Never has there been an NBA season like the 2010-2011 Miami Heat campaign. There have been many controversial teams, going back to the Bad Boy's teams in Detroit and the ready to rumble Knicks of the mid 90's. There were the unstoppable Bulls that dominated a decade. Never, however, has there been a team that has garnered so much attention as the team that came together in Dade County this past year.
Perennial all-stars Lebron James and Chris Bosh made the decision to leave their respective franchises to team up with Dwayne Wade in Miami and fans went ballistic. In order to comply with NBA salary cap rules and to obtain the necessary supporting pieces to compete for a ring, the each player took less money than they were offered to on the open market. This moved infuriated fans and made the Miami Heat one of the most hated teams in recent history.
The season was seen as both a success to some and a failure to others. On one hand, the Heat took the won 58 games in the regular season, taking the Atlantic division and earning the second seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. They won the Eastern conference and were heavily favored against a surprisingly good Dallas Mavericks squad, led by former MVP Dirk Nowitzki. Their good fortune ended there, however, losing to Dallas in six games.
The frenzy created by the Heat this season seems to have cause a backlash against the teams and it's players. Fans and detractors fueled by emotion bash the the big three and their teammates. Some is true, some is false. Let's uncover the true about the Miami Heat.
It was a tough season for Mike Miller, but he has the skill set to help the Heat this upcoming season.
During the summer of 2010, the Heat made two major moves to bolster their supporting cast. One was to re-sign long time Heat (are you considered a Heat?) Udonis Haslem. The other big signing was swingman and former Rookie of the Year, Mike Miller. These two pieces figured to have a huge impact on the 2011 season.
Unfortunately, it never happened.
During a preseason practice, Miller injured him thumb. The injury required surgery and forced Miller out of the line-up until December. He soon injured the thumb on his opposite hand and played the remainder of the season with braces on both hands. He played only 41 games during the regular season, averaging only 5.6 ppg on 40% shooting.
His season took a turn for the worse during the playoffs when his wife experienced complications during the birth of his daughter. He shuttled from the hospital to practice to games and never could find comfort in the rotation.
It was, by all accounts, a terrible season for Mike Miller. With 2011 behind him, however, look for Miller to return to form. He has shown a variety of skills through his 10 professional seasons. He has proven to be quality rebounder and defender at the small forward position. He is an excellent ball handler at 6'8" and has always been an underrated playmaker.
His greatest skill, however, is his shooting. In 2009, he connected on an astonishing 48% of his three point attempts while shooting over 50% on the season. Health has always been the biggest concern for Miller, but if he can give the Heat 3/4 of a season and a healthy playoff run, all will forget about Miller’s disastrous 2011.
Mario Chalmers' skill set is a perfect fit in Miami.
After losing to the Mavericks in the NBA Finals, most believed the Heat needed upgrades in the two most crucial positions in basketball, center and point guard. There is no question that the Heat lacked the size in the middle. Joel Anthony was serviceable, Udonis Halsem was undersized and Jamaal Magloire was ineffective. The criticism at the point was unfair, however. The Heat has the perfect starting point guard for their system in Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers had a rocky third season in 2011. After a promising rookie campaign where he started every game is 2009, Chalmers suffered the sophomore jinx in 2010. His scoring dropped from 10 ppg as a rookie to seven in 2010. He found himself in Head Coach Eric Spoestra's doghouse in 2011. The Heat chose to bring in veteran point guard Mike Bibby to run the club at the trade deadline.
Chalmers came off the bench with inconsistent contributions leading up to the Finals. Against Dallas, however, Chalmers broke out scorer nearly 12 ppg on 40% from three point range. Even in defeat, Chalmers seemed as if he had finally established himself as worthy of the starting job.
Let's not fool ourselves, Chalmers is not elite. He may not even be a starter on most NBA teams. In Miami, however, there is no more perfect fit. He's a long, lanky defender with great feet. He has great range on his jump shot, extending out to 25 feet. With Lebron and Wade doing the bulk of the ball handling, he can space the floor without being burdened with the playmaking duties. Best of all, Chalmers comes from a winning background and has a knack for making big shots late.
Both the champion Bulls and Lakers won titles with guys like B.J. Armstrong, Ron Harper and Derek Fisher. Chalmers can fit that role in Miami.
Chris Bosh has endured the ridicule of many fans, but he's still an elite player.
Many argue Lebron James is the most hated player in sports today. That may very well be true, but the most disrespected could be Chris Bosh. Before last summer, Bosh was seen almost as a sympathetic figure trapped in the NBA limbo we refer to as Toronto. Many regarded him as the best power forward in the 2011 class, even ahead of Amare Stoudimire and Carlos Boozer. Bosh chose to play third fiddle in Miami and the perception of him changed instantly.
Bosh struggled at time in his role in Miami. Accustomed to being the focal point of the offense in his seven seasons, Bosh was the afterthought during the infant stages of the Heat development process. He looked lost in the shuffle early on, but caught on as the season progressed. In the end, Bosh found his way and average almost 19 ppg and chipped in 8 rpg over 77 games. Many seemed disappointed, but what was the expectation? This is what Chris Bosh has always been!
Going from first option to third option is a major transition. His shot attempts went from 17 in 2010 to 14 in 2011. Bosh made his living at the line, appearing over eight times a game in 2010. That number dropped to a little over six last seasons. Why? Maybe it was because he had two teammates that went to the line a combined 17 times per game and both handled the ball on the perimeter.
It's mysterious what fans were expecting from Bosh. Did they want him to grab 15 rebounds a night? Score 25 points every game? Bosh is the exact same player he was in Toronto. He's one of the five most skilled big men in the game, a versatile defender who plays pick and role as well and any big man in the league and at the moment, he is the starting power forward to the defending eastern conference champions.
Dwayne Wade has played and average of 78 games per season since the 2008.
It is true that Wade had major injury issues early in his career. The 6'4" shooting guard missed a combined 95 games during his first five seasons in the NBA due to various injuries. We should not be bound by our past, however.
In the last three full seasons, Wade has averaged 78 games per season. By comparison, his teammate Lebron James, who is widely noted as being one of the most durable players in the NBA, has average 79 games per season in the same span. The reality is Wade has become one of the most well conditioned athletes in the league and his work in the gym, combined with his expanding skills, have allowed him to stay on the court.
As far as the great fall off Wade is experiencing, consider this: Dwayne Wade's 2011 campaign could have been his second best season to date. He shot better than he ever has from the field, hitting on 50% of his field goal attempts. He averaged 4.6 assists while sharing the playmaking duties with James. He was also a standout defender tallying over 80 blocked shots and nearly 200 steal. ESPN's John Hollinger rated Wade the NBA's third most efficient player behind James and Orlando's Dwight Howard.
At age 30, there is no reason Wade cannot continue at this level for the next two to three years.