Teams the Miami Heat Need to Be Worried About in 2013
Their second of back-to-back titles was harder than the first, and that's going to be true for their third in as many years.
There are a number of teams that are one or two moves away from being legitimate contenders to take the Heat off the NBA's throne.
Here's a hint, the Los Angeles Lakers aren't on that list, but their fellow Los Angeles brothers are.
Sure, Chicago only won one game in its playoff series with Miami this year, but that win shows just how close the Bulls are to being a legitimate threat to the Heat.
One of Miami's biggest weaknesses is point guard play, especially when that point guard is capable of taking a game over by penetrating the paint—which is another weakness for the Heat.
On paper, Rose is the Heat's kryptonite, and we'll see if that's true on the court when he makes his much-anticipated return.
With Rose on the court, and Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson in the paint, the Bulls have the perfect blueprint for beating Miami. It starts by Rose penetrating and it ends with their frontcourt dominating the glass and controlling the rim.
Miami's 2014 championship hopes will undoubtedly run through Chicago, and this time it could be a much closer series.
Oklahoma City Thunder
You didn't think you'd check this article out without seeing the Oklahoma City Thunder on this list did you?
With an aptly sized frontcourt, the NBA's most potent scorer and one of the most versatile point guards in the game, the Thunder have all they need to contend with the Heat.
Sure, the Heat already dropped Kevin Durant and Co. in the NBA Finals once, but that doesn't mean the same would happen if both teams met in the finals again.
During this postseason, Durant showed that he can be more than a scorer. Once Russell Westbrook returns to the floor, it will be interesting to see how both players complement each other's talents with Durant's new-found skills.
If Serge Ibaka can continue to develop his offensive game, most notably his mid-range jumper, the Thunder will be in an ideal spot to dethrone the Heat—that is if they make it past a stacked Western Conference and into the 2014 NBA Finals.
If you're seeing a trend, you're right on track here, too.
It takes, penetration and offensive production at the point, mixed with interior size and presence to truly contend with the Heat.
The Clippers have both of those things with Chris Paul running the show and DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin holding down the other end of Lob City.
Depending on who the Clippers retain and go out and get this offseason, they also have something that makes them hard to beat, which is depth coming off the bench.
With the Heat continuing to build on aging talent, the Clippers' athleticism and youth poses a serious challenge in terms of pace out on the floor. Watching the Heat and Clippers face off will certainly be exciting this upcoming season, that is if you like watching the Clippers give the Heat a run for their money.
This one is a no-brainer, thanks to the Indiana Pacers taking the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals to a Game 7.
With that being said, the Pacers' shot at knocking off the Miami Heat relies solely on the continued development and maturation of their young superstar—Paul George.
Throughout the Eastern Conference Finals, George was just too inconsistent to will the Pacers over the Heat, but that might not be the case next season after some serious time in the gym and on the court, fine tuning his craft.
As long as Indiana retains David West, who knows how to get under the Heat's skin and dominate them in the paint, it'll be able to run with Miami.
The real difference-maker next season will be how Indiana handles the "Danny Granger situation." That means, whether the team will look to trade him or retain his talents, which will seriously impact the chemistry the Pacers developed last season.
Either way, the Pacers are going to contend in the East once again, and the Heat need to look out for a serious run by Indiana at their stranglehold on Eastern Conference titles.
The Memphis Grizzlies shocked a lot of people by reaching the Western Conference Finals, but I'm sure Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol weren't surprised.
Gasol and Randolph give the Grizzlies one of the most dominant frontcourts in the NBA, and that's exactly why the Miami Heat need to watch out for them.
The Heat struggle enough with teams that have one talented big man—like the San Antonio Spurs with Tim Duncan and the Indiana Pacers with Roy Hibbert—so imagine how tough it is to battle against two talented big man on the same team.
Mix that with Mike Conley's continued maturation and the defensive tenacity/annoyance of Tony Allen—assuming the Grizzlies can coax him into returning—and you have a team that is built to beat Miami.
It will be interesting to see what the Grizzlies do this offseason and who their head coach is, but either way, as long as they retain Gasol and Randolph, they'll have their sights on dethroning the Heat—and that's not an unrealistic thought.