2013 was an excellent year for the Miami Heat.
They won a second straight championship and are off to a great start in the 2013-14 season. They're 24-7 and have a top-three offense (110.8 points per 100 possessions) and a top-10 defense (103.5 points allowed per 100 possessions).
But the Heat aren't so mighty that they can simply coast to another championship in 2014. Let's explore five things the Heat should do if they want the 2014 season to end as joyously for them as the previous two seasons did.
We all know how that old saying goes: If ain't broke, don't fix it.
The Heat currently have just about the same personnel and are playing the same style (small ball) they were when they won the 2013 championship—and, as we've gone over, they are having great success.
There should be very little motivation from the Heat's front office to make a trade.
The Heat are known to have one of the best locker-room atmospheres in the NBA; there's no need to risk messing that up.
Michael Beasley recently spoke about how close the Heat players are to B/R's Ethan Skolnick:
"Everybody likes each other," Beasley explained. "Not to say I didn't like my past teammates. But we make it sort of a priority to put our family first, and I say family, I mean us. You think about it, we see each other more than we see our own kids sometimes. You're going to be around guys this long, sometimes you're going to get tired of them, but that's what a family's about, getting through the little ups and downs, realizing the big picture. We all love each other, we love to be around each other, it's just easy. You don't get that a whole lot."
The Heat don't need to add another rebounder despite ranking dead last in the league in rebounds; they were just as bad on the glass last season and won it all.
And even though there are concerns about Dwyane Wade's health, Miami doesn't need to bring in another shooting guard; Wade has looked fantastic lately, and Ray Allen, Roger Mason Jr. and James Jones provide enough depth.
Simply put, Miami already has everything it needs to win a championship.
Chris Bosh has been playing a more aggressive style of basketball lately. In the past six games, he's taken 97 shots (16.1 attempts per game) and scored 131 points (21.83 points per game).
Bosh's best game came against the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 28. With LeBron James unable to play, Bosh took over, scoring 37 points and hitting the game-winning three-pointer.
This obviously isn't to say the Heat want Bosh shooting 26 times a night like he did against the Blazers; however, Chris can't revert to the guy who averaged 9.2 shots per game for Miami in November.
As we've seen before, especially in the past two weeks, the Heat offense is much more formidable when Bosh is aggressive and heavily involved.
"He's doing it in a lot of different ways but the one common denominator is his aggressiveness," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He's attacking the paint off the dribble, off his rolls. He's finding the rim in different ways, rebounding. All of that takes our offense to a whole another level."
Udonis Haslem is a Heat legend, but he sure hasn't played like one this season. He's been slow defensively and has rebounded the ball poorly (6.3 boards per 36 minutes), not to mention his mid-range jumper is clearly broken (he's 6-of-23 on shots taken further than nine feet from the basket, according to NBA.com).
The worst thing of all is that Haslem's play hasn't improved as the season has gone along; it's been consistently poor.
Haslem has been out of the rotation since early November, but found some playing time in the Heat's past four games primarily due to an injury to Chris Andersen. In the 59 minutes of action, Haslem scored 10 total points on 25 percent shooting from the field and grabbed just 10 rebounds.
There's just no area of the game where Haslem is bringing the Heat value right now, which means he has to stay on the bench in the new year.
While Haslem has been the biggest disappointment of the season for Miami, Beasley has been the most pleasant surprise.
He's working his tail off on the defensive end, crashing the glass consistently and lighting it up on the offensive end by constantly getting to the rim. His averages of 20.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per 36 minutes are some of the best on the Heat.
Coach Spoelstra has trusted Beasley with some important minutes recently. Notably, Beasley played nearly the entire fourth quarter in the Heat's Dec. 30 game against the Denver Nuggets. Beasley then rewarded Spo's trust by grabbing three rebounds and hitting three shots in the quarter, including a three-pointer to put Miami up four with 30 seconds left in the game.
Beasley is an important member of this team, and Coach Spo should continue to play him as such.
Miami's maintenance plan for Dwyane Wade has been a complete success to this point.
The Heat have held Wade out of seven games this season for preventative reasons after knee injuries held him back in the 2013 postseason. As a result, Wade has looked explosive and moved well in the games he has played in.
With this plan, Miami is essentially valuing Wade's health for the 2014 postseason over winning regular-season games.
The Heat have started to use a similar mind-set when dealing with other players' injuries as well (LeBron sitting against Portland, for example), and they need to continue doing so in 2014, even if it costs them the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
If the Heat can get to the postseason with all of their key figures fresh and healthy, then it won't matter whether the Indiana Pacers have home-court advantage over them or not.