LeBron James and the Miami Heat: Are They Once Again Favorites to Win NBA Title?
LeBron James and the Miami Heat are finally starting to play like the team many predicted they would be like prior to the start of the season.
Some went as far as to crown them NBA champions in preseason, but the season has not played out to expectations thus far.
Now that the team is back on track to their winning ways, are they favorites to take home the crown?
Yes: They Have Two of the Best Players in the NBA
LeBron James led a poor Cleveland Cavaliers team into the postseason with the best record nearly every season for the last couple of years.
Pair him with a legitimate superstar in Dwyane Wade and a capable power forward in Chris Bosh and you have a big three that can contend with just about any other in the NBA.
Both Wade and James are transcendent players in the game that raise the level of play of their teammates, and combining the two only makes them that much more dangerous.
No: The Boston Celtics Have Their Number
Two games against the Boston Celtics and two losses. The games were early in the season and Miami is a different team now, but the Celtics appear to have their number.
Boston is on top of the Eastern Conference and it looks like it's going to stay that way over the course of the season.
The Celtics have all the pieces to take advantage of Miami's weaknesses and they'll look to exploit them at every turn.
Yes: Team Defense
The Miami Heat are second in the league in defensive efficiency. They hold opponents to 91.2 points per game, the lowest mark in the NBA.
With two of the premier perimeter defenders—Dwyane Wade and LeBron James—in the NBA hounding opponents, they can constantly pressure the ball and force opponents into mistakes and misses.
They swarm the opposition on defense and that type of team mentality will pay off in the stretch run.
No: Weak Low Post Defense
The Miami Heat have a plethora of big bodies to use down low, but none that are even remotely close to being a lockdown defender.
Chris Bosh is as soft as they come and he'll get manhandled by bigger forwards and centers.
When Eric Dampier is arguably the team's best low post defender, your squad is in big trouble.
Yes: Transition Offense Is a Nightmare to Defend
The Miami Heat transition offense is one of, if not the best in the NBA.
When they get out on the fast break, the team is an absolute nightmare to defend.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are two of the best playmakers and slashers in the league and stopping them in transition is like trying to stop a freight train.
No: Simple Offensive Sets
Head coach Erik Spoelstra has received a lot of flak for having simple offensive sets.
It makes the offense very predictable and makes it much easier for opposing defenses to game plan against them.
The team has had some trouble playing against zone defenses and while the team has plenty of outside shooters, clogging up the paint could seriously hamper their offense.
Yes: Great Outside Shooters
The Miami Heat have a number of excellent perimeter shooters to really help open up driving lanes for Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
Chris Bosh and Zydrunas Ilgauskas can really stretch out the defense and draw out the opposing team's big men.
Mike Miller, James Jones and Eddie House can be the zone busters that the Heat will depend on to help them overcome a suffocating paint defense.
No: No Low Post Offense
The Miami Heat have no real threat in the low post.
Chris Bosh, the team's best big man, is a finesse player that plays more like a guard than a forward.
Their most skilled offensive center, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, is a spot up shooter that seldom posts up.
Teams have rarely won an NBA title without a low post threat and the Heat are without question at a disadvantage.
Yes: They're Hungry
Dwyane Wade is nearly four seasons removed from his one and only NBA title. He is without a doubt salivating at the prospect of returning to the promised land and bringing home another ring.
LeBron James left Cleveland to win a title and he sacrificed a lot in order to do so.
The team has become public enemy No. 1 and that target on their back only throws more fuel to the fire.
The Heat know they have a lot to prove and they attack their opponents with that same ferocity on both ends of the court.
No: Depth Is a Concern
The Miami Heat have a deep rotation, but not many reliable players to consistently turn to off the bench.
Udonis Haslem, the team's best reserve, is down with a serious injury and come playoff time, he may not even be at full strength.
The team got a much needed boost with Mike Miller finally returning from injury, but it has yet to be seen how much of an impact he can have on the team.
The Miami Heat aren't even favorites to win the Eastern Conference let alone an NBA title.
However, if we all hung our hats on predictions, there would be no point to watching sports. That's the beauty of the game. Anything can happen in any given game or playoff series.
The Miami Heat may not be favorites, but that's no reason to count them out. It really wouldn't even be a surprise if they walked away with an NBA title at season's end.
We'll just have to wait and see how the season plays out.