Jeff Van Gundy thinks the new look Miami Heat can break the Chicago Bulls’ record-setting 72-win season and he’s not taking his projection lightly.
“I just think if they’re healthy, the discrepancy between their talent level and the next level is so great, that I just don’t see how they lose games. I think they’re that good,” Van Gundy said during “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000.
On top of that, the former coach thinks the Heat can make a run at the Los Angeles Lakers’ 33-game win streak—a 39-year old record.
Perhaps it’s Van Gundy’s stint as an ESPN NBA analyst that’s gotten to his head, but he is not completely ridiculous.
LeBron James was able to piece together a 66-win season playing with a less than star-studded lineup in Cleveland. Now he comes to Miami to run the floor with superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Soak that in for a minute (as if you already haven’t done so). Again.
“If LeBron can win 66 games in the regular season with the guys he played with [in Cleveland], then I think you add Wade, Bosh and Mike Miller, it’s not a stretch to say they can win six more,” Van Gundy said.
LeBron’s former teammate, Zydrunas Ilgauskas (a 12-year veteran), joins them as well and provides a worthy presence in the post. He'll have to against the likes of Eastern Conference big men in Orlando’s Dwight Howard and Boston’s frontcourt.
With the right sprinkling of role players—who right now appear to be Miller, long-time Miami mainstay Udonis Haslem, Eddie House and Mario Chalmers—the makings of a well-oiled machine are there. Haslem and House were part of championship teams in the past while Miller and Chalmers have proved their worth over the years, though the Kansas product still has age on his side.
The Heat have a host of veterans surrounding their big three (followed by their ages)—Juwan Howard (37), Joel Anthony (28), Carlos Arroyo (31), James Jones (29), Ilgauskas (35), Miller (30) and Haslem (30)—while Bosh (26), Wade (28) and LeBron (25) enter the primes of their careers.
While that list of veterans may not be a jaw-dropping one, surely they will fall into roles and let the superstar three do most of the heavy lifting.
Honestly, if Kevin Garnett, Paul Piece and Ray Allen can get together towards the end of their careers and win rings in Boston, how far-fetched is it really for Bosh, Wade and LeBron to do the same and even more during the peaks of their careers?
It’s not like they only have a couple of years to do so, but the pressure will be on them from day one.
It will be hard enough to find one of the three having an off night during any single game. Over the last five seasons, each of them has averaged at least 22 points per game with Bosh bringing up the rear.
Obviously, it will be hard to expect similar production this season.
After all, there is only one basketball. But getting things done on the defensive side of the ball will be enough to win plenty of games and that’s where Erik Spoelstra comes into the picture.
After taking over the coaching duties from Pat Riley in 2008, Spoelstra’s led the Heat to the playoffs in each of his two seasons, but failed to advance past the first round. His job may be a little easier come June.
A 73-win season is hard to envision and the expectations are already set seemingly to a Hall of Fame level. Certainly, the Heat will trip up along the way. The question is who will stick out their foot.
Glancing at the Eastern Conference, it is hard to pinpoint where the Miami defeats will come.
Orlando figures to have another solid season, so a loss or two to the Magic doesn’t seem outrageous.
An Atlanta team that has shown flashes of brilliance in the past could find itself struggling against such a cast of superstars.
Boston could most certainly steal one from the Heat and don’t be surprised if it comes in the first game of the season.
In the Western Conference, aside from the Lakers—and maybe Dallas—it is a strain to find a team not only capable of matching up, but also of actually triumphing against this super-team.
Maybe one can out-coach the Heat and a young Spoelstra, who has been devoid of much talent in the past. But Miami getting outplayed on ten different occasions this year seems fanciful.
A 73-win season? Perhaps more?
That seems less of a dream, but one that will be worth remembering.