Can Only Be One: Lakers Not A Threat To Miami Heat Title Aspiration
With the decision being made to bring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to partner with Dwyane Wade on South Beach, the Miami Heat organization changed the entire landscape of NBA basketball.
How it will play out? Well, we only have speculations and opinions.
In what felt like mere moments, one organization ascended to the top of basketball envy, and another seemingly fell off the map altogether.
Now a state of quandary has befallen most, if not all the teams not branded with the Heat logo. Never mind that general managers, coaches, and players are still perplexed about how an NBA team ended up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on it, and still managed to add Chris Bosh.
Someone had to sell their soul in order for this to happen, right?
Nevertheless, no one is conceding anything to the Miami Heat just yet. The common sentiment is that they look nice on paper, but the games have yet to be played.
That's funny. This kind of rhetoric wasn’t being used these past two seasons in regards to the Los Angeles Lakers. People had all but conceded that they would be the NBA Champions, even though they didn’t have the most balanced or talented roster in the league.
Why was that?
Many claimed they would win because they allegedly possessed the best basketball player on the planet, Kobe Bryant. Well he isn’t the best player and they weren’t champions because of him. They won because they were physically bigger than the Orlando Magic and the role players stepped up big time against the Boston Celtics.
But that was then and this is now.
And the now is very clear: The Miami Heat have the two most statistically dominant players over the past five seasons, and they didn't stop there. Miami has done some things that have pissed off the masses, even though it was perfectly within its right to do so. No NBA team is supposed to have this kind of talent assembled on one roster at one time, not in this era at least.
If this was the Lakers and Celtic franchises of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, this would be accepted as typical NBA business. If this was before the modern era of expansion, no one would even blink.
But it isn’t and naturally someone has to play the villain and someone must be cast as the hero.
So here we stand, James branded as a cowardly traitor and Kobe as the NBA’s one ray of hope. Talk about irony; show of hands if you saw this coming four years ago.
Kobe Bryant is officially back on top of everyone’s best player list. LeBron James is officially out of the MVP race. And Pat Riley is officially the most hated man in all the NBA.
The media is doing this because it knows that the only two stories worth telling barring any injuries to the trio of Miami will be how many games the Heat will win and will the Lakers make it back to the Finals to challenge them.
So let’s say that there really is a crystal ball that can predict the future (SMH) and it predicts that the Heat and Lakers will meet in the NBA Finals this upcoming season.
How would these two clubs stack up?
Who the heck would win?
Well, walk with me as I guide you through the roster breakdown and head-to-head matchups of each team.
(Yeah, that's Kobe Bryant hacking Dwyane Wade in LA this past season, and no whistle was called; Wade and his teammates better get used to it.)
Bench: Haslem/ Miller/ Ilgauskas/ Arroyo vs Odom/ Blake/ Barnes/Ratliff
When looking at the two benches, they are both loaded with veteran players that are proven in the NBA, especially the top three players off each bench. The difference in the two teams lies strictly in how they compliment the starting talents of each team.
In my opinion, the Heat has more balance amongst their bench and their players tend to be more efficient and consistent. The Lakers? Not so much.
The Lakers basically have one player that can really come out and really effect the outcome of a game. That player is Lamar Odom. Steve Blake is also a nice compliment to the Lakers offense, but he is an absolute hindrance on defense. The Heat has Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, who are complimentary pieces that fit in perfectly with the starting unit.
Miami basically has filled out its bench; it has eight players already signed to guarantee contracts and added two young prospects to partial guaranteed contracts so they can compete for a spot during training camp.
The Lakers have six players currently signed to its bench. They have yet to re-sign Shannon Brown or the two rookie second round draft picks. D.J. Mbenga and Adam Morrison are also without contracts. So, as you can see, the Lakers still have some moves to make.
Here’s a look at how the two benches shape up in head to head match-ups.
Udonis Haslem vs Lamar Odom: (edge Miami)
Haslem averaged 13.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 28 minutes versus the Lakers. He also shot 52.6 percent from the floor (10/19 attempts.)
Odom averaged 8.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 29 minutes versus the Heat. He also shoot 70.0 percent from the floor (7/10 attempts.)
The matchup between Haslem and Odom is a very intriguing one.
Both are diligent defenders who can cover multiple positions and team leaders on and off the court. Odom is the more skilled player and has the size advantage, but Haslem is the harder worker and more consistent of the two. With Odom, he may go off one game and be missing the next three, where as Haslem is the complete opposite.
Mike Miller vs Matt Barnes: (edge Miami)
Miller averaged 13.0 points, 4.5 assist, 3.5 rebounds, and 33 minutes versus the Lakers. He also shot 52.4 percent from the floor (11/21 attempts.)
Barnes averaged 5.0 points, 1.0 assist, 6.0 rebounds, and 26 minutes versus the Heat. He also shoot 36.4 percent from the floor (8/22 attempts.)
This is a lopsided matchup for many reasons, but the biggest is the versatility of Mike Miller.
Miller can sub in for either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade and the dynamics of the offense or defense don’t change at all. Reason why I say this is because Wade and James attack teams in a parallel fashion. Miller would be allowed to feed off Wade the same he would James, and on defense he wouldn’t have to worry about defending Kobe.
His outside shooting is also beneficial to both Wade and James because it spreads the floor even more, thus giving them even more room to run isolation plays.
Matt Barnes is a defensive specialist in most NBA circles, but he is not an idea choicel to guard Dwyane Wade or LeBron James. Last season proved that much true.
He will not see enough floor time nor does he have the kind of skill set to change the outcome of a game between the Lakers and Heat.
With Barnes on the court it actually hurts the Lakers offensively because the Triangle is a offense that needs balance. Lakers' fans better hope he develops a consistent jumper because the Heat will sag off him and dare him to make shots.
Carlos Arroyo vs Steve Blake: (edge Miami)
Arroyo averaged 17.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5 assist, and 42 minutes versus the Lakers. He also shot 85.7 percent from the floor (6/7 attempts.)
Blake averaged 8.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.3 assist, and 28 minutes versus the Heat. He also shoot 36.4 percent from the floor (8/22 attempts.)
Steve Blake gets more headlines than Carlos Arroyo because he’s been afforded the luxury of being a starter when he shouldn’t have been.
Don’t get me wrong, Blake is a skilled passer and shooter, but he’s also a liability on defense. Putting him up against a pit-bull like Carlos Arroyo is a bad idea.
But to the Lakers credit, they won't put Blake on the floor much against the Heat. Miami would simply go big with Wade sliding to the point and Miller being brought in at the two-guard position.
And even if they didn’t, Arroyo is too big on the block for Blake.
This is basically a matchup problem for the Lakers. Anyone else sensing a theme here?
Zydrunas Ilgauskas vs Theo Ratliff: (edge Miami)
Ilguaskas averaged 3.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.5 assist, and 24 minutes versus the Lakers. He also shot 23.1 percent from the floor (3/13 attempts.)
Ratliff averaged 2.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 0.6 assist, and 14 minutes versus the Heat. He also shoot 60.0 percent from the floor (3/5 attempts.)
This is a battle of former All-Stars. Neither will be on the floor much should these teams meet, but Ilgauskas clearly has more left in his tank. His outside shooting abilities, rebounding, and his size give him the edge over Ratliff.
I doubt the Lakers are content with starting the season with Ratliff as the back-up to Bynum. I’m sure they would like to make a move, but the fact that they are already committing $92 million in salary, it’s hard to envision them going after someone worthy of that position.
So by default, the Heat wins out for now.
The remainder of the rosters look like this…
James Jones vs Sasha Vujacic… Neither player is going to see much time on the floor.
Juwan Howard vs Luke Walton… You can decide on this battle of opposite positions.
Jamaal Magloire vs ???
Dexter Pittman vs ???
Kenny Hasbrouck vs ???
Shavlik Randolph vs ???
The Lakers have four roster spots available, but two are presumed to be for the second round draft choices. It'll be interesting to see who they fill them ou witht.
The edge goes to Miami.
Starting Center: Joel Anthony vs Andrew Bynum
The matchup between Joel Anthony and Andrew Bynum is clearly one-sided from a talent and production standpoint. Andrew Bynum is a seven-foot beast when focused and Joel Anthony is a poor man's version of Ben Wallace.
But this isn’t a game of 1-on-1. This is a team sport, and the only thing that is important is how effectively each player executes their role.
When looking at the starting rosters of both teams, Bynum has the biggest mismatch on the floor. This isn’t to slight Joel Anthony in anyway, but if Bynum can dominate Dwight Howard, he shouldn’t have a problem doing the same to Anthony.
However, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol aren’t about to defer to Bynum enough for the matchup to have any major impact on the outcome of a series. Plus, there’s the problem with Bynum not being able to keep himself out of foul trouble.
With players like Wade, James, and Bosh in constant attack mode, Bynum is a prime candidate to be on the bench more often than not. Now if the NBA officials do there usual LA dance (pocketing their whistles), the outcome could be drastically different.
The Heat would only require that Anthony protect the rim and rebound. He’s one of the five best shot blockers in the NBA and an underrated offensive rebounder.
However, he is a piss-poor defensive rebounder, mainly because he chases after so many shots. Offensively he doesn’t present much of a threat, only reaching double figures once in 80 games last season.
So like I said, this is a lopsided matchup in favor of the Lakers. However, it may very well be determined by how each player is utilized by his teammates and coach. But this matchup is clearly in favor of the Lakers (the Heat could always elect to start Ilgauskas.)
Joel Anthony vs the Lakers last season: Six total minutes played and not a single statistic recorded.
Andrew Bynum vs the Heat last season: 33 minutes, 15.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks per game. He shot 50 percent from the floor (12/24 attempts.)
Starting Point Guard: Mario Chalmers vs Derek Fisher
The Mario Chalmers versus Derrick Fisher matchup is a intriguing one that bares resemblance to a father going against his teenage son in their backyard. The average fan won’t appreciate the importance that each player has to his team's success.
They actually mirror each other's abilities, with the only real advantage going to Fisher based on his tenure and experience. But then again, Chalmers has the advantage in speed, size, and ability to generate turnovers (even though he gives the ball up just as much.)
Both players are threats from the outside and both tend to play their best ball when the stakes are most high. Chalmers is more aggressive in regards of helping out in the rebound department, but he has a long way to go before he can effect a team and the outcome of a game the way Derek Fisher has over his career.
Anyway, the game still has to be played and these two players are going too butt heads at some point; they're too competitive not too. And though Chalmers is physically younger and more gifted athletically, I have to give the edge to Fisher and the Lakers.
This would be a fun battle to watch, one in which I’m sure both players would step up to the challenge.
Mario Chalmers vs Lakers last season: 29 minutes, 8.0 points, 3.5 assist, and 2.5 turnovers per game. He shot 42.9 percent (6/14) from the floor and 40.0 percent from deep (4/10).
Derek Fisher vs Miami last season: 33 minutes, 12.5 points, 2.0 assist, and 2.0 turnovers per game. He shot 50.0 percent (9/18) from the floor and 37.5 percent from deep (3/8).
Starting Power Forward: Chris Bosh vs Pau Gasol
Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol are regarded as the top two power forwards in the NBA.
Although opinions waver on exactly which one is better, the numbers don’t lie. The numbers I speak of are the head-to-head numbers, and they all point to Gasol being the more effective of the two.
In 12 career games versus one another, Gasol has outscored and outrebounded Bosh in eight of the games. I’m guessing that’s partly why he holds a 8-4 advantage in the win column.
Now, of course one should consider that Gasol is four years Bosh's senior, has two more seasons of experience, and that Bosh has improved as a player since they first competed against each other. But that still won’t change what either player can and can’t do against each other.
The thing with this matchup is how the perimeter players effect their teammates offensively and defensively.
Gasol will have to play off Chris Bosh and his deadly jumper because Dwyane Wade and LeBron James can blow by Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest more often than not. This will effect how long Gasol will be on the floor if he picks up early fouls.
On offense, Bosh will get a ton of looks because of the Wade-James duo. Gasol won’t see as many one-on-one looks because James will play off Artest and dare him to shoot. This will affect the space that Gasol needs to operate.
It’s also the reason I thought the Lakers would go after Rasual Butler and not Matt Barnes.
It’s hard to say who wins out in this matchup, because Gasol has dominated the career numbers. But Bosh was the better player last season, statistically speaking.
This matchup is a WASH!
Chris Bosh versus the Lakers last season: 35 minutes, 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.0 assist, and 1.0 blocks per game. He shot 45.7 percent from the floor (16/35 attempts)
Pau Gasol versus the Heat last season: 39 minutes, 16.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assist, and 0.5 blocks per game. He shot 44.4 percent from the floor (12/27 attempts)
Starting Small Forward: LeBron James vs Ron Artest
The LeBron James versus Ron Artest matchup would be fun to watch if LeBron was on a team without Dwyane Wade. However, that is no longer the case.
That means Artest has the burden of defending James in isolation—play after play if the Heat so choose. This scenario alone is enough to suggest why these teams aren’t even remotely evenly matched.
In spite of how people might feel about LeBron James and his decision to team with Dwyane Wade in Miami, he still is the biggest matchup problem in the NBA.
Regardless of how ignorant people are to his decision, he isn’t any less skilled or talented. Heck, the guy might actually enter the season even better. Partnering James with Wade makes it IMPOSSIBLE to keep him from dominating a game.
It doesn’t even matter what Artest strengths and weakness are, James is three times as effective as a player. He is better than Artest in every facet of the game when focused, and most when he isn’t.
This is as lopsided as it gets between two household names manning the same position. James is the reason this would be a four-game series; he’s 9-5 vs. the Lakers over his career.
LeBron James versus the Lakers last season: 41 minutes, 31.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 9.0 assist, 2.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. He shot 50.0 percent from the floor (22/44 attempts)
Ron Artest versus the Heat last season: 43 minutes, 9.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assist, 2.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game. He shot 32.0 percent from the floor (8/25 attempts)
Starting Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade vs Kobe Bryant
Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant—the greatest head to head match-up over the past decade?
Maybe. It would surely be the headliner matchup here, not because people respect just how talented and dominant Wade is as a player but mainly because folks want to see how much Kobe would dominate the matchup.
Well let me tell you now, if you are under the impression that Kobe is just going to run over Wade and do as he pleases you need to step out of what ever alternative realm of existence you’ve been living in. For the past two seasons, Kobe has had the distinct advantage of a better team. Yet, the two are 2-2 in head-to-head matchups, and the Heat had every chance to have swept both series.
Over Wade’s past four games against LA, he contributed at least 41 plus points in every game. Out of the 13 games they have squared off, Wade has had 40-plus points on eight separate occasions.
1. 12 points (2003-04) Rookie playing point guard
2. 54 points (2004-05)
3. 39 points (2004-05)
4. 31 points (2005-06)
5. 52 points (2005-06)
6. 53 points (2006-07)
7. 53 points (2006-07)
8. 31 points (2007-08) Played with injured shoulder and knee
9. 24 points (2007-08) Played with injured shoulder and knee
10. 41 points (2008-09)
11. 47 points (2008-09)
12. 49 points (2009-10)
13. 62 points (2009-10)
So as you can see, Wade has done a lot with very little, capping off last season with his best performance ever against Kobe and the Lakers. All this while Artest and Kobe were on the floor together for 40 plus minutes per game and no one was there to take the pressure off Wade.
So how effective will he be now that the Lakers have to guard him one-on-one?
How effective will Kobe be offensively if he has to guard Wade for 40 minutes?
People don’t want to admit it, but Kobe is up in age and he doesn’t have the speed or quickness to keep up with Wade.
For those that think I’m ignoring the talents of Bryant, I’m not. Kobe is who you believe him to be and he also is everything you think he isn’t. I’ll let you determine what that means.
For the record, in this past postseason he accumulated four or more fouls on nine different occasions. That’s 39 percent of the time when he didn’t have a primary defensive assignment that commanded the kind of respect that Dwyane Wade does.
So what do you presume is going to happen if he has to defend Wade for a seven game series? The prospects aren’t too positive?
Kobe is great and is a top-10 player and top-5 competitor, but his time is up. This matchup with Wade could actually be one of embarrassment more than one of accomplishment.
It is already perceived that Bryant is the better player, but should Wade dominate him like he did the Mavericks, Pistons or Celtics it would force a lot of folks to admit the obvious truth…Wade is the more productive and efficient player.
So you can take it as you see, but from my point of view Wade is the better player, and has been since 2006.
Dwyane Wade versus the Lakers last season: 42 minutes, 26.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 11.5 assist, 0.5 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. He shot 38.1 percent from the floor (16/42 attempts.)
Kobe Bryant versus the Heat last season: 44 minutes, 36.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.5 assist, 2.0 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game. He shot 50.9 percent from the floor (27/53 attempts.)
After The Smoke Clears And All Is Done
We have a full 82 games in front of us, and nothing is for certain. All we have is speculation and bias opinions to go on, and I can express that enough.
With that said, the Lakers are the current NBA Champs and should be applauded for their accomplishment. However, you can’t simply hate or ignore what the Heat has built this offseason. This kind of talent and skill is unprecedented in this decade of NBA play.
Their will be no problems with chemistry for Miami, as the Heat is returning a number of players from last year's team. They brought in two from Cleveland, and the one from Toronto is close friends with the team's top two players.
People are just saying things for the sake of saying them. I suggest you ignore them as too not look stupid in the near future. The Heat will be dominant and most importantly, they will be celebrating something very special come June, 2011.
So let us all take a month or two off from all the hating and idiotic rants. There will be plenty of time to scream “F#@% the Heat” over the next half decade.
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