2012-2013 W-L: 66-16
New Faces: Greg Oden, Michael Beasley, Eric Griffin, Justin Hamilton
New Places: Mike Miller (Grizzlies)
Draft: James Ennis (50)
When you have the best basketball player in the world on your team, things seem to work out for the better, and that’s exactly what happened to the Miami Heat last postseason. While the “Big Three” were firing on all cylinders during the regular season, they were hit with a few unexpected road bumps in the Playoffs thanks to Dwyane Wade’s decrepit knees and Chris Bosh’s disappearing act. Had LeBron not put the team on his back in their finals series against the San Antonio Spurs, we would more than likely be looking at a blown up Miami Heat roster right now. But we aren’t. Instead, we’re looking at one that is extremely similar to last season’s, except for two low-risk, high-reward additions
The first of those signings was Greg Oden. Oden’s injury-riddled career is well documented at this point, but he took a break from basketball for all of last season to get his knees right so that he could give the NBA one final shot. He’s only played in a total of 88 games since the Trailblazers drafted him with the first pick in the 2007 draft, but he gave them some good minutes when he was healthy, and his career per-36 minute numbers of 15.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks rank up there with some of the best big men in the league today.
Obviously the days of Oden living up to his high draft pick are over, but the Heat know that. And that’s the main reason they rolled the dice on him, because they could offer him something many teams couldn’t: the opportunity to play without any pressure. All they need and want him to do is grab a few rebounds and hold down the paint on the defensive end, similar to what we saw from Chris Andersen last season. We may not see that kind of production from Oden until the second-half of the season, as there is a lot of rust to shake off and the Heat will likely ease him into his role, but as long as he can help them neutralize some of the Eastern Conference’s best big men come Playoff time – mainly the Pacers’ Roy Hibbert, who had a field day against them last post-season, averaging 22.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game – the Heat will find themselves jumping up and down with joy.
The second of the Heat’s off-season acquisitions was the head-case that is Michael Beasley. The Heat are confident that they can get Beasley back to his old ways, and to be honest, why wouldn’t they? He had his most efficient years with the Heat between 2008-2010, and he now joins them at his lowest of lows when they are at the highest of highs. Can he still be a big time threat on the offensive end? No doubt. Beasley’s problem have never been his ability to put the ball in the hoop; it’s been his indulgence in some of the, uhhh, illegal things in life. If he’s able to get his act together, Beasley could find himself operating with quite a lot of freedom in Spoelstra’s offensive sets, as he could be the answer to some of the Heat’s scoring lulls when LeBron gets a breather on the bench. But in a similar fashion to Oden’s case, fans shouldn’t look at Beasley as a former number two overall pick anymore. It’s just for the best. Instead, they should be content with him coming off the bench, scoring 12-14 points per game and helping relieve some of the pressure off of LeBron, Wade and Bosh. If it doesn’t work out for some reason, the Heat will have “wasted” a small sum of $1.03 million on someone who could’ve helped them out in a big way. It’s certainly a risk worth taking.
The Heat’s biggest loss this off-season was Mike Miller, who, after being amnestied, decided to go back to his former team, the Memphis Grizzlies. While Miller looks about 20 years older than he actually is thanks to a pair of balky knees and a bad back, he’s still an outstanding shooter and is good for at least one lights out performance in the Playoffs, which the Heat will miss dearly. Luckily for them, they still have plenty of players on their roster who can heat up from beyond the arc, such as Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers.
Other than that, the Heat are the spitting image of last year’s team that won 27-straight games, which is both good and bad. Thanks to the amazing-ness that is LeBron James, the Heat will be title contenders from the get-go, even if Wade’s knees prove to be career killers and Bosh continues to be an afterthought in the Heat’s insanely efficient offense. Yet for them to bring home another title to South Beach, LeBron is going to need a helping hand from, ideally, the two others members of the Big Three, but if not, perhaps one of their new acquisitions.
Seeing as only three teams have ever made it to the finals in four or more consecutive seasons, history says that the Heat’s chances of making it back to the promised land this year are slim. Also, it’s not even a given that the Heat will steamroll their way through to the Finals, because the Eastern Conference will be as competitive as its ever been, thanks to Derrick Rose’s return to the Bulls, the Pacers’ bolstered bench and the Nets’ big time off-season acquisitions. However, the Heat have LeBron – the man who can single handedly turn any team into a title contender. Alongside him are two perennial all-stars, a pair of former high draft picks and a handful of knock-down shooters. Finally, they have something that the newly assembled super-teams, such as the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, don’t: proven chemistry.
It won’t be easy, but the Heat could very well become the sixth team in NBA history to pull off the highly coveted three-peat.