LeBron James is 28 years old and is the clear-cut best basketball player on the planet.
Just like this current Miami Heat roster has done each of the past three seasons, they will continue to improve next year.
Miami’s doubters will point out factors such as a declining Dwyane Wade, the loss of Mike Miller and questions as to whether or not the Heat will be able to respond to demands made by teams with size like the Indiana Pacers and the Chicago Bulls.
But those points are nothing more than topics for discussion throughout the quiet days of the offseason and until play starts to pick up in the second half of next year’s regular season.
Teams like Indiana and Chicago may be getting better, and they may give the Heat a run for their money next season.
However, anyone expecting Miami to fall off shouldn’t have their hopes too high. The Heat will be a better team for several reasons.
First and foremost, let’s state the obvious: Miami has LeBron James on its roster.
And with two championships now under his belt, he’s only getting better.
James has made it a point to improve his game in some way each offseason. In 2011, it was his post game. Last year, it was his outside shot.
As far as where he can improve next, the belief is James is aiming to clean up his free throw percentage. After 10 years, he sits at just 75 percent for his career from the charity stripe.
Last year, despite being his best overall piece of work yet, James’ 75-percent free throw percentage was his worst since 2007-08, when he shot just 71 percent.
The four-time regular season MVP has constantly tinkered with his mechanics at the line as he’s searched for his comfort zone. After working with Ray Allen this past season, there was a stretch where James mimicked Allen’s exact routine.
However, that stretch was short-lived before he began going back to his own ways.
Aside from free throws, James is as good as we’ve seen in a long time.
He understands the moment. He’s focused on building a legacy. He won’t let Miami fall off in 2013.
Mike Miller won’t be returning next season, but nearly every other significant contributor for Miami will be back.
The Heat’s core, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem, are going on their fourth year together.
Norris Cole and Shane Battier are going on their third year with this roster; Ray Allen, Chris Andersen and Rashard Lewis will be making their second rounds in South Beach.
And don’t forget about role players like James Jones and Joel Anthony, who have both been with the club for over five years. Though they may not be game changers, both Jones and Anthony understand the Heat culture and are more than capable of filling in for short stints when needed.
Some were clamoring for drastic moves to alter the Heat’s roster and adjust to other contenders throughout the league, but rarely do teams have the opportunity to play with the continuity Miami has at the moment.
James has stressed how comfortable he feels with this roster as is, and this group of players is certainly still more than capable of competing at the highest level.
The chemistry that has been forged in the Heat’s locker room over the past four years will make it easier for Miami to adjust when facing adversity, but more than anything, it allows James to play the game in his comfort zone.
And when James is comfortable, he’s awfully difficult to beat.
While the Heat will have the luxury of continuity in its system, the franchise is still expected to add one or two missing pieces to complete the puzzle for a run at a third straight championship.
It’s well known by now that center Greg Oden, who hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since 2009, sits at the top of Miami’s wish list. And as it currently stands, the Heat look to potentially be the favorites to land Oden.
If Oden ends up deciding to take his talents elsewhere, however, Miami will explore backup options, including 39-year-old Marcus Camby. Jarvis Varnado, who was a member of the Heat last year and had a strong summer league showing, is also expected to have a shot at making Miami’s roster.
Either way, the Heat will almost assuredly feature one or two bigger bodies next season in order to deal with sizable opponents like the Pacers and the Bulls.
Miami was last in the league in rebounding last year, and although Erik Spoelstra has constantly said his team finds other statistics, like turnovers, to be more important in their formula for success, there’s little doubt the Heat will be looking to fix that glaring weakness moving forward.
Mo Williams is another name that has recently surfaced in Miami’s free agency request pool, as the Heat could possibly look to bolster their point guard spot while making up slightly for the loss of Mike Miller’s sharp shooting.
We could speculate about who Miami will add and what moves will be made in the future, but at the end of the day, the only thing we really do know is that Pat Riley will make the moves he feels gives his team the best opportunity to continue its recent success and dynastic aspirations.