Throughout the storied history of the NBA, only one team has won 70 games in a regular season: the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. Many teams have come close to eclipsing the rare feat but have fallen short in the process.
Could the Miami Heat do what many great teams haven't been able to do? A lot would have to fall in Miami's favor, but it's not out of the question.
After finishing the 2010-11 regular season at 58-14, Miami breezed through the Eastern Conference playoffs to play for an NBA championship. It was there that this team showed the need for adjustments.
Sloppy play and questionable decision-making ultimately doomed the favored Heat squad. Expect the Heat to use that loss as motivation going forward, but nothing comes easy in the NBA. Dallas proved that teamwork and chemistry were keys to winning a championship, not just talent.
However, Heat fans should be highly optimistic about the improvements this Miami team can make.
Miami already holds one of the best trios ever assembled in Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. With a few moves and more experience, this team will make 70 wins seem highly possible.
Let's see why Miami could pull off the historic season.
While the Heat had high expectations entering the 2010-11 season, they were quite disappointing in October and November. After a sloppy opening loss to the Boston Celtics, Miami finished November at a mediocre 10-8.
Injuries were one of the biggest variables in the shocking Heat start.
Dwyane Wade was limited to only three preseason minutes after sustaining a hamstring injury. As much hype as the combination of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh had, they were not as effective due to limited playing time together.
They also had injury issues with two former Florida Gators in Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem.
While Miller didn't see his first action until December, his ability to spread the floor and provide good team defense was needed early on.
Haslem was a huge loss to Miami's front court depth, but oddly enough the Heat clicked together without him. While his presence and leadership were highly missed, Miami continued to improve as a team as the season went on.
The Heat do have some challenging games to start out the 2011-12 season. In Miami's 13 games in November, they will face eight teams that were in the playoffs last year.
With a year under their belt, Miami has a better team chemistry and a small glimpse of success. Getting off to a hot start will help put last year behind them and focus on another trip to the NBA Finals.
Miami's biggest downfall during the NBA playoffs was the ability to produce a consistent offensive attack. While the Heat have the gift of three dangerous scorers, there were plenty of cases where they looked like amateurs last season.
During the series against the Boston Celtics it appeared as if LeBron James was finally becoming a closer. He helped ice a Boston team that had the NBA's best defense in 2010-11 along with hitting big shots in crunch time.
Same thing in the series against the Chicago Bulls.
James looked like he could not be stopped at times, especially in Game 5. After falling into a double-digit deficit late in the fourth quarter, James hit a clutch pull-up three to tie the game. Shortly after he hit another shot to give Miami the final lead it would need to secure the series.
The NBA Finals were a different story, as James disappeared in the clutch.
While Wade was the MVP for the Heat in the Finals, he didn't have much offensive support from his teammates.
Maybe it was an impressive Dallas zone defense that shut down Miami, but it was apparent that the Heat were befuddled. Miami held the ball for way too long before attempting to make a move and often made bad choices.
This is a team with a mass amount of potential, but without necessary adjustments it will not improve.
Finding ways to involve Chris Bosh should be considered. Bosh not only has good range on his jump shot but showed that he can be productive in the post as well. Involving the big man will open up more opportunities for Wade and James.
The Heat have the ability to win with a different leading scorer each night, but having more clear roles could make a major difference.
Miami didn't fare well against the other top two seeds in the Eastern Conference last season. Chicago and Boston combined for a 6-1 record against the heavily hyped Heat in the regular season.
It wasn't until playoff time that Miami showed it could beat its two biggest conference threats. The Heat took care of both teams in five games on their way to advancing to the NBA Finals.
While Boston only has a few more solid chances at a title run, the Heat proved to be the superior team of the two. They took advantage of the Celtics' older legs and ran them out of the gym.
Chicago looks to be Miami's biggest competition for the next few years in the East. Derrick Rose rightfully won an MVP award while helping the Bulls secure a surprise top seed.
It wasn't until the Eastern Conference Finals that Miami figured out one important rule about Chicago: Stop Derrick Rose, stop the Bulls.
If D-Rose doesn't find a consistent second option this rule will never change.
The Heat will not sweep the two teams, but significantly cutting down the losses to the two teams will play a important role in a 70-win season.
Depth might have been the biggest issue for Miami, however, the Heat front office will likely make that a focus post-lockout. If Miami wants to threaten for 70 wins, having backup off the bench would be an impact moving forward.
I mentioned earlier that the injuries to Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem were big factors to the team's slow start. As the season went on, you could also tell they were vital to Miami to create a respectable bench.
A full offseason's rest for the duo could provide the bench spark the Heat need to support the big three.
Don't be surprised to see Pat Riley sign some veteran free agents to help bolster the bench.
While many names have been thrown in the hat as potential targets, getting some depth at the point guard and center positions is a must. Thankfully for the Heat, there are plenty of value buys.
For a point guard the Miami could be use the service of a good game managing guard like T.J. Ford. His statistics and production have been down lately, but with limited minutes he could be a great backup for Mario Chalmers.
Look for battle-tested centers like Jeff Foster or Joel Przybilla to get some consideration for backup. If they want to look for a higher-priced option, look no further than Samuel Dalembert.
His ability to rebound and challenge shots inside would be a welcome asset to Miami's defense. While Dalembert would likely take over the starting center role, having Joel Anthony coming off the bench would be a huge contribution.
Miami could also look to former stars like Tracy McGrady and Michael Redd to provide short stints of production down the playoff stretch. This would add more scoring options off the bench and take a lot of pressure off James and Wade.
Shane Battier is a guy who would fit well in Miami. His hard-nosed defensive approach would fit nice in Erik Spoelstra's coaching scheme. Battier could also help spread the floor with his three-point shooting ability.
As it stands now Miami has a bench with some aging veterans and injury-prone role players. It's no guarantee that Miami will make any moves, but with a few free agent signings look for the Heat to be an all-around better team in a chase for a championship.
The creation of the big three was the biggest storyline the NBA has seen for years. Rarely do you see three stars in their primes come together on a quest for an NBA championship. The Heat not only went against what most fans want to see, but possibly started a trend for years to come.
As good as this team looks on paper, it still has plenty of criticism it needs to take care of.
Chris Bosh will look to prove he's a superstar-caliber player, not a third wheel.
Yes, Bosh watched his touches go down offensively last year, but so did the rest of the team. Look for Bosh to get more post opportunities next year in an effort to open up more options. He kept his field goal percentage high last season and continued to prove he is one of the best offensive big men in the game.
LeBron James has the most to prove out of anyone.
He can keep all of his MVP's and All-Star appearances, but without a championship he will never be in consideration for greatest player in history. A ring for the king is a must, but he has a lot of work to do.
Working on his play during the clutch could be crucial for Miami's success. James was often the one holding the ball in close games, but it wasn't until the playoffs he showed he could close.
He needs to show the killer instinct that the all-time greats are famous for. A lot of it would involve more of a mental focus for James, but with a tough year behind him look for him to improve.
Dwyane Wade doesn't have much to prove as an individual player, but he will look to prove that this project is not a failure.
Wade has been one of the more respected players over the last decade, but many found his campaign to create a super-team questionable.
Why would he want to share his spotlight in Miami?
He's already won a championship without Bosh and James, but will now look to add more to his collection.
The Heat stars have a lot to prove, both individually and as a team. It's not guaranteed that Miami will live up to the hype, but chances look pretty good for next season. Putting together a historic 70-win season will put to rest all criticism if the Heat finish it off with a championship.
Being such a rare accomplishment, it seems impossible that this Miami Heat team could become only the second team to pull it off. However, a healthy team that shows chemistry has a potential shot.
LeBron James is a former MVP and still the best player in the NBA. Dwyane Wade brings great athleticism while being the best shooting guard around. If you want to consider Bosh a third wheel that's fine, but he is still dangerous and arguably a top-five power forward.
Surrounding these stars with some valid role players will only make them a bigger threat. Look for young point guard Mario Chalmers to step up big, along with rookie Norris Cole to come around.
The Heat will face a lot of expectations again this season, but they shouldn't be counted out to win 70 games. They are solid on both sides of the ball and will prove to be a hungry, motivated team.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment and discuss.