healthy, and if he goes down, then it just becomes the LeBron James Hour, which isn't a solid approach to a three-peat.
Miami may want another option, but sticking with Bosh and hoping there's no more drastic steps backward seems to be the best route.
Mike Miller, Shane Battier and Ray Allen
Mike Miller was Rookie of the Year in 2001 and Sixth Man of the Year in 2006, Shane Battier won an NCAA Championship when LeBron James was a sophomore in high school and Ray Allen was an All-Star for the first time in 2000.
Together they combined for 432 minutes in the NBA Finals, which is good for a quarter of the total available minutes through seven games.
In a year when players were dropping like flies from every lower-body injury in The Canon of Medicine, Miami's relative health is somewhat miraculous.
Miller isn't necessarily integral to the team during the season, but he always seems to find a role in the finals.
As for Battier, he's gone from being a defensive specialist a few years back to a spot-up shooter and a wing defender every now and then.
Allen isn't necessarily an injury concern yet, but he's old, which is always a concern in the young man's game.
Udonis and Birdman
Last, but certainly not least, we've got the issue of Miami's go-to big men off the bench.
Chris Andersen was good for the team in stretches, but is he a long-term answer for anything more than some energy off the bench?
It remains to be seen whether or not the Heat will even have him back next season, but if they do, he doesn't seem to be worth more than some rebounds and put-back dunks. Defensively, he's overzealous and foul-happy.
As for Udonis Haslem, he's masquerading as a stretch-4 despite the fact that he can't consistently knock down a jumper to save his life.
These two don't seem to be of more benefit than on a game-to-game basis, and the Heat could need more than that from their backup big men.
The offseason will be interesting for the Heat, and ultimately, it will probably be uneventful, but the players they look at and the trades they pursue could give us a look into their future, should the top-tier trio stick around.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?