Miami’s vaunted “big three” have led them to three straight finals appearances and back-to-back NBA Championship titles. There’s not a whole lot to dissuade anybody from thinking they can’t win another season. In a league where continuity seems a lost principle at times, the Heat will return every key player from last season’s squad, and that will count for a lot. Miami isn’t perfect, but until somebody finds a way to exploit their limited deficiencies, it wouldn’t be wise to bet against them.
Miami is underrated here. Starter Mario Chalmers may not put up gaudy numbers, but that’s hard to do when you share the ball with James, Wade, Bosh, and Allen. Chalmers is an excellent outside shooter who can also get to the basket. He doesn’t get much time as a playmaker, as Wade and James usually set the offense, but he’s solid there as well.
Norris Cole is the quick, young backup at the position. His shot isn’t as consistent as Chalmers, but he can hit from outside as well. Both provide good defense on the perimeter.
Being two deep (along with the fact that other players do most of the ball handling) allows Miami to enjoy a comfort level that a lot of teams just don’t have.
This is perhaps the key to whether or not Miami can three-peat. Dwayne Wade is still a top-level player, likely one of the 10 best in the league, but he may be starting to show his age. Miami is dominant, because they possess two of the league’s dominant forces. A slow down from Wade could seriously hinder a team where being better on the wings is a must to win. That said, it’s a bit too early to call this a problem yet. Wade is still as good as it gets at the moment.
Behind Wade, no problems. Ray Allen is a future hall-of-famer himself, and one of the finest pure shooters the NBA has yet seen.
LeBron James is the best player in basketball. Bar none. He may have had a bit of inconsistency in the playoffs, but the fact that that minor flaw was focused upon so much or the fact that it’s so talked about any time he’s under 20 points illustrates how indomitable James has become. He does it all, scores from all over the court, is one of the best playmakers around, has elevated his defensive game, and generally has a bigger impact on any game than any player on any night.
Ideally, veteran Shane Battier would take up most of the minutes behind James, but Miami’s dearth in the power positions makes him spend most of his time at the four spot. James Jones, a pure shooter who can be hot or cold, picks up the some of the slack. Though, Miami often goes small with Allen at the three.
Ideally, Chris Bosh would be here dominating opponents in his natural environment. But the Heat just does not have a viable, minute-heavy option at center. Bosh still gets minutes here, but Miami usually goes with a combo of Shane Battier (himself more of a three) and the bruising Udonis Haslem.
Battier gets by on savvy and intelligence at the four. He also allows Miami to spread to court for James and Wade with his ability to hit from the outside.
Haslem is the team’s enforcer, a more natural power forward that does the dirty work down low and is adept at being a thorn in other team’s side with his hustle and energy.
Chris Bosh just isn’t a center. He is one of the league’s best power forwards forced to play center because of the makeup of Miami’s roster. The playoffs revealed how he can be overmatched against taller, more physical players. Even at the four, Bosh is more of a finesse player who relies on moves and quickness to get the job done. That’s far more exposed spending much of his defensive minutes trying to guard the basket. That said, Bosh continues to put up outstanding scoring numbers and provide solid rebounding. As Miami’s only real threat among big players, he’s indispensable to the team.
The Heat signed veteran Chris Anderson after the start of last season and he gave them a spark and defensive presence the team had been lacking inside. He’s easily Miami’s best post defender and the team was wise to bring him back for a second stint. Anderson’s arrival seriously cut into the playing time of former starting center Joel Anthony. Anthony is tough, but undersized scrapper down low. He doesn’t provide much to anything offensively, but is quietly effective on the defensive end when given minutes.
The X-Factor in the middle is the signing of former first overall pick Greg Oden. Oden has been out of the game for several seasons following a disastrous string of knee injuries. Miami intends to bring him along slowly and hope to recapture some of the talent that once made him such a prized big man.
Miami returns virtually the same roster that won the championship last season. It is a roster that is star heavy at the top and rounded out with good role players up and down the lineup. The biggest pitfalls lay with Dwayne Wade’s age and health and whether or not teams will finally find a way to exploit their weakness on the defensive post. That said, they’re the obvious favorites to win a third title again this season.