With the new trio created in South Beach, it seems that the Miami Heat are favored to go deep into the 2011-2012 NBA Playoffs. But before we start giving LeBron his first ring, we need to remember that there is still another team to beat in the East: The reigning Eastern Conference champs, the Boston Celtics.
With Cleveland seemingly out of the way and other Eastern Conference teams pretty much shafted by this year’s free agent pool, it is very likely that we will see a Celtics vs. Heat matchup in this coming season’s Eastern Conference Finals.
Who will come out on top? Will the new “Big Three” in Miami dominate like they had planned? Or will Boston’s team of seasoned veterans (over 70 years of experience between them) show the young kids how basketball is really played?
Let’s break this down.
There is no doubt that these are two very talented forwards.
But for completely different reasons.
LeBron James brings the drama on the court (and off the court as we have recently discovered) when he "throws the hammer down" and swats away his opponent's shot with his signature chase down.
James is a beast. He is a physical freak of nature designed for the game of basketball. In his last playoffs appearance, he averaged 29.1 points per game, playing an average of 41.8 minutes.
Paul Pierce is a completely different breed. He looks like your chubby uncle who tells you stories about his days as high school quarterback while throwing down the Busch Lights.
Passing Pierce on the street, few people would look at him and think "elite prol basketball player," but somehow Pierce gets the job done. He may not look as good doing it, but Pierce racks up the points in a way that leaves you thinking, "where the hell did that come from?"
Oh yeah, and he has something that LeBron has yet to get familiar with: a ring.
That being said, LeBron is bigger, faster and scores more points (Pierce only averaged 18.8 points per game in his Finals appearance against the Lakers).
Dwyane Wade got his wish:
He has assembled a team of superstars in South Beach, and he believes he is "sitting pretty" right about now. With LeBron James now his lap dog instead of his opponent, the world of the NBA has become Wade's basketball oyster.
And Wade is an excellent guard on his own. He instantly made the Heat better with his presence, taking Miami to a title and earning himself a ring.
But the Celtics have a brilliant young point guard by the name of Rajon Rondo who is getting better by the second. Last season, thanks in large part to Rondo's phenomenal ball-handling and stealing ability, the Celtics were able to overtake the regular season leaders, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While Wade may be nearing the end of his prime, Rondo is just getting started. Expect Rondo to prove his worth in this matchup.
We haven't seen very much out of Joel Anthony (he only played an average of 15.7 minutes in the Heat's last playoff appearance), so it is hard to tell what this center is capable of.
With Zydrunas Ilgauskas as the Heat's other center, the Heat lack skills in this position.
Shaq, on the other hand, has plenty of experience, and he may be just what the Celtics need to face off against a tall Heat squad. He knows playoffs, and he knows championships.
Some may say that Shaq is too old, fat, etc., but even his playoff numbers with the Cleveland Cavaliers were good. Let's just count his rings, shall we?
1...2...3...You get the point.
And now we come to everyone's favorite player, Chris Bosh. This forward put up great numbers with the Raptors, but he shared the ball with few talented teammates. And he has little playoff experience.
We have yet to see how Bosh will perform in an Eastern Conference Finals, especially when he is no longer the star player.
Kevin Garnett has quite a bit of experience when it come to NBA playoffs, and even though he is getting up there in age, he still has some gas in his tank.
Arguably one of the most intimidating players in the league, KG is another basketball freak of nature that has it in him to lead his team to another championship.
Some have said that Chris Bosh could be the next Kevin Garnett. Well, maybe in a few years, but KG isn't done yet.
Hopefully Bosh can now wipe that annoying smirk off his face.
The Heat's best option for another guard is Mario Chalmers, and while he is a decent player, the Celtics already have his number.
During these past playoffs, Chalmers put up a fantastic 20 points in Game One against the Celtics, but that would prove to be the end of his scoring streak as the Celtics were able to quickly shut him down.
Ray Allen is great when he's on, but he's terrible when he's off. One game, Allen will be draining threes like it's his job (well, it kind of is), and the next he literally cannot buy a shot.
Depending on which Ray Allen shows up, this could go either way.
While we all love "Big Z," we can also all agree that his days with the NBA are about numbered. Averaging only 1.7 points per game in the playoffs, Z is more of an old, injury-prone statue than a center.
Jermaine O'Neal doesn't have much better numbers, but he knows how the Heat play. That could give him a leg up coming off the bench.
Erik Spoelstra is the young coach out of Portland for the Heat, and this is only his second year as head coach. However, he knows the Heat organization very well after spending 15 years with them. He knows scouting and has an excellent attention to detail.
Doc Rivers has much more experience and has the accolades to prove it. Taking his Celtics to an NBA title in 2007-08, Rivers knows what it takes to turn his team into champions.
The addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh to the Heat has brought much more attention from the people of South Beach. Before this trio was assembled, the people of Miami simply had better things to do than sit inside and watch a basketball game.
While the "Big Three" have grabbed the attention of Miami, Boston has always loved all of their sports. It is hard to argue with tradition, and the Celtics definitely have one of the best fanbases in the league.
Again, this really isn't a contest. While Miami is celebrating its new found interest in the sport of basketball, Boston always had it.
Other than perhaps Cleveland, Boston fans will be the most difficult hosts for the Big Three.
With all the hype surrounding the Heat, it seems that the Celtics have just been swept by the wayside. While the Heat are sure to win a championship with their new all star cast, they still need some room to grow and some chemistry to perfect.
Boston already has this covered. The Heat will get there.
Just not this year.