2010-2011 NBA Predictions: The Top 50 Questions Facing LeBron James, Miami Heat
The opening game for the Miami Heat and their highly touted trio of stars is mere days away. In other words, it's nearly time to put all the offseason speculation to rest and just sit back and watch the team in action.
In case you weren't paying attention, this Miami Heat team is decidedly different from last year's squad. They managed to keep Dwayne Wade but also added a couple guys named Chris Bosh and LeBron James.
But because the general feeling for this team seems to be "championship or bust," there will still be plenty of question marks surrounding the team throughout the season.
Here's the Top 50 of those questions.
50. Who Is Going To Be the Primary Point Guard?
While you have to imagine that D-Wade will do his share of running the offense, the Heat still have to run a conventional one guard out there night after night.
And that's where things get a little fuzzy.
They will have Mario Chalmers, Carlos Arroyo and Eddie House all battling for minutes. Arroyo, an undrafted free agent, is easily the most experienced of the three, having been in the league nine years. Chalmers has been with the Heat for a couple seasons now, and his ability to make an impact of any kind is still up in the air.
House is probably going to be the odd man out one way or another. He's at his best when he comes off the bench and provides a spark.
In short, the Heat basically don't have a truly reliable point guard.
49. Will LeBron Play Point Guard?
The Cavaliers actually did have a point guard on their payroll during LeBron's tenure with the team. But you can be excused for not realizing that.
Indeed, it seems like LeBron always had the ball in his hands, whether he was scoring one of his 15,251 points or dishing out one of his 3,810 assists.
He's set to see most of his time as a three, but LeBron actually has more assists in his career than Wade, and the difference is enough to compensate for Wade's several injury filled seasons.
How long do you keep that kind of talent in the three spot?
48. Will The Heat Go Out and Get a Point Guard If They Need One?
And then there's always the possibility of the Heat getting help from outside to solve their point guard quandary.
If the Heat do go out and target a point guard in a trade, it's likely that they would probably rather have a defensive specialist than a Jason Kidd or somebody known for running an offense. They have enough of that to go around already.
47. Who Will Start at Center?
If Joel Anthony's relative uselessness (harsh, but kinda true) becomes a problem, will the Heat turn to Pittman, the rookie out of Texas?
The one thing Pittman has on Anthony is size; about two inches and 35 pounds to be more precise. If the Heat's center ends up being just a big body on the court no matter what happens, why wouldn't the Heat turn to the bigger body?
46. How Often Will We See Chris Bosh at Center?
There's no denying the Chris Bosh is one of the best power forwards in the league. But will the Heat's apparent hole at center force him into playing a few minutes here and there as a five?
Playing Bosh at center would allow Udonis Haslem and Juwan Howard some playing time, which is probably not all bad. More minutes for the shaky Heat bench can only help.
But how much do the Heat want to play Bosh at center? If it becomes a regular thing, do they lose any production? Do they gain any?
45. Which Role Players Have the Most Pressure on Them?
As the season wears on, it's going to become more and more important for the non-stars on the Heat to get involved. So who will have the biggest cross to bear?
Carlos Arroyo? Joel Anthony? Dexter Pittman?
Right now, Arroyo is third on the depth chart at PG. Anthony is penciled in as the staring center. And Pittman, the rookie, is behind Big Z on the depth chart.
Since he's a starter right now, Anthony is probably the wild card in Miami. He's best used setting screens and blocking shots but not much else.
We shall see.
44. Who Are the Haters LBJ Wants To Get Back At?
Michael Jordan. Charles Barkley. People who were bored and/or offended by "The Decision." Every registered soul in Ohio.
You get the idea. The man, who not too long ago was the jewel of the NBA, now has a list of enemies longer than a war criminal. The difference here is that LeBron is in a position to shut up his critics rather than answer to them.
Only LeBron knows who he wants to get back at first, but it makes sense that he would want to get back at all of them sooner or later.
43. Will LeBron Try Too Hard To Silence the Haters?
If it's permissible to bring baseball into the conversation, consider this:
Remember when the Yankees brought A-Rod in for the 2004 season? Remember what a jackass he became every day he took the field?
That's the kind of egotistical meltdown that the Heat and their fans should be afraid of. LeBron is probably the best player on the team, which could end up being an issue if he lets his ego get the better of him.
One guy isn't going to make this team. Break it? Now there's a maybe.
42. Has LeBron Tarnished His Reputation?
The haters will tell you that LeBron's reputation has certainly been tarnished by his move to South Beach. And they have a hell of an ally in Michael Jordan.
That's what's so sad about LeBron's situation. He obviously did the best thing for himself, but it definitely doesn't seem like there's any way his respect and admiration will ever be the same as it was at the start and finish of his career in Cleveland.
And if the Heat do end up becoming the LeBron James Show, you have to imagine that will be harder on his image than becoming a true team player. Kevin Garnett's assimilation into the Celtics is a good example.
41. Will Success Help Or Harm the Team's Popularity?
Nobody likes winners. Just ask the Yankees and Lakers.
And despite the fact they haven't won anything yet, the Heat are already in the dog house as far as many fans are concerned.
Once in there, it's hard to get back out.
So will success win any hearts back? Is it possible that a team can be so good that you just can't help rooting for them?
Well, if they lose, their own fans will probably be disgruntled. So as far as fanfare is concerned, it's going to be tough to win either way.
40. Will the Heat Play in Front of a Single Empty Crowd All Season?
In the last couple seasons, the Lakers were probably the biggest draw on the road. Before them, it was Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
But even they probably never imagined their drawing power could be eclipsed to this degree.
Yes, people want to see the Heat. For now, they are as much a novelty as they are a legitimate marvel to behold. But the fact that they're both will probably get people to fork over their hard earned cash like never before.
39. How Will LeBron Be Greeted on the Road?
You could debate this question for hours, but the practical reality is that LeBron definitely made more enemies than he did friends when he took his talents to South Beach. Just look at his Q Score.
Not only does most of the NBA fan base appear to by sympathetic to Cleveland, but it's also apparent that many people were rubbed the wrong way by the circus that unfolded on ESPN and other sports media outlets throughout the country.
As such, LeBron should probably invest in a pair of boo-muffs.
38. What Will LeBron's First Game in Cleveland Be Like?
Well, the answer to that last question was debatable. The answer to this question is pretty obviously something along the lines of "not good." As such, the real question is this: how bad will it be?
LeBron is obviously public enemy No. 1 in Cleveland, where the disdain for him is akin to that of early 1950s Americans for Joseph Stalin. But it's likely that the rest of the team will be guilty by association and booed accordingly.
As a wise man once said, we shall see.
37. Can the Heat Alone Have Any Effect on the NBA's Economic Woes?
NBA Commissioner David Stern announced on Friday that the NBA is going to lose millions of dollars this season, and that the league might be forced to contract.
Contract. Now that's a word nobody wants to hear.
But can the traveling road show that is the Miami Heat help bring in enough extra bucks to make a dent in the NBA's deficit? To be sure, that's a lot to ask of a single team. But as stated in the above question, they are certainly going to be a draw and could be an even bigger draw as the season goes on if they play up to their capabilities.
36. If Not, Will the Heat's Big Three Become Posterboys for the NBA's Problems?
What is David Stern's solution to the NBA's current economic quandary? He wants to decrease "labor costs."
In other words, he wants the money to come out of the player's salaries.
Dwayne Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh are all due to make over $15 million this season and are one of the highest paid trios in basketball and easily the most recognizable.
If things are actually as bad as Commissioner Stern says they are, what are the odds people use his solution as an excuse to start a witch hunt, starting in Miami?
Pure speculation, to be sure. But nothing's impossible.
35. Will There Be a Season-Long Media Frenzy Following the Heat?
Shoot, things are going to have to die down sooner or later, right?
Maybe not. It's hard to think of another time there has been this much hoopla for a single team, no matter the sport. The Boston Celtics team in 2007-2008 was pretty hyped, but their cast of characters doesn't hold a candle to the Heat's.
So you might have to go all the way back to the Dream Team if you want to keep it a strictly basketball conversation.
Regardless, you should probably be prepared for plenty of lead stories involving the Heat this season, no matter how they fare.
34. How Many LeBron Jerseys Will Be Sold by the End of the Season?
A media frenzy is always good for business. And good business is always good for the game's biggest star.
Yes, haters gonna hate. But fans are gonna buy. And they already are.
They may be burning LeBron jerseys in Cleveland, but they can't seem to get enough of them in Miami.
Yahoo! Sports has already determined that James' new No. 6 jersey is the best-selling jersey in the country. It probably helps, come to think of it, that true James' fans need new ones.
If LeBron can win back a few hearts this season, maybe he can sell even more jerseys.
33. How Will the Refs Factor into the Heat's Success?
It's no secret that the refs look after certain teams and players.
Okay fine, it probably is a secret. But not a very well hidden one.
Proof? Have you ever watched a Laker game and been amazed what Kobe Bryant gets away with?
Now that there's three of the league's biggest superstars in the same court; this could go either way. The refs could make it impossible to defend Wade, James or Bosh because of a flurry of ridiculous calls, or they could let teams go at them and force them to actually play the game the right way.
Michael Jordan would probably prefer the latter.
32. Will Teams Be Able To Collapse on them Or Play Zone?
Yes, defending the Heat is going to be tough.
Going man-to-man on them is probably a bad idea (unless coaches like ulcers, that is). As such, zone is probably the way to go here, and the success of it will probably depend on the chemistry of the main trio, which we have yet to glimpse at this point.
Double teams would be a good idea, but it's certainly going to be difficult to double team each of the big three with only five players. Indeed, it's certainly going to be harder to contain three guys than it is to contain one (Kobe, Durant, etc.), which is obviously in the Heat's advantage.
But we also definitely know that the supporting cast is nowhere near as talented as the three guys making the big bucks.
The question is, how do you make them beat you?
31. Is Mike Miller the Answer to Loosen Up Defenses Who Collapse on LBJ/D-Wade?
This is, of course, assuming that Mike Miller can contribute when he comes back in January.
As a veteran whose been in the league for 11 seasons already, all Miller really has to do on this team is be another body on the court. But indeed, in the event that D-Wade and/or Bron Bron can't get it done due to the opposing defense, Miller is going to have to spread the floor.
Miller is definitely a good shooter, so that will help. He was a 50 percent shooter last year, including 48 percent from beyond the arc, and he's been pretty consistent in both these regards throughout his career.
30. How Bad Is Mike Miller's Thumb Injury?
And then there's this to consider.
Miller had thumb surgery on October 22nd and is expected to be in a cast for four weeks. And worse, he'll be out until January. That's not good for the Heat. It is Miller's shooting thumb after all. But it will be even worse if he has to endure any lingering effects.
If Mike Miller can't shoot like Mike Miller is capable of because of his thumb, what do the Heat do then?
29. How Do the Heat Replace Mike Miller's Production?
"What then?" indeed.
If Miller's injury turns into a long term thing, even if he is on the court, how will the Heat find the numbers that they were expecting out of Miller?
Of course, if the Heat have things their way, Miller's production will be a minuscule loss. But it's still a good idea for every team to have that one guy who can just plain shoot the darn ball. Unfortunately, those guys don't grow on trees.
28. What Will the Heat Get Out of Jerry Stackhouse?
In the wake of the news that Mike Miller's thumb injury will keep him out until January, the Heat went out and signed journeyman forward Jerry Stackhouse. This will be the former Tar Heel's 17th season in the NBA but has played in only 51 games in his last two seasons with Dallas and Milwaukee.
The Heat could probably do worse than Stackhouse, but he's certainly not the shooter that Miller is. Couple that with the fact that Stackhouse has been over the hill for a few years now, and you get the notion that this move was merely an effort to find an able body.
27. Is D-Wade's Hamstring a Concern?
When it comes to longevity, the NBA isn't exactly the NFL, but it's not baseball either. Injuries can make a huge difference in a player's career, especially a leg injury.
And D-Wade has had several of these already in his career.
So should the Heat be worried about Wade's hammy? Probably not all that much at this point.
But then again, they won't really know for sure until Tuesday.
26. Can D-Wade Stay Healthy?
Say what you will about the severity or lack thereof of Wade's hamstring injury, but keep in mind that it took only three minutes into the Heat's first preseason game for Dwyane Wade to get hurt. And while Wade's pulled hamstring is not expected to keep him out of the lineup on opening day, there's still reason for concern here.
Wade has been in the league for seven seasons now, and has missed significant time do to injury in three of them.
True, Chris Bosh and LeBron James are probably good enough to keep the team afloat if and when Wade is hurt. But without Wade, can the Heat contend with the better teams in the league, particularly come playoff time?
25. What Do the Heat Do If Wade's Hamstring Becomes a Chronic Thing?
And then there's the possibility and maybe even the probability, that Wade's hamstring becomes a nagging issue. Maybe it won't keep him out of the lineup, but it could limit his minutes.
Then what do the Heat do? It's one thing to have no Wade, it's another thing altogether to have half a Wade.
Would they shut him down to let it heal or would they let him persist?
After all, a "Big Two-And-A-Half" is probably not going to be quite as dominant.
24. Where Does LeBron Play When D-Wade Is Hurt?
Officially, Wade is the shooting guard, and James is the small forward. Of course, given their tremendous talents, they can play pretty much anywhere and do pretty much anything while doing so.
Nevertheless, one suspects that Wade will bring the ball up the court more often than LeBron. But if Wade is out for an extended amount of time, does Spoelstra put the offense into the hands of Mario Chalmers, Carlos Arroyo and/or Eddie House or does he hand the keys to LeBron?
It wouldn't necessarily be anything new for LeBron, of course. But if he excels in the role, what happens when Wade returns?
23. If Healthy, Can D-Wade Remind People That This Is His Team?
LeBron this, LeBron that, LeBron chased after a cat.
You get the idea. People look at the Heat and seem to only care about LeBron.
But do they realize that this was Wade's team before James arrived, and that it very well could be again if Wade can stay on the court?
Indeed, Wade is probably just as talented as LeBron and maybe even the better team player of the two. As such, the pressure is probably on him to be the straw that stirs the drink in Miami. And if he can succeed in this regard, maybe his jersey sales can go through the roof too.
22. Can LBJ and D-Wade Share the Ball?
Maybe this is the real reason why MJ said he never would have teamed up with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. This is like putting two presidents in the White House at the same time.
Indeed, the town is barely big enough for these two, never mind the court. Yet, it's up to them to make it work. This will be particularly important at the beginning and the end of the season, when the microscope and the pressure on them will be unbearable.
If they can't coexist...well, both LeBron and the Heat will have made a huge mistake.
21. Can Chris Bosh Flourish As a Third Option?
Chris Bosh averaged more than 22 points in each of his final five seasons with the Raptors. He was the man in Toronto—no bones about it.
Now he joins a team with one man who has averaged over 24 points in his last six seasons (Wade) and another man who has averaged 27 points a game in his short career (James).
Moreover, it's painfully obvious that Bosh is option C in the trio, and that he needs to be more of a role player than a star.
Well, he probably won't flourish if that's the case. But will the team?
20. How Will the Egos Mesh?
Yes, Miami's big three appear to have already become fast friends. But they still need to learn how to incorporate each other's style of play.
Of the three, it's hard to pick out the obvious egotist. Maybe LeBron, but he's not exactly Allen Iverson.
Nevertheless, these are three guys who are used to being the star of their team. The only guy who has any experience sharing the limelight is Wade, who did it with Shaq.
And no, LeBron's Shaq experience doesn't count. There was never any question that LeBron was the star, and that Shaq was merely there to help out.
So it will be interesting to see, from here on out, whether or not something rotten develops in Miami.
19. Will Each of the Big Three Make the All Star Team?
On paper, this one seems like a foregone conclusion.
But the games, as they say, are not played on paper.
Nevertheless, the only thing that could stop Miami's big three from appearing in the All-Star game is the very small likelihood that the legions of fans outside Miami are really that bitter towards the Heat's new toys.
Wouldn't it be something if each of these guys isn't a starter on the East's All Star team this year?
18. Will the Team Buckle under the Intense Year-Long Pressure?
There are only two ways you can handle expectations. You either wilt, or you thrive.
The pressure on the Heat to live up to expectations is not going to go away. Not in this season anyway. The good news is that, with the exception of maybe Chris Bosh, the Heat's Big Three have all had to deal with immense pressure.
Both LeBron and D-Wade have been in the Finals, and the kind of pressure they are likely to deal with the rest of the season is probably going to be very similar to something like that.
That was for a seven-game series. This is for an 82-game season.
17. Will the Team Struggle To Open the Season?
Nobody likes preseason play. It's boring, it's meaningless and nobody takes it seriously.
But it's still basketball, and basketball is the ultimate team sport. So getting to know each other as a unit is a big deal.
The Heat haven't really done that yet, hence the reason all those concerns about their chemistry have not been alleviated yet with opening night just around the corner.
If the Heat do fail to gel right away, the preseason might actually end up being important for once.
16. What Will Be the Team's Starting Lineup on a Consistent Basis?
This is, of course, largely dependent on injuries. But the essential truth of the 2010 Heat remains the same—it's the Big Three and then everyone else.
You have to figure that Erik Spoelstra's main concern is the "everyone else" part, especially if you give any heed to the notion that the rest of his players are just a bunch of spare parts.
But then there's the possibility that Wade and James' interchangeability starts affecting the lineup card on any given night, particularly if LeBron starts doing Wade's duties better than Wade.
What then, does Spoelstra do if Wade becomes the one guard and James the two, opening up the three for somebody else?
Just throwing it out there.
15. How Much Credit Will Erik Spoelstra Get If the Heat Succeed?
D-Wade, LeBron, Bosh. Repeat ad nauseum and you should have a pretty good description of the Heat in the event a layman asks you for one.
But what about head coach Erik Spoelstra? It's likely that very few of the NBA's more casual fans even know who he is. With a roster like this, he certainly has an excuse to make a name for himself, right?
If Spoelstra can get this team to play like we all expect them to play, will he get the credit? Or will people just chalk it up to his stars?
14. How Long Is Erik Spoelstra's Leash If His Team Struggles?
Pat Riley is your boss, and you have the most talented roster the NBA has ever known.
Don't mess it up, Erik Spoelstra.
Indeed, the writing is on the wall for the third-year head coach of the Heat. It's probably not "win or else" quite yet, but it very well could be if his team doesn't enjoy consistent success.
And with forecasts as high as 70 wins being predicted for the Heat, "consistent success" is a much more demanding notion for Spoelstra than it is for other coaches.
13. Will Pat Riley Get Impatient and Return to the Bench?
Pat Riley hasn't coached since the 2007-2008 season, which is a pretty insignificant layoff.
Can he still coach? Probably.
Does he still want to? That obviously depends.
As a key cog in the regime that has gathered quite possibly the most talented basketball team in NBA history, he probably won't appreciate it if Spoelstra can't get the job done.
From there, it's just a matter or how seriously he thinks he might be able to improve things.
12. When Will the First Measuring Stick Game Come for the Team?
As with any major sport, it's usually a good idea never to see the first portion of a team's season as a definitive litmus test.
As such, their game at Orlando in late November might end up looking huge at the end of the year. The same thing could definitely be said for the Christmas Day tilt at the Lakers.
Then again, it could come a lot sooner than that, against a team that wasn't supposed to be much of a threat. After all, a test of worth can come at any time.
11. What Teams Will Be the Biggest Competition?
The Boston Celtics. The Orlando Magic. The Chicago Bulls. The Atlanta Hawks.
These are just some of the many teams in the East that the Heat are supposed to handle on their way to an Eastern Conference Championship. But who among them will not be so easily swayed?
And of course, there are some pretty good teams out west too. And you can bet they're just as sick of hearing about the Heat as their counterparts in the east.
10. How Do the Heat Match Up wIth The Magic?
Last season's defeat in the Eastern Conference Finals must have been pretty baffling for Magic fans. The Magic were probably the better team, and it looked like they just plain didn't show up.
Well, the Celtics are all a year older now. And so are the Magic. But that's a good thing for the latter team. One is more experienced, the other is just plain old.
If all goes according to plan, the Heat and the Magic will be the two best teams in the East. Exactly how they stack up head-to-head is another issue. The Magic probably have the advantage at two positions (PG and C), but that's probably not enough to overtake the Heat's Big Three.
But stranger things have happened. You never know who's going to step up.
9. How Do the Heat Match Up against the Celtics?
Given their age and the sheer toll that last season must have took on them, the Celtics are probably not going to be the same team this season. They will more likely resemble the squad that slowly fell apart the year after their first Title run.
But are they still good? Damn right they are.
The Heat may be the most talented team in the East, but the Celtics are the most experienced, no matter how old they are. Don't be surprised if these two teams have more than a couple dogfights before this season is over.
8. How Do the Heat Match Up against the Lakers?
And then there's the champs, who are probably the only team in the West that the Heat should concern themselves with.
Position-for-position, pound-for-pound, ring-for-ring, it's hard for anybody to match up with the Lakers. Now, the Heat probably match up better than anyone, but there's no denying that the Lakers have that special something that puts them over the edge.
And no, that's not a reference to all the calls they get. That's another issue entirely.
The point is that the Lakers are basically the quintessential measuring stick for the Heat—for both this year and the years to come.
7. Are the Heat Better Than the Lakers?
Indeed, why hint when you can ask outright?
A lot of people like the Heat to run the table all the way to an NBA Title, but it's pretty obvious at this point that nobody is discounting the Lakers' say in all this.
To be the best, you have to beat the best. We say it so much because it's true. The Lakers have been to three straight NBA Finals and have won the last two. Make no mistake, they are the best until proven otherwise.
And there's the rub. Can the Heat be the team to prove otherwise?
6. Does the Team Have Enough Depth To Win a Title?
Aside from maybe Eddie House, there's really nobody on the Heat bench worth cheering for when they get into the game; unless maybe you're a big fan of Udonis Haslem, for whatever reason.
This could end up being a problem. Say what you will about Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, but one of the key reasons they've been able to win so many Titles is the team around them. True, the Heat have the big trio, but the rest of the guys...meh.
You don't want Wade, James and Bosh picking up too much slack. It's a long season, and those guys are going to need to have their legs when the playoffs roll around.
5. Who Takes the Last Shot of the Game?
Just imagine it. Final seconds of the game, down by a single shot and the Heat have possession.
For most other teams, if not all of them, there is really only one option. The Heat have two, maybe three if they decide to run a play for Bosh in the post.
Aside from that, is the ball in LeBron's hands? Or is it in D-Wade's?
Both of them have made several clutch, game-winning shots to win games in their respective careers. Now that they're on the same team, it may very well end up being a situation like this that decides who is the man in Miami.
4. How Many Regular-Season Games Will They Win?
There's only 82 games in a season, but the pressure is on the Heat to win most of them. And some will tell you that the Heat can and should win 70 or more.
Only one team has won more than 70 games—the 1995-95 Chicago Bulls.
Basically, the message is this: you had better have one of the best seasons in NBA history.
3. Can They Win the East?
If the Heat do make the playoffs, which is likely, it is then a simple question of how far will they go. For a team expected to win the Finals each year Wade, James and Bosh are together, winning the East is probably going to be a foregone conclusion.
Nevertheless, we're still going to be asking this question when they playoffs come around. So we may as well ask it now.
The odds are probably in their favor. There's lots of talent in the East, but fortunately for the Heat, a lot of it is in Miami.
2. Will It Be a Disappointment If They Don't Win an NBA Title?
Never mind how many regular season games the Heat will win. The real question is whether or not they'll win it all.
Indeed, even if the Heat win all 82 games, one has to imagine that Heat fans won't really be totally satisfied unless they win the Title.
As such, this one's obvious. Barring major injuries that make the task impossible, you have to think that anything less than a Larry O'Brien Trophy will be a disappointment.
1. Will the Heat Win the NBA Title?
Indeed, this is the question everybody wants answered. So why not just ask it outright.
So how about it, NBA fans. Will the Heat win it all this year?