Okay sure, so I guess after the Heat created the most interesting off-seasons in NBA history they have assembled a starting five that is studded with All-Star caliber talent. Between LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh they had a combined 17 years of All-Star experience on their starting five in their regular season debut against the Celtics on Tuesday. Their roster now boasts three valuable members of the Redeem Team which won the gold medal for the U.S. in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Both Dwyane Wade and Miami forward Udonis Haslem were pieces of the 2006 Miami Heat team that won the NBA championship. LeBron James and new addition Zydrunas Ilgauskas have gained valuable playoff experience from their tenures together in Cleveland. They also added proficient three-point shooters in Mike Miller and Eddie House. When the team lost Mike Miller due to a thumb injury they added veteran guard, Jerry Stackhouse, who is a two time All-Star himself.
So without a doubt these guys are championship contenders right? Look at their credentials, they seem to have it all. But can these guys take a team that was dismissed from the playoffs after only a five game dance with the Boston Celtics, to a team that will win an NBA Title in 2011? I think not, and here is why...
The Miami Heat reside in a division that is laden with talent. The Southeastern Conference sent four of their five teams to the playoffs last season. Last year the Charlotte Bobcats made their first trip to the playoffs in their team's history. The Atlanta Hawks have established themselves as contenders in the division as they have made the playoffs every year since 2009.
The Orlando Magic are probably the Heat's biggest competition in the Southeastern Division. The Magic have made the playoffs every year for the past four years, including in 2009 when they made a visit to the NBA Finals in which they lost in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Magic are studded with talent like Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Jameer Nelson. The Magic are probably the deepest team in the division and can bring players like J.J. Redick, Quentin Richardson, Brandon Bass, and Jason Williams off of their bench. Last year in the playoffs the Magic swept both the Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of the playoffs before they fell to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Further, the Wizards, who are also in the Southeastern Division, utilized their first overall pick in the NBA Draft and selected point guard John Wall from Kentucky to add to their roster of developing talent. This year the Wizards hope that they will have the services of Gilbert Arenas who missed the majority of the 2010 season due to a suspension. Andray Blatche has blossomed and has proved his worth to the Wizards and improved his scoring abilities last season as he averaged 14.1 points per game.
A tough division could increase the competitiveness of the Heat causing them to improve as a team and rise to the occasion, but then again the talent that has flooded the Southeast could be Miami's kryptonite and could cause them to lose a few more games than most people expect.
It was not even four minutes into the Miami Heat's preseason when they lost Dwyane Wade for the remainder of their preseason schedule due to a pulled hamstring. His preseason encounter with injury was not the first time that injury had rendered him unable to preform. Wade's injury history includes a dislocated shoulder, hip problems, and reoccurring knee issues, including an episode of "jumper's knee," which have all required surgery to remedy.
Due to a combination of surgeries and injuries, Dwyane Wade has failed to play an entire season since he entered the league in 2003. When he is healthy, Wade is one of the most athletic players and prolific scorers in the NBA seeing that he averages 25.4 points per game, for his carer, when he is healthy. However, should his injury riddled past chose to haunt him again during the 2010-2011 season then the Heat could be in trouble.
Should D-Wade fall victim to injury this season Miami will be calling on Eddie House to fill his shoes. While House can shot the three ball at a high percentage and was a valuable asset to the 2008 Boston Celtics team that won the NBA title, he has never averaged more than 11.1 points per game, and let's face it he's no Dwyane Wade.
- As I have mentioned earlier, Dwyane Wade has been susceptible to injury.
- The Heat have lost a proficient role player in Mike Miller due to a thumb injury/surgery until at least January. His talents as a swingman will be missed as the Heat begin their season.
- During the preseason LeBron James and Dwyane Wade suffered similar hamstring injuries. If one of the Big Three should go down, who would step up and take their place?
This is probably my least favorite reason to attribute to the possible collapse of the Miami Heat because it is the most difficult to prove. You cannot justify an ego with statistics and the personalities and feelings of players are variable over time. However, the Heat have added two more stars to their team to compliment Dwyane Wade who is a superstar in his own respect.
- Chris Bosh's experience in Toronto forced him to the be the superstar for the Raptors' organization. He has nearly averaged a double-double each year since he has entered the league in 2003. Bosh was the leader and primary source of production during his years in Toronto. Last year, he increased his production and led the team and tallied career highs in both rebounds per game (10.8) and points per game (24.0). Bosh also has an impressive resume which includes an Olympic gold medal (2008, Beijing), five All-Star appearances, and is Toronto's leader in nearly every major statistical category, save assists.
- Dwyane Wade is also used to brunting the load of his team. He has been Miami's primary source of production throughout his seven year career with the franchise. Throughout Wade's career, he has averaged 25.4 points per game, including his astounding campaign in 2009, in which, he averaged 30.2 points per game and earned him the honor to be crowned NBA Scoring Champion. Wade's resume includes six All-Star appearances, an NBA Championship (2006), an NBA Finals MVP, an Olympic gold medal (2008, Beijing), and a place atop of Miami's records as their all-time points and assist leader.
- LeBron James during his seven year stay in Cleveland also established quite the resume as he served as he put the Cavaliers upon his back and carried them to the playoffs every year since the 2005-2006 NBA weason. Though, James is without a NBA Championship, his resume rivals those of his new teammates. He too has a scoring title from 2005, he was celebrated as the 2004 Rookie of the Year. He has six All-Star appearances, the last two MVP awards (2009, 2010), and is the Cleveland Cavaliers all-time leader in most major statistical categories. Not on James' resume but rather quite literally on his back is his tattoo that reads, "Chosen 1," which is hard not to perceive as arrogance.
Though resumes don't necessarily indicate egos, they do indicate that Wade, Bosh, and James are all used to playing the role of the star. Now they will have to share the spotlight that once only shone upon them individually. Now, they have to share the ball and the production, meaning their numbers will decrease when compared to their numbers of years prior. I'm not saying their egos will go to their head and cause one or all of them to erupt, but when you put three athletes of their caliber together, it should be taken into consideration at the very least as a possibility.
If the Miami Heat have a weakness it's at the Center position. They lack a true dominant inside presence especially on the defensive end of the floor. Down low they are relying on the work of Joel Anthony and Zydrunas Ilgauskas and neither of which are a dominant low-post presence by any means.
Joel Anthony is begining his fourth year in the NBA and could really emerge as a valuable asset to the Miami Heat. However, history does not reside in his favor considering his rookie year was his most productive, in which, he averaged 3.5 points per game and 3.9 rebounds. In his first two games this season he has snagged 10 rebounds per game but these numbers may diminish with time and begin to resemble the insignificant rebound averages of Anthony's past.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas is quite overrated in my opinion. He has not averaged more than 15 points per game since the 2005-2006 season nor has he ever averaged more than 10 rebounds per game in his twelve year NBA career. Ilgauskas' rebounds and points per game have declined at a steady rate since the 2007-2008 season and if the trend continues he may offer very little to the Miami Heat this season. Don't get me wrong he's a solid role player, but a number two big man at best.
If Miami wishes to be a true contender this year, they will have to fill the void that persists at the center position. They are relying on an inexperience Joel Anthony and a declining Ilgauskas to shoulder the load for the time being. Larger and more experienced teams will exploit their lack of a solid interior presence just as the Boston Celtics did on Tuesday night as they outscored Miami in the paint 38-24.
Ilgauskas offers little support due to declining numbers and Miller is out due to injury/surgery until January.
Outside of D-Wade, King James, and Chris Bosh the Miami Heat are lacking in the talent department. They have Mario Chalmers, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Udonis Haslem available to come off the bench but outside of Haslem the other two are mediocre role players at best.
The Heat got rid of forward Michael Beasley in order to create cap space this off-season. Last season, Beasely contributed nearly 14.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, and his presence on the floor will be missed.
The Heat are callling on Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo to fill their void at the point guard position. Neither Arroyo or Chalmers have ever proven to be over achievers. Mario Chalmers can give them a little boost but has not taken on a dominant role since being drafted in 2008. Arroyo's best season was the 2003-2004 season in which he played for Utah and averaged 12.6 points per game and 5.0 assists per game.
Their center position is a gaping hole for them that is filled by Joel Anthony and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The Heat will be with Mike Miller until at least January and will call upon an aging Jerry Stackhouse fill in when LeBron James needs to catch his breath on the sideline.
Eddie House is probably their most valuable player coming in off the bench, other than maybe, Mario Chalmers. House's ability to pose as a serious threat to any team is heavily reliant on his ability to shoot three-pointers on any given night. Their roster is rounded out by an aging Juwan Howard and a relatively inconsistent James Jones. Outside of Miami's Big Three, their depth and talent are quite frankly questionable.
On Opening Night, the Miami Heat got off to a rusty start. No one single game will make the season but the Boston Celtics, a talented team of veterans exposed the weaknesses of the Miami Heat. The showed their gaping whole on the interior of the Heat defense and scored 38 of their 88 points inside the painted area. Then in their second game of the season, the Philadelphia 76ers scored 40 of their 87 points in the paint against Miami.
On top of that LeBron James has 17 turnovers in the first two games. Sure it's early in the season and the Heat will develop chemistry and the turnovers will become more rare. For now, more experienced teams will take advantage of those takeaways and turn them into points which may cost the Miami Heat early in the season and be detrimental to the teams momentum early on.
The Celtics are a deep team, loaded with talent and are one of a few preseason favorites to win the NBA Title in the 2011 Season. Boston has a Big Three of their own: Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. Beyod their Big Three, they have Rajon Rondo who is a very talented and valuable asset as a scorer, passer, and at times a rebounder. The Celtics went out and added to their lineup, which already featured another emerging talent in Glenn Davis, this offseason and they added Delonte West, who has gained playoff experience from playing with LeBron James in Cleveland, and Shaquille O'Neal who has a robust resume which speaks for itself.
The Celtics are the defending Eastern Conference Champions and will be looking to hang another banner in The Garden before wingéd chariot of time clips the heels of their aging team. They could possibly meet and derail the Heat in the playoffs this year. Tuesday night the Celtics proved that they can pick apart the weaknesses of the Miami Heat and result in stealing a few regular season games from them as well.
The Orlando Magic are a legitimate threat to the Miami Heat's hopes of winning an NBA Championship in 2011. The Magic are studded with a talented core including Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, and Dwight Howard. Their fifth starter, Mickael Pietrus, has also proven to be a valuable asset in the past few season and has effectively guarded talent like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Outside of their starting five, the Magic have a talented bench that features J.J. Redick, Brandon Bass, Jason Williams, Chris Duhon, and Quentin Richardson.
The Magic are a team that have used the past two seasons to gain an adequate amount of playoff experience. In 2009 the Magic lost to the Lakers in the 2009 NBA finals and last season they lost to in the Eastern Conference Finals to Boston Celtics. This may be the year in which the Magic can go all the way and finally win their first NBA Championship in franchise history.
Should the Miami Heat find themselves in the 2011 NBA Finals, the favorites to meet them there are right now are the defending NBA Champions, the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers, like the Celtics, are another team that will be looking to win another NBA title before their youth escapes them. After all, Phil Jackson is in his final year of coaching and many of their players are nearing the years of retirement. Though the Lakers are an aging team, they are also an experienced, talented, and driven team led by veterans like Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher who have been together since what seems like the sands of time. Winning the 2010 NBA Title proved that the Lakers are far from being old and "washed up."
Their roster boasts other talent such as, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton and Shannon Brown. Their talent, experience, and depth make them an early favorite to three-peat.