Andrew Bynum Is the Center of Truth in Miami Heat's Title Myth
Las Vegas recently installed the Miami Heat as favorites to win the NBA championship in 2011, and after their recent free-agent coup landed LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, it's easy to understand why.
In James and Wade, Miami has arguably two of the game's top three players; in Bosh, it has one of basketball's top power forwards.
Wade has called the trio the greatest in NBA history, and James has promised to win at least four or five championships, but behind their bravado, very serious issues still remain for Miami.
One of the biggest areas of concern is the need to surround the three stars with quality talent. As of this writing, free agent Mike Miller and mainstay Udonis Haslem have both stated their intentions to be a part of Miami's team.
There is no doubt that Pat Riley will have this team ready to contend by the time the NBA regular season tips off, but regardless of whom he finds to fill out the rest of the roster, there is fallacy in the logic of Miami as title favorites.
The two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers have done nothing this offseason suggesting they are not fully prepared to defend their championship, plus they have the advantage of a seven-foot gorilla in the room.
It's easy to get swept up in thoughts of a Wade, James, and Bosh trio dominating the NBA, but championships are not won with three players alone, and in some instances the remaining players the Heat sign may be just as important as the stars.
Miami will be able to find athletic, talented players willing to play for a pittance, but will any of those players have the size, strength, and talent to contend with Andrew Bynum in the post?
The strength of the Lakers' team was found in the superior post play of Pau Gasol and Bynum last season. Even though Bosh may be an effective counter for Gasol, who guards Bynum?
Shaquille O'Neal has been the most prominent name mentioned to assume post duties for the Heat, but if Miami hopes to dethrone the Lakers it will take more than an aging Shaq to do it.
True centers in the NBA are a rare commodity, and in Bynum the Lakers have one of the league's very best, provided he manages to overcome his latest knee injury.
Bynum proved his mettle while playing through his knee injury in the postseason, and his presence in the lineup gives the Lakers one of the most formidable post tandems in the NBA.
If length was the primary concern, the Heat could conceivably sign players to match the size of Bynum, but some people tend to forget Bynum has tons of ability to match his seven-foot frame.
Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has served as a mentor and tutor for Bynum, and Bynum has proven to be an apt pupil, displaying good foot work and a back-to-the-basket game in an age where those skills have been lost.
Once Bynum establishes position in the post, he is virtually unstoppable, and he has shown the ability to spin to either hand once he has an opponent pinned under the basket.
Bynum's offensive progression has been admirable, but his biggest impact for the Lakers is on the defensive end, where his size and strength make him a deterrent at the rim.
The Boston Celtics were visibly intimidated by Bynum in the 2010 NBA Finals, and his defensive presence was one of the main reasons the Lakers were able to hold their own against the gritty Celtics.
Bynum averaged 15 points per game and 8.3 rebounds during the course of the regular season, and he, Gasol, and Lamar Odom were the center of the postseason's top rebounding team.
The old adage says rebounding wins championships, and this is a dilemma for Miami's super team because although Miami's trio possesses many talents, none of them (other than Bosh) will have much of an impact against the Lakers' trees.
This is something Las Vegas and many of the observers who have pegged Miami as next season's favorites have strangely failed to take into account, considering how important it was to the Lakers' past two championships.
Miami will undoubtedly round out the rest of their roster with decent players, but will any of them present the same challenges in the post to the Lakers that the Celtics did in the Finals?
It's highly unlikely, and should the Heat prevail over the Celtics or the Orlando Magic (both much stronger in the paint), they will find the NBA's top frontline waiting for them.
It's nice to dream about the potential of a team featuring James, Wade, and Bosh, but until they find an answer for the Lakers' Bynum, those dreams will likely turn to nightmares if the two teams meet in the 2011 NBA Finals.
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