Monday October 4, 2010 2:07 p.m.
By Frank Hanrahan
Love them or hate them, the Miami Heat come in to the 2010-11 season as the prohibitive favorites not only to win the Southeast Division but to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA championship finals -- and I think you know the three reasons why. Chris Bosh and Lebron James have joined Dwyane Wade in Miami to give the Heat a trio of superstars all in the prime of their careers. Barring injuries and a lack of chemistry that could make the collaboration a bust, it seems a safe bet that the new Heat are on target to become the next NBA dynasty.
Newcomers James from Cleveland and Bosh from Toronto went south to join Wade, so for now the centerpiece is Wade. In seven seasons, the 6'-4 guard has been an all-star six times and is one of the toughest players in the league to defend against with his ability to create inside and out. Last season, Wade averaged 25 points a game as the Heat got back to the playoffs but were taken out in the first round by the Boston Celtics.
That same Celtics team upended James and the Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs and James would subsequently bolt to Miami during the 2010 summer of free agency. James basically said in his "decision" that the move to Miami was about winning titles and he felt that he couldn't do it all on his own in Cleveland. He almost did do it primarily by himself with the Cavs, reaching the Finals in 2007 and the Eastern Conference title series in 2008 and 2009. The teams early exit from the postseason this past spring didn't help the chances of his staying in Cleveland, a place James had played since coming out of high school in Akron when Sports Illustrated anointed him The Chosen One.
James is a freak of nature, what with his football build and basketball mindset that make him virtually unstoppable on the open floor. His speed and ability to finish on the break is unlike any the league has ever produced. Add to the mix that at 6'-8 and 250 pounds he can play every position on the court, and youhave a nightmare for opponents to match up with defensively because he can take you inside and out.If he has a weakness, it's his tendency to rely on his jump shot when he likely could just bull his way to the hoop and at least draw a foul. Opponents can live with him shooting deep jumpers and three pointers, but they will die if he gets running and leading the fast break as well as finishing it with excessive force.
Unlike James, Chris Bosh is more of a finesse player, but can light up the stat sheet.For his career the 6'10 forward averages almost a double-double in points and rebounds. He is as consistent as they come down low and can step out and hit the 15-20 foot jumper with regularity. At just 230 pounds it is tough for Bosh to get physical down low but he is a solid rebounder and a decent shot blocker.
In an effort to land James and Bosh, last year's Heat team was purged. Only Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, James Jones, Carlos Arroyo and Wade return. With aging role players like Mike Miller, Eddie House, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juwan Howard added to the roster, the question is: Can the supporting cast be good enough to back up the headliners?
Another widely-discussed question in the off-season is, in crunch time, who gets the ball? James has made it clear that this is Wade's team and he would gladly defer to him down the stretch.That's also what makes this team so scary, because when the defense keys on Wade he can get the ball to James, and if he is guarded too closely James can get it to Bosh. Safe to say, the Heat have plenty of options offensively.
In this year's training camp, coach Erik Spoelstra has preached a new attitude defensively because on offense it's a no-brainer what's going to happen.On paper, this Heat team should be a joy to watch with Lebron creating, Wade shooting and Bosh banging the boards. Will the other guys be able to find a role and execute it? Or will they even have to? Although you can never rule out Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, with Wade, Bosh and James all together, it' s hard to imagine there won't be a championship in Miami as soon as this season.