Is This the Beginning of a Miami Heat Dynasty?
The Miami Heat have won the 2012 NBA Finals, and with that, a handful of questions are answered while another thousand or so are about to be asked.
As of right now, we know that super teams can win titles, LeBron James isn't going to retire ring-less and in about four months, we'll be able to find out if dinosaurs can actually wear rings or not.
Of course, to really get a good look at whether they can build a dynasty or not, we're going to have to look at the rest of the NBA and figure out who is capable of winning a title and taking Miami down.
So let's do that first.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder have now felt what LeBron James and the Miami Heat felt last season: the bitter taste of defeat.
OKC has flown as close to the sun as you can get without actually touching it, which is going to make it want that first taste of being on the top of the heap even more.
The biggest threat in the Western Conference year after year for LeBron and the Heat is going to be the Thunder, as they look to be the best team in the West for years to come.
Only money will break that team apart, and it's entirely possible that it could. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are going to be in town long-term, but James Harden and Serge Ibaka are due new contracts at the end of next season. Only time will tell what comes of that.
Unfortunately for the Miami Heat, they're going to have to deal with a guy who has more fire in his belly to win a title than anyone since Kobe Bryant at the end of the last decade.
It hasn't been too long since we saw someone this serious about basketball, and while it isn't any more fun to watch a guy calmly walk out onto the floor and dismantle his opponent than it is when a guy is dancing around, it's damn impressive.
Derrick Rose and the Bulls are going to have to figure out how their team is going to be set up for the future, meaning they're going to need to address the Carlos Boozer situation. Otherwise, that team should be a big threat to the Heat in the Eastern Conference for years to come, so long as Rose gets over his ACL tear.
It's just hard to see how anyone is going to keep Derrick Rose from getting his ring unless his knee completely falls out of his leg.
San Antonio Spurs
Every year, we have to ask the question of whether or not the San Antonio Spurs are done as a dynasty, and it seems that every year, they give us a reason to be wrong about them.
This year, the Spurs reeled off 20 straight wins before they fell in six games to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and they could be even better next season.
Sure, Tim Duncan is old and Manu Ginobili is suddenly injury-prone, but Tony Parker is just peaking, and they've got money to spend this year should they want to.
After re-signing Tim Duncan to a contract that'll be about half of what he made last season (so $10 million-ish), and adding little contracts here and there of players like Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Gary Neal and Dejuan Blair, the Spurs will still have the full mid-level exception to add another good player to their team.
Oh, and it seems now that Nano de Colo, the French guard that they drafted a few years back in the second round, is ready to come over. And he's on the Olympic squad alongside Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, so he probably has some game as well.
This Spurs team isn't done dominating the Western Conference. Not yet.
What, did somebody tell you that the years of the Boston Celtics' Big Three were coming to an end? Well, they're probably right, but that doesn't mean the Celtics don't have something else up their sleeves.
Boston will probably let Ray Allen go unless he comes super cheap; otherwise, it'll look to re-sign Kevin Garnett at about half his salary from last season (so, about $10 million).
From there, the only guys they really need to re-sign are Brandon Bass, Keyon Dooling, Mickael Pietrus and Greg Stiemsma, which will be about $8 million a year between the three of them. This will give them room to add a player at $8 million (or Jeff Green at about $2.5 million and another player at $5.5 million), plus the mid-level exception.
The Celtics are far from a precarious position at this point, as there are plenty of options to be had in Boston.
Los Angeles Lakers
The title that Kobe Bryant loves most is his next title, and it's that fact alone that continues to make the Los Angeles Lakers a threat for the NBA championship, even if they are poorly built and as deep as a kiddie pool at this point.
Whether or not they trade Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum for a flurry of players or Dwight Howard or what have you, they're going to continue to be a dangerous team.
Never sleep on a Kobe Bryant-led basketball team.
New York Knicks
Sure, the Knicks are a weird kind of organized chaos at this point, but they're an organized chaos with so many variables that they could end up rocketing to the top of the conference next season.
The return of both Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert (and possibly Baron Davis; who knows?) can only be a good thing for this team, and another year of playing under a coach who actually allows them to practice defense can't be a bad thing.
They might not be favorites in the conference, and they might never be, but get them hot and they could take down a team like the Heat in a short series.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers are a few years off at best, but they're a dangerous team looming in the Western Conference that looks to be built right for a championship as their pieces start to mesh together.
With Chris Paul at the helm, they have the best point guard in the league, as well as Blake Griffin, a man poised to become a top-10 player should he continue to improve his game. This is going to be a good team for years to come so long as they keep it together.
This is the biggest long shot of the bunch, but the Brooklyn Nets, should they somehow put the team together that they've always dreamed of, could end up with a very good team.
However, they might be able to do it. Pairing Dwight Howard with Deron Williams, as unlikely as it seems at this point, would be the start of something good, even if it would take a handful of seasons to put it all together.
There are a few young teams forming what could be worth something by the time they get the pieces in place. When that time comes, they could flash danger at the Heat every time they meet.
The New Orleans Hornets are an obvious choice at this point, as they could turn into a championship contender depending on what Anthony Davis does as an NBA player.
Otherwise, teams in Washington, Cleveland, Minnesota and, more likely, Philadelphia and Indiana are looking like young squads who could make some noise in the next decade, although it's hard to look that far into the future.
So What's the Conclusion? Dynasty or No?
The Miami Heat won their second championship this year, and for that, they deserve their kudos. I suppose when we decide whether or not a team can be a dynasty, we have to decide what a dynasty is.
In terms of whether or not they'll win multiple championships over the course of the next five years, I'd say that it's almost a given. But is a streak of titles on the way? To that, I'd say no.
The Heat are going to win another title before LeBron, Bosh and Wade break up, but they're not going to dominate the league for the next decade a la Magic's Lakers or Jordan's Bulls. There are just too many teams out there who have the talent to take them down before or during the finals.
Miami is going to be one of the best teams in the league over the course of the next handful of years. It has now got it in its heads that it can win a title, so it's more dangerous at this point. But there are other teams out there who can call themselves dangerous as well.
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