Last season the Miami Heat reached the pinnacle of the NBA winning the franchise’s second championship by defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder four games to one in the NBA Finals. Everyone knows that repeating as champions is twice as difficult as winning the first one and that is exactly what Miami is attempting to do this season (well that’s what LeBron James left us with the impression during his not five, six, seven championships speech when he first arrived in South Beach).
Here is what to look for during the Heat’s upcoming title defense season:
The Heat run off of three players like no other team in the NBA besides the Thunder and those three players are their “Big Three” LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Last season James had a year for the ages becoming just the second player ever to win a regular season NBA MVP award, NBA Finals MVP award and an Olympic Gold Medal in the same year (Michael Jordan was the first). During that season James averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game and the Heat expect more of the same out of him again this year.
Wade had a below average season by his standards (22.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks per game) but that was mainly because he was in the process of handing over the role of team leader to James.
Bosh produced a decent year (18 points and 7.9 rebounds per game) for a player who was in the midst of transitioning from being a power forward into a full-time center.
We all know that those three players represented the majority of the offensive production for the entire team, 68.2% to be exact however they are going to need some valuable production from the other two members of the starting lineup (Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier) if they are going to successfully repeat as NBA Champions. Last season Chalmers put together his best NBA season averaging 9.8 points, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game and will need to improve on that to continue the Heat’s growth as a team. Battier usually garners the task of guarding the oppositions best perimeter player so that way James and Wade can remain as fresh as possible on the offensive end.
The Heat’s bench last season was the Achilles heel on the team and even though it didn’t prevent them from winning the title it did make that journey much more difficult. Returning for Miami’s bench is second-year standout Norris Cole, who last averaged 6.8 points per game and gave many the impressions that he might eventually take the starting point guard duties away from Chalmers.
Udonis Haslem (six points and 7.3 rebounds per game) and Mike Miller (6.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, 45.3% from 3-point range) also are back for another season and will need to duplicate the contributions that they produced last season for the Heat to win.
The Miami bench has two new acquisitions that they will rely on heavily in order to getting back to where they were last season and they are Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Last season Allen was a member of the rival Boston Celtics where he averaged 14.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game while Lewis played for the Washington Wizards averaging 7.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest.
For Lewis it was possibly his worse season of his 15-year NBA career, but if he can give the Heat something positive off of the bench and Allen can continue the sharp shooter than he has always been then the Heat’s bench will be full of fire power making things difficult for the rest of the league.
Head Coach/Front Office:
Last season Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra finally removed a huge monkey off of his back by winning a championship. Other than James, Spoelstra was under the most pressure for Miami to win a title with the roster that had been assembled. Now that the pressure is gone we may see Spoelstra do his best job of coaching that we have seen so far in his young coaching career. He should easily be able to guide them to another Southeast Division title (since it has been completely gutted with the makeovers that the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks have endured over the off-season) en route to making another run at the NBA title in June.
The Heat’s front office is ran by General Manager and former head coach Pat Riley who managed to make two big moves for the Heat in acquiring Allen and Lewis during the off-season while not losing any players who were truly pertinent in the championship run from a season ago. Riles has done his job now it’s just up to the players to all come together as one and do theirs; which is to win another NBA title.