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Thoughts On The Eastern Conference And The Heat

I won’t go into my opinion of LeBron too much, but I think Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports has it right. James is an egomaniac, and his spectacle only served to ruin his image. However, that’s really not important now. Now it’s time to wonder just how well the new triumvirate of Wade, Bosh, and James will play. Without all the pieces assembled, it’s still up in the air a little bit, but it’s safe to say the final Heat roster will look something like this:

PG – Wade, Chalmers, or Mike Miller – Wade is probably going to spend a lot of time at PG simply because they need Miller’s shooting, and Miller doesn’t have a chance of guarding speedy PGs like Rondo, Jameer Nelson, Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, etc.

SG – Wade or Mike Miller

SF – LeBron

PF – Bosh

C – Haslem

Bench – Chalmers, Joel Anthony (who?), Raja Bell (I’m guessing on this one, but I feel pretty confident), and anyone who wants a ring bad enough to play for a paltry 1.3 million.

The question is, how will this group play and how will they match up with the rest of Eastern Conference?

Heat: Chemistry and Coaching

1. A good friend of mine who played college basketball once told me that “everyone is happy with their role as long as they’re winning.” While this axiom is probably true, I’m a little skeptical that Wade and LeBron can happily co-exist. It seems that Wade is set to be the closer on this team, and while I think LeBron will probably appreciate that, it remains to be seen if these guys will be able to share the glory.

2. LeBron is used to having full control. It’s well documented that LeBron and his entourage had free reign in Cleveland. How will he deal with the iron fist of Pat Riley? No more cronies on the team plane, no more calling his own plays, etc.

3. Coach Spolestra seems like he’s about to get screwed over by Riley. It won’t shock me is Spolestra takes a backseat around the holidays. While this might seem like a good thing, it’s important to note that a team with a lame duck coach usually isn’t very disciplined.

Truth be told, these three issues are probably very small. Still, you never know.

How The Heat Match-up

Assuming everyone is healthy (and that’s a big assumption), here’s how the new-look Heat will probably match-up with their potential Eastern Conference rivals:

Boston – Rond0 and Allen are at least as capable as any combination of Wade, Miller, and Chalmers. Rondo’s jumpshot will continue to improve, Allen will always be a great outside threat, and neither Wade or Miller has a hope of guarding Rondo effectively for 40 minutes a night. Wade will come close, but only at the expense of a lot of offensive production. Miami’s lack of a true PG will hurt them against the Celtics.

At the wing, it’s clear that LeBron is better than Pierce. However, Pierce will still manage to make LeBron work for his points just as he has done in years past. Finally, at the 4 and the 5, I think Bosh + Haslem + some vet’s minimum bigs are no better than a rotation of Garnett, Perkins, Jermaine O’Neal, and Rasheed Wallace (assuming he doesn’t retire).

A series between these two will likely come down to coaching and chemistry, which is why I mentioned all of that first. Boston is going to miss Thibodeau in this one, so I’d call it 50-50.

Orlando – The x-factor in Orlando is Dwight Howard. If he can somehow learn to hit his free throws and make an occasional jumpshot, he can single-handedly dominate the Heat. Bosh is too soft to bang with Howard, and frankly the Heat can’t afford to let Bosh guard him anyways (the risk of foul trouble is just too great). There’s also the fact that Gortat is going to be significantly better than any big on Miami’s bench. If Dwight and Gortat improve a little (and they probably will), Orlando’s front court is going to dominate.

As for the wing, I’m assuming we’ll see more of Rashard Lewis at the 3. If so, that’s a tough match-up for both teams. LeBron doesn’t have the height to guard Lewis, and Lewis doesn’t have the speed to cover LeBron. It will be interesting, but LeBron probably has the edge here.

Finally, Orlando’s back court of Nelson, Duhon, Vince Carter, and JJ Redick (assuming he’s retained) is going to be at least as good as Miami’s rotation. Wade is great of course, but he’s going to need to do it all on both ends to have a chance. I’m not saying he can’t, I’m just saying that 40 minutes of chasing Redick or Nelson off screens, and/or hounding Duhon and Nelson as they bring the ball up the court, and/or keeping Vince out of the lane is a big workload for the Heat’s primary scorer.

If Dwight Howard improves into a better shooter (as he should), Miami will lose to the Magic because of a lack of rebounding, size, and subsequent foul trouble. If Howard doesn’t improve, the Magic will still have a very slight edge over Miami.

Chicago, Milwaukee, and Atlanta will all present challenges to the Heat, but only the Bucks and the Bulls have a clear advantage over Miami (both teams have a much better frontcourt).

  • Chicago’s lack of outside shooting will make it hard for them to beat the Heat, but it certainly wouldn’t shock me to see Chicago win some tight games and take a series to 7 games.
  • The Bucks shouldn’t be counted out either – Scott Skiles coaches defense, and the Heat will struggle to win a slow, grind-it-out game. With Bogut’s clear superiority at the center position and an improving Jennings, this team will threaten any team on any given night.
  • Atlanta seems like they’re missing something. If they find it (I’m not sure what it is) they can be very good. A new coach might be enough to move (only a true center and a better defender at PG would help).

Who wins the conference? It’s too early to make a prediction, but if I had to guess today I’d say Orlando or Boston. Miami’s lack of front court players is a real weakness, and their lack of consistent outside shooting (Wade and LeBron are too streaky) will make it hard for them to win a grind-it-out game against either squad.

Ballhype: hype it up!

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