Although the Heat did pull off the franchise’s third title this past June, it did take seven games in both the conference finals and the finals to get it done.
If James and the Heat had fallen to the Pacers or the Spurs, the outlook on next year’s season in Miami would be faced with far more questions than it does now. Mike Miller likely wouldn’t have been the only drastic roster move made.
In reality, Miami’s roster wouldn’t have been any worse if Ray Allen didn’t hit that shot in Game 6, or if young stars Roy Hibbert and Paul George hadn’t collapsed down the stretch in the conference finals.
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But ever since James, Wade and Bosh came together in the summer of 2010, the pressure in Miami has been higher than anywhere else in the league. James’ famous “not one, not two…” comments didn’t exactly subdue that pressure, either.
And when the pressure is as high as it has been in Miami over the past three years, the national spotlight follows right along with it, at times causing perceptions to be skewed.
When perception is skewed, the results are often overreaction and overanalyzation.
This is equally as true when a team succeeds like the Heat have, as a sense of overconfidence can begin to flood the local fanbase and also cause the national media to discredit or ignore the strides other teams make in pursuit of Miami’s throne.
At the end of the day, the facts are Miami should be viewed as the favorites to win its third title in as many years, but there are still a few flaws opponents will undoubtedly attempt to take advantage of when fighting to end the Heat’s run.
This is perhaps the biggest, and potentially most lethal, flaw on the Heat’s roster.
And the 33-year-old Mike Miller may have already been dumped in an effort to clear cap room in preparation for next summer’s LeBron James sweepstakes take two, but the Heat aren’t exactly getting younger as a whole.
Dwyane Wade will be 32 years old by the time next year’s postseason rolls around, Chris Bosh will be 30, Udonis Haslem would be 34 by the finals, Shane Battier and Chris Andersen will be 35 by the season's tip, and Ray Allen just turned 38.
It’s not a stretch to predict age and health could very well end up being factors that hinder the Heat down the stretch next year.
You could say the solution to that issue is a more extensive “maintenance plan” at the season’s end, but with Derrick Rose returning to Chicago, and with Indiana making noticeable improvements, Miami likely won’t have the luxury of being able to rest their stars as it aims for the top spot in the East and, ultimately, home-court advantage.
Regardless of the circumstances, James will definitely be counting on younger members like Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and even Jarvis Varnado to carry some of the load throughout the regular season, even if briefly.
Granted, Miami did show a strong sense of urgency to try to improve its post presence with the addition of Greg Oden this summer.
However, everyone in the Heat organization, Oden included, knows it’d be foolish to depend on purely Miami’s newest big man as the answer to all their issues down low.
Miami isn’t asking Oden to return to 2007 form. Anything the former No. 1 overall draft pick is able to give the Heat is a bonus.
Aside from Oden, Miami will be looking towards Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony and possibly Jarvis Varnado to battle the bigs of Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn and others.
And while these individuals will be able to lessen some of the damage opposing big men wreak on Miami, the simple reality is they still don’t match up to the league’s elite.
Unless Oden manages to defy the odds and play like he did at Ohio State, the post will always be a point of weakness for Miami. Other teams will mold their game plans for the Heat to attack them down low.
That’s not changing, and the Heat know it.
This ties into both Miami’s age and the issues in the paint.
Since deciding to take the small-ball route, the Heat have lost more than their fair share of battles on the boards. Miami ranked dead last in rebounding last year, averaging just 38.6 rebounds per game.
But, to be fair, head coach Erik Spoelstra was well aware of this consequence when he informed general Pat Riley, an avid supporter of big men, of his decision to go small.
And to Spoelstra’s credit, no team has yet to figure out a successful plan of attack to dismember Miami’s formula; hence, two straight titles.
However, that’s not to say that teams aren’t getting closer to cracking the Heat’s code.
A youthful and big Indiana team was awfully close last year, and a seasoned San Antonio squad almost managed to beat Miami at their own game in the finals.
Spoelstra and the Heat front office are clearly aware of this issue, no matter how much they may downplay the fact by saying things like turnovers are more integral to their winning ways.
This was evident when the franchise signed Chris Andersen this past January.
While Andersen may not have been noted as Miami’s most valuable player throughout the offseason, there’s little doubt the team could have had the success it did without his energy and effort on the boards.
It was also evident Miami recognizes the flaw when Riley went out and signed Greg Oden a few weeks ago.
Clearly, Miami has a great grasp of its identity as a team and a firm understanding of its strengths, as well as its weaknesses. It's taken all of the possible steps to ensure it emphasizes both as needed over the past few seasons.
But when it's all said and done, these aren't flaws Miami will be able to completely fix this year.
Teams don't win because they're perfect, but rather because they have the ability to succeed in spite of their flaws.
Miami has managed to do so over the past two seasons, and it has an excellent shot at making it three in a row.