Miami Heat: 10 Bold Predictions for Year 2 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Big 3
After a disappointing finish to a heavily hyped 2010-11 season, Miami will now look to put that behind them and look forward to the road ahead.
With much of the focus in the coming weeks on free agency and trade speculation, it's time to put that aside for now and talk about what an established superstar trio can accomplish in their second year together in Miami.
For Heat fans, I'm sure you will love most of these. However, if you prefer any other team in the NBA, you could have a rough road ahead.
Here are some predictions for the Miami superstars in 2011-12.
Miami Opens Up the Season with a Win in Dallas
Dallas shocked the world last year with an impressive playoff run, but how will they fare in an effort to defend their NBA championship?
The Mavericks still have arguably the best power forward in the game along with a veteran supporting cast that are ready to add another trophy to their cases.
However, this is a team that could look a lot different come Christmas day.
Tyson Chandler has shown major interest in moving elsewhere after being a big part of the 2010-11 Finals run and the Mavericks also face the risk of losing key pieces DeShawn Stevenson and JJ Barea.
That being said, expect Miami to come out looking for a hot start and to make a statement early. A win in the Big D would be a major boost of confidence for the South Beach ballclub and set a winning tone for the rest of the year.
Look for the Heat to learn from last season and bounce back.
LeBron James Will Show Progress in the Post
James has the size, speed and athletic ability to beat you in multiple ways in the post, but it's been one of his iffy points thus far in his NBA career. One of the most difficult players in the league to guard, LeBron must work on this particular skill to be a complete force in the NBA.
After showing overall improvement in his offensive arsenal last season by adding a very solid mid-range jumper, James will likely now focus on giving Miami what they missed last season: a post player.
While Chris Bosh shows some finesse in the post, Miami lacks a player that can overpower defenders inside. They could find some option in free agency, but no one would demand as many touches as James inside.
Dwyane Wade Embraces the Leader Role
From the standpoint of NBA talent, it doesn't get much better than Dwyane Wade. From the standpoint of being a true NBA leader, it doesn't get better than Dwyane Wade at all.
Consider the first year of the Big 3 project to be a glimpse of just what we can expect next year. While it was often LeBron James that took over late in games, it should never be questioned that this is still Wade's team.
Now with a year of experience under their belts, the Miami Heat must rally behind Wade in order to win an NBA championship. Not only does Wade have a ring of his own, but he has been in Miami his whole career.
Sure, LeBron is the better player of the two, but ask any lifelong Heat fan and they will likely tell you Wade is the true leader of Miami.
Chris Bosh Sees an Expanded Role on Offense
It's quite simple as to why Chris Bosh needs an expanded role next season: Miami needs it.
Say what you want about Bosh and his toughness, but he possesses possibly the best mid-range jumper of any Heat player. He hits at a fairly consistent rate and can really help open inside gaps for cutting players like James or Wade. Bosh is also a solid free-throw shooter, and would benefit greatly from seeing more attempts from the line.
While seeing a significant dip statistically last season, Bosh will get back into form and likely become more of a go-to option for Miami down the stretch.
James Will Continue to Get Better in the Clutch
Another thing LeBron is often questioned for is his ability in clutch situations.
However, James showed major strides in becoming a finisher in late-game situations.
I understand that the last few games in the NBA Finals hurts my argument, but just look at how he showed up against the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls in the playoffs. James had the final dagger in many of the games and provided many other big plays when it mattered most.
A standout example would be Game 5 against Chicago where James had eight points in the final two minutes of the contest. Being down by 12 at one point late in the fourth quarter, James exploded late to be the key difference-maker that propelled Miami to the NBA Finals, including a clutch block of Derrick Rose to end the game.
While it seems as if James is taking baby steps to being a finisher, he is still in his prime and will only be more dangerous next season.
Wade Wins His First NBA MVP
Dwyane Wade has a NBA Championship as well as a Finals MVP, but the one thing he lacks in his Hall of Fame resume is a regular season MVP. With a shortened season and a Heat team looking for redemption, Wade is a perfect candidate to hold the beloved award in 2011-12.
It's understandable to say that James and Wade will have similar numbers over the season, but expect Wade to have a better overall presence and effect on a championship-caliber team.
He's got the championship experience and leadership ability to lead Miami to great things and also has two other stars on his side that will only make him better.
Derrick Rose was the NBA's true MVP last season, but his impressive numbers were not the deciding factor. It was his ability to lead an underdog team with various injuries to the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
That being said, expect plenty of players to follow Rose's path to a MVP award, but I guarantee none will have the significant effect of Dwyane Wade.
This could shape up to be the year that Wade finally captures the award, something he has deserved for quite a while.
Bosh Sheds His Criticism
Maybe taking too much criticism from fans and critics will play the biggest difference in Bosh's recent muscle gain, but it will likely only make him a more physical player in the end.
After gaining 15-20 pounds of muscle in the offseason, Bosh has even went as far as saying he would be willing to play the center position, in which he wasn't too effective last year.
Bosh is still a guy who can give you 10 rebounds a night, but if he shows the potential to bang with the more physical players in the league, he should be gaining different views about his presence.
While his go-to move in the post has always been to beat slower defenders off the dribble, it will be interesting to see if he can now overpower better defenders inside the paint. He's got the length and quickness, but with power, Bosh could be unstoppable.
Miami Will Lose No More Than 10 Games
Winning 56 games in a season will always get you a nice playoff seed, but doing it in a 66-game season will give you the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
If it wasn't for a disappointing 9-8 start last season, there is no telling what Miami could have done. However, Miami did finish the season strong after that point with a record of 49-16.
With a year of experience and chemistry to their advantage, it's only logical to think Miami could do much better next season.
Although Mike Miller will already miss at least a month of action due to injury, the health of Udonis Haslem and a few new offseason signings should be enough to give the Heat an edge they need.
Miami struggled against Boston and Chicago last season, only winning one game against both teams combined, but dismantling them in the playoffs last year only shows how far this team has come.
Miami Will Win a NBA Championship
Once the season finally takes off, there is no question that the Heat will be the likely favorite to win the NBA championship. Miami has the talent to win now and is also a very attractive destination for many veteran free agents and amnesty clause players.
The East is packed with talented teams, but none are as scary as Miami.
Chicago needs a shooting guard and to restructure some contracts to allow Rose to sign an extension.
Boston is a legit threat in the NBA this season, but consider last year's playoff series with Miami a passing of the Eastern Conference torch.
New York is at least one more key player out of serious contention. However, expect them to win at least a playoff series.
No, I'm not saying Miami will breeze by all of these potential championship squads, but it's debatable that they are head and shoulders above all of their Eastern Conference opponents.
With all of that said, all Miami would have to do is beat one Western Conference team to complete their original goal of starting a dynasty.
While the West is wide open right now, you can see who I think Miami will play based off the slideshow picture.
The Big 3 All Silence Critics
No team in recent memory has been put under such a theoretical microscope and dissected as much as the current Miami Heat team. Whether it was the hate for an "arrogant" James or a "third wheel" Bosh, it could be safe to say that this is the make or break year for Miami.
All three stars on this Heat roster face some sort of pressure or expectations that critics will be closely watching and most likely pointing out if they fail.
Will James finally gain respect for both his talents and ability to win?
Will Dwyane Wade be the true leader of Heat and help this team win a championship?
If things go right for Miami, there will be plenty of critics that stuck their foot in their mouth prematurely for counting the Heat out as contenders.
After a championship and a lot of pressure relieved from the Big 3, don't be surprised to see Miami win not one, not two, not three...
Well, you see where I'm going with this right?