It’s amazing how quickly people will blow-up the positives and simply ignore the negatives in many sports situations.
After ESPN’s hour-long reality program The Decision in which LeBron James announced he would be joining fellow Class of ’03 draftees Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, many fans and analysts were quick to crown the Heat as the favorites to not only come out of the Eastern Conference but to also win an NBA Championship in the 2010-11 season. While the Heat have undoubtedly one of the best core groups in the NBA, they are just that—a core.
The Heat currently, after sending Michael Beasley to Minnesota for draft picks, have little depth coming from their supporting cast. After spending the vast majority of their salary cap to sign these three superstars, the Heat weren’t able to sign very many young developing free agents during the off-season.
However, they were able to add shooting specialists Eddie House and Mike Miller and re-sign seven-year veteran Udonis Haslem. While these additions sound good on paper, I’m still not totally convinced that this will work out on the court come October 26th.
Taking a look around the rest of the league, the other top teams with multiple All-Star quality players still have other role players on their team who can make strong contributions to their respective teams.
Looking at just the East, I don’t know if I would be so quick to pick Miami to represent the conference in the NBA Finals. The Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics are still my favorites to come out of the East.
The reigning conference champion Boston Celtics still have a very good chance of repeating next season. With one of the best starting lineups in the NBA, they still have been able to surround their Big Three of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce with solid veterans who have been able to thrive in Doc Rivers’ system.
Kevin Garnett still has enough in the tank to hold his own against Bosh and probably even outplay him. Garnett’s physicality and energy could prove too much for Bosh and overwhelm him. In one-on-one matchups, I would definitely pick Garnett to win out.
Paul Pierce proved in the 2008 Conference Finals that he can hold his own against LeBron James after going for 41 points to James’ 45 in Game 7 to close out the series. In last year’s playoffs, Pierce did his best to contain James and was, for the most part, successful.
Rajon Rondo would most likely take on the responsibility of guarding Wade; and as last season’s leader in steals, I don’t think it would be too demanding of a task. While Wade is the better player Rondo is still a quality perimeter defender.
As a team known primarily for its lockdown defense, the Celtics should be able to matchup well against the Heat with its superior team defense.
The Orlando Magic have possibly the most depth out of any team in the league. At some point, the Heat’s trio will have to take a seat on the bench and in those situations, it will come down to whose role players outplay the other’s.
Beyond just that, the more important question would be how the Heat plan to guard Dwight Howard. As one of the best perimeter shooting teams (third best in the league last season), Orlando has shown that if a team doubles on Howard, there are shooters waiting for that pass out of the paint for an open look.
If the Heat are indeed able to make it out of the Eastern conference and into the NBA Finals, I still pick the Los Angeles Lakers as the favorites to win the title. As far as defensive matchups, the Lakers can guard the trio of Miami without the need to resort to double teams.
With great perimeter defenders in Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest to cover Wade and James and three big men in Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom to guard Bosh, the Lakers would be able to handle the Heat defensively.
On the offensive end of the court, the Lakers have the luxury of having arguably the best player in the league in Kobe Bryant and most skilled big man in Gasol. Both players command double teams and if they pass it out, there are other talented players in Artest and Bynum waiting to take advantage offensively.
Outside of the starting lineup, the Lakers have one of the best–although at times, inconsistent–sixth men in Lamar Odom, who is also capable of taking over games on both ends of the floor.
In addition to their ablility to successfully re-sign veteran point guard Derek Fisher and sign free agent Steve Blake, I don’t see any reason not to pick them to win it all.
At this point, it is difficult to predict what will happen this upcoming season but I feel the Heat are somewhat of a mystery and are not my favorite to win the NBA Championship.