There's really no way for the 2010-11 Miami Heat to escape the reality that they are the most hyped NBA team in quite some time. I won't say how long, because I don't want to offend basketball history buffs, but let's just say that it's been a very long time since a team like this has ever been assembled.
That's a reality they created, of course, with their historic summer. In one fell swoop, the Heat landed LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, the three biggest fish in the historic 2010 free agent class. It was a groundbreaking moment for the NBA, who had always been run by superteams, but never by one that came together as quickly as Miami.
There are some who believe the Heat merely got lucky to land James and Bosh. To a point, they're correct. There are indications that James, Wade and Bosh had planned to team up with each other as far back as the 2008 Olympics. The three players also took a little less money to play together, something that few expected when the 2010 free agency derby began.
But do not make the mistake of believing this union was simply destined to happen. Heat president Pat Riley did a lot over the past couple of years to set his team up for this opportunity, dumping bad contracts, finding salary-cap quirks and selling Wade on not jumping ship himself as he squandered a couple year of his prime. More generally, Riley needed to do some selling of his own to convince all three players that Miami was the right place for them. For all of that, he deserves a ton of credit.
But now Riley's work is done. The question now is whether these three stars can coexist and share the immense spotlight and pressure that is sure to come. SB Nation's Heat blog Peninsula Is Mightier believes they can.
Any team with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh is basically spoiled with talent. But talent alone doesn't necessarily mean wins will come easily, and these guys know that.
The amount of talent on this roster combined with the camaraderie between the players is key. There are plenty of occasions where great players are brought together on a team and they just don't mesh well and the team struggles. This will not be the case with the Heat because not only are all of these guys friends, but they all came to Miami because they shared a common goal, which is to win an NBA championship.
The good news for Heat fans is that all three players have never played with remotely comparable talent. Wade had a chance to play with Shaquille O'Neal for a couple years, but O'Neal was past his prime. James and Bosh have spent the last few years carrying flawed teams, so they'll surely welcome not having to do that anymore. There's also plenty of spotlight to go around, and the guys are all friends. To me, the bigger issue is how their on-court styles will mesh, not their personalities.
Luckily, the Heat did a pretty good job filling out the roster with the limited remaining resources they had. They brought in veterans Mike Miller, James Jones and Eddie House for shooting, signed Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juwan Howard to help out in the paint and decided to keep key role players Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony. It's the deep shooting ability of Miller, Jones and House that is particularly important, considering how much James, Wade and Bosh will be double-teamed. As Sports Agent Blog writes:
The strength isn't necessarily just the ability for these three to score, but the ability for them to open the floor for spot up shooters in the corners, which is something the Heat, for the first time since Jason Kapono, is not lacking with Mike Miller, James Jones, and Eddie House on the outside. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are going to demand double teams on the perimeter, and many times Chris Bosh is going to demand a double team down low. With Wade and James' ability to penetrate and dish, the corners are going to be wide open. A man-to-man defense with back-side help is not going to work against this team. This year's Miami Heat may cause the zone defense to make a major comeback in the NBA, as it may be the only way to put multiple defenders on the Big Three while not taking defenders out of position.
It's hard to imagine anyone stopping the Heat offensively. However, if they do have a weakness, it's at point guard and center. The incumbent starters are Mario Chalmers and Anthony, but neither is proven. Chalmers regressed last year after a decent rookie season in 2008-09, and Anthony is coming off a year where he averaged just 2.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. However, Peninsula is Mightier has faith in the big man.
I have confidence in Joel Anthony and think he'll be fine. There will be no need for him to do anything offensive, which is where he struggles, but defense is his strength, which is exactly where the Heat will need him.
Of course, as Sports Agent Blog notes, the Heat's crunch-time lineup will likely include Miller and Haslem alongside James, Wade and Bosh, so the limitations of Chalmers and Anthony might not matter much. That said, a team with a good point guard and a good center has potential to give Miami problems. (In case you're wondering, there's one team that I think really fits the bill).
Miami's other lingering problem right now is injuries. Wade has missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury, James tweaked his hamstring in an earlier preseason game and Miller injured his ankle last night. All three should be ready by the season opener, but the Heat have missed an opportunity to develop cohesion when the games don't count. Then again, one thing Peninsula is Mightier was concerned about is how the team will handle the inevitable adversity that will come this season. These minor injuries might provide an answer to that question.
At the end of the day, the Miami Heat are the clear favorites to win the 2011 NBA Championship. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves, and is probably still dealing with lingering resentment from how the team came together. Whether the Heat actually win the title is a totally different question, and there's a good chance they won't. They're not perfect. Teams like Orlando and the Lakers will exploit their lack of size, and quick point guards will give them trouble. But they're still the favorites, and they're still the team everyone will be watching this year. Love them or hate them, it will be impossible to look away.
- Peninsula is Mightier: 67-15.
- Sports Agent Blog: 64-18.
- Me: 68-14.