Last week, I presented a list of seven things that have been used to explain why the Miami Heat would not win an NBA title next summer. I argued against ideas such as this team would become a more offensive-centered team and made the case that their backup center position was in less dire straits than many Heat detractors had proclaimed.
However, since then, a new set of arguments against the team have emerged, some of which I find just as questionable.
As I said in the previous article, I don't proclaim to know how well the Heat will do next year. However, I do feel the need to give my take on the presumed "weaknesses" of the club as it is currently configured.
One of the "concerns" some have expressed about the Heat is that because of all the personnel changes, they will be out of sync and need "an entire season to get used to one other" before they go on to win a ring.
The problem with an argument like this is that critics of the team can throw it out there without being expected to prove it. It's like name calling in politics. All that is important is that your potential constituents THINK your opponent is an "anti-constitutional radical," but you don't have to back up the allegation.
There is no way to prove that the Heat "will lack chemistry."
As has been noted by some Heat fans, Pat Riley has done a great job of assembling players who are friends already (like LeBron, Wade, and Bosh) and adding a group of role players who have played with at least one of the big three (like Z and LeBron or Magloire and Wade) or each other, like Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller, who played college ball together for the Florida Gators.
These guys are not strangers to one another, I mean, the Heat are practically a "six degrees of Kevin Bacon squad," as everybody is connected to everybody else.
My question is: Why would they have more issues with chemistry than, say, the Lakers, who after adding one former Kobe nemesis in Ron Artest (we all remember the 2009 WCSF moment when Artest got in Kobe's face and they had to be separated) just added ANOTHER Kobe nemesis in Matt Barnes?
Why no concern for what Shaq's diminished post game is going to do to the chemistry of the "Ubuntu" Celtics? Any problems with Shaq playing with the guy (Glen Davis) who caused his thumb injury last year?
The point is: I think that chemistry is an issue that could potentially hamper any team that makes changes, but I believe that of all the teams that have made major moves in the offseason, the Heat are the best-acquainted squad.
Unless detractors are saying that being familiar with each other makes it less likely to experience team chemistry, which doesn't make a lot of sense.
This is yet another argument that frees the critic from actually backing it up. Is it possible that the big three will fight over shots on the team or shoot less, thereby becoming less effective players? Sure.
But that's only if you assume that offensive efficiency is less important than shot attempts, which I can tell you, it is not.
I'll give an example.
Look at the current big three in Boston, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. The year they were united, they all saw their scoring averages go down about four points a game for each. Their shot attempts also went down. But, their field goal percentages went up, allowing them to score more efficiently because they saw fewer double-teams, and as a result, both KG and Allen recorded career-highs in FG percentages after joining the Celtics.
Wade averages 26.6 ppg now, while taking just 18 FGA per game and shooting 47 percent, so even if his attempts fall to 16, with the spike in his FG percentage and FTA (he may well get to the line more because of the single coverages), it's not unreasonable to assume that he could still score 25 ppg. Unless one would argue that his FG percentage will drop or he will never get fouled on one-on-one plays, or that guarding him single coverage would make him EASIER to defend, which are all dubious arguments, at best.
Playing with great players doesn't make it harder to score, it makes it easier.
Then there's LeBron and Bosh.
They score 29 and 24 ppg respectively and take 20 and 17 shots per game. So again, even if their shot attempts drop to 18 and 15, why can't they still score 27 ppg and 21 ppg?
They are both efficient, 50 percent-plus shooters on their own, so playing with Wade should make those percentages increase, plus free throws will make up the difference.
My point is this: Bosh, Wade, and James are not volume scorers, they generally can get their points with a minimum amount of shots and I think they can continue to do so as a trio.
I was going to attack this myth by asserting that ANY team at ANY time can be derailed by injuries, and that the Heat's big three will be less susceptible this season since their minutes will go down playing together...but I won't.
I'll just show a simple graphic:
Number of Games Missed Due to Injury for Lakers' Big Three Last Season
Number of Games Missed Due to Injury for Heat's Big Three Last Season
Hmmmm...I'd be a bit worried about those injury-prone Lakers, especially since they are an older team.
When people make this argument against the Heat, I can only assume they are not speaking about overall field goal percentage, since both Wade and LeBron shoot a higher percentage than Kobe, Paul Pierce (the three-point shooting champ), Ray Allen, and Carmelo Anthony.
So, they must be speaking of perimeter shooting.
I certainly will admit that LeBron's mid-range game needs a bit more work, but again, when you consider that he and Wade shoot over 48 percent, their methods of actually putting the ball through the hoop become less relevant.
Would LeBron be more effective if he could hit jump shots from anywhere on the floor? Certainly.
But couldn't his decision to take more jump shots drive his FG percentage down since he will certainly not hit all of them?
Does that take away from the fact that the offensive games of both Wade and James are still pretty devastating and tough to contain?
Not at all.
Ahhh...the old, the East is a beast argument. The Eastern Conference has gone through several changes with teams like the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics beefing up their lineups, and the Orlando Magic making personnel changes. So is the East as tough as is being reported?
In a word, no.
The Hawks don't have the depth, the Bobcats don't have the scoring, and the Raptors, Cavaliers, Nets, and Knicks are rebuilding.
So that leaves Orlando, Boston, and Chicago.
Orlando has Dwight Howard, who is continuing to improve, but can't beat the Heat by himself. The Magic are overmatched at practically every single position versus the Heat. I'm not saying they could not win, but they would have to figure out how to use their defensive liabilities in Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter.
The Bulls have made a lot of changes, and they will be better next year, but I disagree with those who predict that they will challenge for the East.
Yeah, they will be better defensively with the inclusion of Ronnie Brewer and the insertion of Tom Thibodeau as coach. But they still look like a primarily jump shooting team to me, and unless Kyle Korver averages more than seven ppg, and Brewer improves on his ghastly 26 percent from downtown and 63 FT percentage from last season, I don't know where this team will get consistent offense from.
I also don't think that Carlos Boozer is going to be the post-presence that some believe he will be. He is a good player, good for a solid 19 ppg and 11 rpg, but I've never seen him as a go-to guy. I think he would be a good third- or fourth-option on an already solid squad, kind of like Lamar Odom for LA, but not the go-to guy.
Derrick Rose will have another strong season, but he and Joakim Noah are still maturing and learning the game. I think they need more time to develop before they can knock off the Heat.
This leaves Boston, for me hands down the biggest threat to Miami, if Miami lives up to expectations. The Celtics have a great point guard, experience, motivation (this could be the last dance for this group), and a great coach. But I still wonder if their health will last throughout the season.
The point is: While there are some teams in the East that have gotten a bit better, don't be surprised if by January, we are talking about the title contenders consisting of about two, maybe three teams per conference, and several of the "beasts of the East" being largely considered after thoughts.