There is no doubt that the Miami Heat are a talented team. They have proven that fact over the past two seasons. While the easiest pick to win this season is Miami, there are a few things to note before handing them the crown (again).
They Didn’t Improve This Offseason
We kept waiting for a big move to happen. Waiting for Miami to attempt to improve their already ridiculous lineup. But it never seemed to occur.
Two years ago, the Heat signed Shane Battier and last offseason it was the addition of Ray Allen. Both game changing players and both played big roles in winning back to back championships. It seems to be a common pattern with NBA champs. However, this offseason, the Miami Heat seemed content with what they had. While the rest of the league scrambled to keep pace, the Heat were quiet with their free agent signings.
The Miami Heat did sign Greg Oden on August sixth, but never made an effort to sign any other big man on the market. There were huge concerns going into last season about the size of the Heat and that weakness was made evident during the 2013 playoffs.
I do find myself cheering for Oden, and hoping that he will make a strong comeback to the league. If Oden can do that, then the Heat would have a good answer to their height challenged lineup. With reports stating Oden will not exceed 10-15 minutes of playing time this year, it seems unlikely that the Heat have found their answer.
Dwayne Wade’s knees are the biggest concern for the Heat this year. Wade, who is in his early 30’s, struggled at times during the postseason because of knee ailments. It was quite obvious that his injury resulted in Miami’s struggles down the stretch. LeBron was able to take leadership, but without the scrappy Wade, the defensive and offensive production was down.
Greg Oden’s health will also play a factor in the Heat’s quest for a three-peat. Surprisingly, without having played a single second in a Heat uniform, Oden has become an intricate part of their team. If Oden is not healthy then Miami will once again struggle with the size of Roy Hibbert, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, Greg Monroe, and Brook Lopez.
The East vs. The Heat
Seems like every team has made moves with one intention, to beat the Heat. After a few years where the East looked like the weaker conference, teams have emerged as dominant figures. The Nets, Bulls, Pacers, Pistons, and Knicks have all made significant additions in order to contend in a highly talented conference. As rivalries start to form, there is really only one question to ask: Do you pick Miami or the rest of the field to win the East?
I agree that the Heat are better than any of the teams that I mentioned above. They are superior in their overall talent as well as their intellect of the game. However, just think about the potential road Miami would have to endure to win the finals. They could meet Detroit in the first round (no easy matchup with Monroe, Smith, and Jennings), followed by New York, and then possibly Chicago, Indiana, or Brooklyn. If all those teams fail to knock out the champ, then Miami would look to beat Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Los Angeles, or Houston in the finals. The amount of endurance to beat all of these teams is nearly unobtainable and undoubtedly would test a veteran squad that runs an uptempo pace.
Pound for pound and player for player, the Heat are as good as anybody. They are the clear favorites to win their third title, but do not be so quick to hand it over to them. Last postseason we learned that Lebron is great, Wade is aging, and Bosh is soft. If a team can find a way to exploit their weaknesses, the Heat are not as scary as they appear.
My prediction is that we crown a new champion this season. It will not be easy, but if there was a year to dethrone the king, this would certainly be it. It just a matter of who steps up first.