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NBA Miami Heat

Five Teams That Can Derail Miami Heat Three-Peat

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Five Teams That Can Derail Miami Heat Three-Peat

Steve Mitchell- USA Today Sports

With summer being here, the NBA has officially hit the doldrums. There is slight action going on in Las Vegas with the Summer League’s, but for the most part, fans are sitting contemplating the “what-if’s” for next season. As a fan of the game, I am doing the same. The Miami Heat will have the opportunity to accomplish what only few teams in the history of the NBA have done: The three-peat.

The Heat, for the most part, retained their roster that brought them back-to back titles. They are considered heavy favorites to make it to the finals again for the fourth consecutive time. This in itself would be a major accomplishment. Even though on paper the Heat will look as dominate as ever, it is not like the rest of the league has been just sitting around.

There are five teams that have a legitimate chance of snatching the crown away from the Heat. The last few seasons for the Heat really exposed some of their consistent weaknesses. Because of this, teams are forming their rosters to ideally take advantage of these weaknesses. Issues such as size in the front court, lack of consistent intensity and being closed out on three point looks have all become factors in beating the Heat. You do whatever it takes to have a competitive edge, especially against a team with two of the top five players in the league.

Here are the five teams best equipped to do that next season.

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5. Oklahoma City Thunder

Jerome Miron- USA Today Sports

Being a year removed from the 2011-2012 NBA Finals, it seems everyone has forgotten about the Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder based on their early exit in this year's playoffs. Need I remind you they won 60 games this past season? If they had not lost Westbrook in the first round against the Rockets, the Heat could have potentially had a Finals rematch. With that being said, Durant is only going to elevate his game, hopefully alongside Westbrook, and that alone will keep them in the elite of the Western Conference. Although they didn’t do much in the offseason, if the Thunder can remain healthy throughout the 2014 postseason, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

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4. Los Angeles Clippers

Jayne Kamin-Oncea- USA Today Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers without question had the most successful offseason this year by bringing in one of the most esteemed coaches in the NBA. The presence of Doc Rivers alone on the sideline elevates the Clippers into heavy contention status. With the re-signing of Chris Paul to a five-year contract as well, the Clippers are putting themselves in position to take the West and make their first trip to the NBA Finals in franchise history. With a bevy of new players added to the roster, the Clippers will need time to jell. They might stumble out of the gate at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, but make no mistake; they will be among the elite of the Western Conference and potentially the entire league by the end of it.

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3. Chicago Bulls

Steve Mitchell- USA Today Sports

Even with Derrick Rose being absent for the past year and a half, the Chicago Bulls have still retained their identity as one of the most defensively tough squads in the NBA. Led by Tom Thibodeau, this Bulls team made it all the way to the Eastern Conference semi-finals with an extremely injured lineup that even stole the first game of the series from the eventual NBA champions. With Rose’s return, this team is only going to get better. With the vastly improved play of Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah this past season, this team has shown it can succeed even without their best player. Having him back only makes them more of a threat. Even though they have lost both postseason series (4-1) against the Heat over the past two seasons, they have made each bout extremely close with physical play and aggressiveness. It remains to be seen how Rose will play when he returns, but it doesn’t really matter. This team’s identity is based on the system, not the player, and that is what makes them so lethal.

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2. San Antonio Spurs

Steve Mitchell- USA Today Sports

How could you count out the defending Western Conference champions? Not only did the Spurs re-sign Manu Ginobli to a two-year deal (almost ensuring both Tony Parker and Tim Duncan stay as well), but they have also been able to re-sign several key role players, such as Tiago Splitter. With Duncan sipping the fountain of youth, it is hard to gauge when this team will run out of steam. This is a team that was a free throw away from winning the championship. Even with the Western Conference looking as ferocious as ever, the Spurs are still the elite. If Parker, Ginobli and Duncan are playing on the same team, you can never count them out.

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1. Indiana Pacers

Steve Mitchell- USA Today Sports

Out of all the teams on this list, the Indiana Pacers by far have the best chance to knock off the defending champs. With the rise of Roy Hibbert, Paul George, and George Hill, this has become a team that has consistently taken advantage of the Heat’s biggest weaknesses. Hibbert offers the low post-presence that keeps both James and Wade away from what they do best: driving into the lane. Hibbert has also developed an offensive game which has made guarding him even more of a nightmare. George has also become a problem for the Heat to guard. With his speed and athleticism, he has routinely played stout defense against James and created havoc on the offensive side of the ball. This is a team that loves to bully the Heat around, and they almost succeeded in victory by taking them to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Next season will only add more experience and hunger to this team. The Heat will have their hands full in a potential rematch during next years postseason.