If you had to pick 13 players to form an active roster that would just destroy the Miami Heat, who would you put on your All-Beat the Heat Team?
That's the question I'll be tackling throughout this article, but to make it a little more difficult, I'm not just constructing a lineup of all the best players in the NBA.
Sure, you might want to have Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul on your team, but that's not the point. While they've posted great numbers against Miami, those performances don't stand out against the overall backdrop of their careers.
Other players have elevated their level of play to a greater extent.
Again, the purpose isn't to build an All-Star team.
It's to put together a lineup of players who have performed admirably against Miami in the past, who have playing styles that pose problems for the defending champions and who just flat-out hate the Heat.
If LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the back-to-back ring-winners saw this roster, they'd start shivering. They know that each player has had success against them in the past and will continue to perform well in the future.
That's why they're on the All-Beat the Heat Team. Not just because they're NBA stars.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise specified, come from Basketball-Reference.
Career Per-Game Stats vs. the Heat: 18.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists
2012-13 Per-Game Stats vs. the Heat: N/A
When Derrick Rose squared off against the Heat during the 2010-11 postseason, the matchup caused all sorts of matchup problems for Erik Spoelstra's squad. He struggled to figure out how he could contain the dynamic floor general, and Miami had to re-tool its entire defense.
LeBron James even had to slide over and guard Rose during large chunks of the game, and that threw the rest of the defense into a flustered state of shifts and switches.
Although the Heat ultimately emerged victorious, it was quite difficult to contain the MVP-winning point guard. Over the course of five games, he averaged 23.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 6.6 assists per contest, and while he shot only 35 percent from the field, his impact lay more in just how much he forced the Heat to adapt.
Essentially, that's the key against Miami.
Teams can't be suckered into playing Heat basketball, but rather have to force the defending champions into changing their modus operandi. Few players can do that better than Rose, especially because of the matchup nightmare he poses for Mario Chalmers.
The Memphis product wasn't able to suit up at any point during the 2012-13 season, but that'll change in 2013-14. His dominance against Miami won't, though.
Career Per-Game Stats vs. the Heat: 14.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists
2012-13 Per-Game Stats vs. the Heat: 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists
"I got you back, young fella."
When LeBron James takes time to walk over, give you a high five and deliver that message after following up your posterizing dunk with a three-pointer to beat the buzzer, that's when you know you've arrived.
Paul George did exactly that during the Eastern Conference Finals: arrive. He arrived as a superstar, and he certainly arrived as a matchup nightmare for the Miami Heat.
Not only was the dynamic swingman a thorn in the future champion's side offensively due to his unique combination of skills and ability to affect the game in so many ways, but he was also quite the pest on defense. The matchup between he and LeBron was just something else.
George averaged 19.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game during the series, but he also made LeBron's life rather difficult. Together with Lance Stephenson, he forced the MVP and best player in the world to actually work for the right to advance.
Few players in the NBA are capable of earning the "LeBron stopper" nickname. Truth be told, no one can actually stop him entirely, but George is one of the elite defenders who can at least come close. Kawhi Leonard will belong in the category some day, as will Jimmy Butler.
But neither of the two have the same offensive firepower that this one-time All-Star brings to the table, and that's what gives him the edge as our starting shooting guard.
Career Per-Game Stats vs. the Heat: 22.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists
2012-13 Per-Game Stats vs. the Heat: 19.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists
Paul Pierce has made a living out of torching the Miami Heat.
Thanks to his lifetime average of 22.4 points per game, The Truth has only put up more points per contest against the Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder and Phoenix Suns.
Notice what all those teams have in common?
With the exception of the Knicks, they're Western Conference squads, so Pierce is aided by the lack of an established game plan when he squares off against them. It's much more impressive for him to have such a gaudy average against a conference rival like the Heat.
And Pierce hasn't slowed down in his old age. Miami still hasn't figured out how to guard his relentless mid-range assault and incredible pull-up jumpers off the dribble. He just always seems to catch fire against Miami.
In fact, he even recorded a triple-double when the Heat visited the TD Garden, recording 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a two-point double-overtime victory.
Pierce treats every game against LeBron James and Co. like it's a big one. Normally it really is.
And that's not going to change now that the small forward is with the Brooklyn Nets. He might take a backseat most nights, but when the Heat come to town, The Truth is still going to be the center small forward of attention.
Career Per-Game Stats vs. the Heat: 23.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists
2012-13 Per-Game Stats vs. the Heat: 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists
This isn't about Dirk Nowitzki having a solid outing the only time he squared off with the Heat during the 2012-13 season. It's not about the career per-game stats he's posted, as impressive as they may be.
Quite simply, it's about history.
When the Dallas Mavericks are on the schedule, the Heat have to start thinking back to all of the previous matchups they've enjoyed(?) during the NBA Finals. After all, they faced Dirk in both the 2006 NBA Finals and the much less successful 2011 NBA Finals.
And both times, he torched them.
Although the German 7-footer struggled to find his shot in '06, it was clear that he was the unquestioned superstar, averaging 22.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. And that was nothing compared to 2011, when he just couldn't be stopped.
While the Mavericks forced LeBron into the corners and made him struggle more than ever before, Dirk averaged 26.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game en route to being named Finals MVP in rather definitive fashion.
Nowitzki is a matchup problem for any team. A 7-footer shouldn't be able to stand out on the perimeter and drain shots, nor should he have a deadly, unstoppable move like the one-legged flamingo fadeaway.
But he's a particularly potent problem for Miami, as the personnel just isn't there to stop him. The choices are either letting LeBron guard him, which will inevitably be a frustrating, energy-sapping experience, or letting Chris Bosh attempt to actually play defense against him, which just won't work.
Dirk is one of the few Western Conference representatives to make this team, as it would be impossible to keep him off.
Career Per-Game Stats vs. the Heat: 8.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists
2012-13 Per-Game Stats vs. the Heat: 12.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists
Well, there you have it. I don't think that Joakim Noah was talking about the warm temperatures he experiences during the hottest months of the year in Chicago. I'm pretty sure that he was referring to a certain basketball team from South Beach.
Noah brings tons of fiery intensity to the court each and every time he suits up, but that changes when he squares off with Miami. He brings even more.
The former Florida Gator will battle through plantar fasciitis, doing whatever it takes to make a sizable impact against the premier team in the Eastern Conference. And given his two-way prowess, it usually works.
He has the defensive capabilities to match up against Chris Bosh, and his toughness on the boards makes for a hard matchup. The Heat are notoriously poor at crashing the glass, and Noah loves nothing more than taking advantage of that whenever possible.
Even while playing with a severely crippled foot during the 2013 postseason, the long-haired big man averaged 9.2 rebounds per game against the future champions. That isn't too shabby.
But the key is still the hatred. You want a player in the starting lineup who would walk through fire to beat Miami, and Noah would do so a couple times if that's what it took.
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
The C's floor general loves showing up for the biggest games of the year—ideally the ones on national television—and it usually just so happens that contests with the Miami Heat tend to fill that criterion.
Rondo has put up numerous spectacular lines against the Heat, and the team really hasn't figured out how to guard him yet. Do you sag off him and let him become more of a shooter? Does LeBron guard him? Is it best if he dictates the offensive flow?
That difficulty is part of the reason the impressive floor general has already posted two triple-doubles against the Heat.
Nate Robinson, Denver Nuggets
Our All-Beat the Heat Team needs another backcourt scorer at this point.
Derrick Rose is certainly one, but a dynamic force is needed off the bench. And Nate Robinson is nothing if not dynamic.
The diminutive point guard was quite up and down against Miami during the 2013 postseason while playing for the Chicago Bulls, but he still forced himself to become a primary point of defensive attention. The 0-of-12 outing notwithstanding, he had a great series, highlighted by his 27 points and nine assists in Game 1.
Who doesn't want an irrational confidence guy who can get so hot that LeBron has to go into guard-the-point-guard mode?
Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs
It's impossible to leave Danny Green off this team after what he did to Miami in the 2013 NBA Finals.
He just set the all-time record for triples made in the last series of the year, and he did so in rather definitive fashion. Plus, his defense pestered LeBron and made him work for his points more than he's typically accustomed to.
Someone has to spread the court, and Green proved that he can do exactly that against the suffocating defense of the red-and-black-clad team.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
How about Carmelo Anthony as a sixth man for the All-Beat the Heat Team?
'Melo always seems to catch fire against Miami, and 2012-13 was no exception. New York's season-opener came in Madison Square Garden against the Heat, and Anthony put up 30 points and 10 rebounds while steering his squad to a 20-point victory, drilling four three-pointers in the process.
His other two outings against Miami were even more impressive. He dropped a 32-spot on a more efficient shooting night then used an April contest to put up 50 points, including a 7-of-10 performance from downtown.
'Melo may be the rare player who actually wants to face Miami in the playoffs.
Jeff Green, Boston Celtics
Sometimes all it takes is one game.
All the evidence I need is contained in that video. Just look at the diverse array of shots he makes, the different defenders that Miami throws at him and the ease with which he puts up 43 points in the tight contest.
Nothing more needs to be said.
Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic
Tobias Harris is young enough (he only turned 21 over the summer) that he doesn't have much of a track record against the Heat, but he sure looked good in the three outings he's had against them while a member of the Orlando Magic.
In those three contests, Harris averaged 18.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game while shooting 21-of-45 from the field, 3-of-9 from downtown and 10-of-21 from the charity stripe. The free-throw shooting could clearly use some work, but the rest is fantastic.
Harris has the tools necessary to become both a star player in this league and a thorn in the Heat's size. He's exactly the type of versatile forward that typically gives Spoelstra's defense a bit of trouble.
I've grouped these two together because they're both here for the same reason: They're huge.
Nikola Vucevic towers over most people at a true seven feet, but Roy Hibbert still outdoes him by a couple of inches. And size does indeed matter against the Miami Heat, as the team doesn't typically boast a true center in the starting lineup.
It's inordinately difficult for Chris Bosh to match up against either giant, and that's been reflected in their performances against Miami.
In three games against the Heat, Vucevic averaged an absolutely insane 21.7 points and 21 rebounds per game, highlighted by either the 20-point, 29-rebound outing or the contest in which he hauled in 21 rebounds while putting up 25 points and four assists.
He had Miami's number, and he understood how to position himself perfectly against the Heat.
Hibbert's impact was different, but just as important.
During the Eastern Conference Finals, his ability to maintain verticality and contest shots completely deterred the Heat from attacking the rim when he was in the game. He was a rim-protector supreme while also showing flashes of a potent mid-range game.
With these two big men on the bench, the All-Beat the Heat Team will never be found wanting more size.