The Miami Heat are wrapping up one of the most electric seasons in the franchise's young history. That is to be expected when guys like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh don the red and black.
They're 41-15 heading into the break and in prime position to attack the Eastern Conferences top spot. They currently sit a game back in the loss column behind the slippery Boston Celtics.
After a weekend of eye-opening slams and All-Star fun, what happens to this Miami team in the final third of the season?
King James is the best player in this league. He is also the most valuable, as the few fans left in Cleveland have realized.
When James isn't at his best, the Heat struggle. There are no ifs or buts about it—he deserves the award and nobody is getting in his way.
Derrick Rose? How can a player clearly not within the top five in the game even be considered?
Dwight Howard? He's the best player on the Eastern Conference's fourth-best team. So what?
Anyone that's followed Udonis Haslem over the years knows he's one tough dude. Like Alonzo Mourning before him, he does whatever it takes to win.
The Heat need his intensity, aggression and leadership or they will not have a chance at beating Boston in the playoffs.
He has started rehab already and there is no doubt in my mind he will get healthy enough to log some minutes before the season's end.
Mario Chalmers was once a fine prospect for a Heat team lacking a point guard. That was three years ago.
At this point, what improvements has he made to his game? Name one.
His defense has been awful and his best defensive weapon is a foul. He doesn't play smart on either end and is inconsistent shooting the ball.
Eddie House will be the team's "point guard" during the playoffs and I think Carlos Arroyo is easily a safer, more consistent option as well. If House isn't hitting his three-ball, expect a lineup without a true point guard on the floor during most of the playoffs.
Chalmers' fourth quarter minutes have evaporated and for good reason.
For a team that has yet to beat the Celtics, getting home advantage in a playoff series against them could easily be the difference.
Boston doesn't need the top spot as much as Miami. The Heat need that extra confidence boost as well as home advantage through out the East.
Having Boston play Chicago in round two would also bode well for the Heat's chances because the Bulls can take the Celtics to the edge.
Boston also will likely begin to limit its core's minutes like they did last year. They're playing for rings—not regular-season rings—and its core is too old to push this thing full-throttle right before playoff time.
It will be really tough for the Heat to add a quality asset via trade because of the current financial structure of their top-heavy roster.
All players are on minimum deals, except those who have no chance in hell of being dealt (Bosh, Wade, James, Miller, Haslem, Anthony).
The more likely scenario is if the right player is bought out, say a Jason Kapono or Troy Murphy, Miami could become a player.
Miller's health has been so up and down this season and adding another experienced shooter like Kapono would be a nice insurance policy.
Although Murphy can't spell the word defense, he could help this team offensively and can't have feet slower than Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
The Heat have a nice chunk of games against top teams like Boston, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Chicago.
They're going to win a few of those, and I'm especially looking forward to see how they match up with a true team like the Spurs. Their first of two matchups is Friday, March 4, in San Antonio.
They don't have a chance at Jeff Van Gundy's 72-win prediction, but they still can complete a heck of a season by being among the few to win 60 games.
At 41-15, they would need to finish up 19-7 or better, which should be easily attainable if they keep up their current pace.
My delayed prediction at this point is they end finish the season 23-3, giving them a final record of 64-18 on the season, good for second in the NBA.
The 72-win season will be still be a future goal.
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