The Miami Heat took over the basketball world this summer by landing the three biggest names on the free agent market. As a result, bold predictions have been made and critics have had their say about how dominant they are going to be.
Although their roster stacks up as arguably the best in the NBA, there are five teams that have the ability and depth to beat the Heat in the playoffs.
The Boston Celtics once again will field a roster that will enable them to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Their main issue is that they have a very old roster.
Despite age, the Celtics have assembled a team that has had very good days in the past and with the correct conditioning and playing time distribution could preserve their energy to compete with young, explosive teams like the Heat.
Doc Rivers is an excellent head coach who has led this Celtics team to the Finals the past two years. He knows that his team is still a top dog in the Eastern Conference and will develop a game plan that could take down the Heat.
The additions of Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal have solidified the Celtics front court. Don’t forget that they still have Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. Along with the experience that those five players possess, when healthy they are still some of the best players in the league.
The Celtics present a hard-nosed and experienced opponent who could frustrate the Heat in a playoff series. Ultimately, the Heat may prove to be too fast for the Celtics, but expect the Celtics to be a formidable opponent.
Dwight Howard and the rest of the Magic squad didn’t do much in the offseason to better themselves, but they still are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
Anchored by Howard, the Magic present a defensive challenge for the Heat. Howard can take over games in the post and still pass it out to the shooters on the wings. By retaining J.J. Redick and adding Quentin Richardson, the Magic maintained one of the best outside-shooting back courts in the Eastern Conference.
One season removed from setting the regular season record for three-point shots made, the Magic present an offense that makes teams work.
Chris Bosh is going to have trouble with Dwight Howard down in the post and there are so many shooters on the wings that the Heat will have to play tight to ensure that they aren’t giving away wide open shots.
The Magic are also coached by one of the more experienced and successful head coaches in the league in Stan Van Gundy. Although Van Gundy has openly talked about how good the Heat are going to be, he knows that his team has been one of the best teams in the East the past few years and is not ready to be talked down to by a team that has yet to take the floor.
The Bulls missed on the big-name free agents this offseason, but still made improvements by adding a low post presence, something that hasn’t been there since Elton Brand was traded. They also added shooting and have an overall deep roster.
Kyle Korver will feed off of Derrick Rose’s penetration and Ronnie Brewer will be able to play lock down defense on the wing. Carlos Boozer and Kurt Thomas join Joakim Noah to solidify a front court that has talent and depth.
Although the Bulls have a new coach, he is a defensive minded guy. Expect the Bulls to be a much better defensive team in 2010.
A potential matchup in the postseason between these two teams would be a very entertaining one to watch. The Bulls would be able to match up with the Heat and play them very tough.
Projected Starting Five:
Those matchups would be tough for the Heat. Along with Kurt Thomas, the Bulls have the defensive ability down low to shut down Chris Bosh. In the back court, Derrick Rose can handle Mario Chalmers. Ronnie Brewer would have to take Wade, which would be a challenge for Wade. The one hole is Deng on James.
LeBron James is a matchup nightmare for anyone, but if Luol plays decent defense on LeBron, the Bulls could very well take down the Heat.
The Deng on James matchup is the key to the Bulls’ success. As long as James cannot do whatever he wants on every single play, the Bulls have a good chance against Miami.
One of the most highly anticipated teams for the upcoming season, the Oklahoma City Thunder boast a roster that is one of the youngest, yet deepest, in the NBA. Led by Kevin Durant, the Thunder are only going to get better.
Now with one season worth of playoff experience, the Thunder would have to get past the Lakers, but could have the chance to play the Heat in the playoffs.
The Thunder have assembled a “Big Three” of their own, but instead of through free agency, they have drafted their players. Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook are ready to take the next step as a group and make a run at the NBA title in 2010.
If a Thunder-Heat NBA Finals does occur, expect the Thunder to match up pretty well with the Heat. The main issue for the Thunder would be in the front court. They are very young down there and Chris Bosh will be tough for the young Thunder.
Westbrook, James Harden, Durant, and company would be able to handle the Heat’s back court. This series would be decided in the front court. It would come down to the Thunder being able to overcome their inexperience and play tough defense.
The defending NBA Champions can never be counted out when it comes to discussing who is going to win next year’s title. It also makes it easier to say when a team as deep and talented as the Lakers is being discussed. Led by Kobe Bryant, the Lakers should present the best opponent for the Heat this season.
Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum anchor arguably the best front court in the NBA. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher anchor a back court that may not be as talented as Miami’s, but is very deep and experienced.
It doesn’t hurt that the Lakers are coached by a guy who has won 11 championships in Phil Jackson.
The Lakers are arguably still the best team in the NBA despite what Miami did in the offseason. They should definitely be considered to defeat Miami in a playoff series. With all of the experience that they have and the depth, it would almost come as a bit of a surprise and upset if the Heat did take down the Lakers in a series.
If the Lakers and Heat do meet in the NBA Finals, fans may witness one of the most star-studded NBA Finals ever.