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League executives pick Heat to win title next season

Aug 29, 2012, 1:18 PM EDT

Miami Heat player LeBron James hoists the championship trophy as team mate Dwyane Wade looks on stage at a rally in Miami, Florida Reuters

The road to an NBA title still goes through Miami.

The Lakers loaded up adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. The Oklahoma City Thunder are young and will be better with the experience of the NBA finals in their collective consciousness. Boston improved as well this summer.

But when Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated polled 19 league executives (10 of them general managers) about the next season, they were still leaning toward the Heat.

The final tally, with three of the voters submitting only first-place votes: The defending champions in Miami received 15 first-place votes, one second-place vote and two third-place votes; their Finals foe, Oklahoma City, garnered two first-place votes, six second-place votes and eight third-place votes; and the Lakers, who have added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, got two first-place votes, nine second-place votes and six third-place votes. The Lakers may not be seen as the favorites to win it all, but the idea that they’re the top threat to the Heat is not only a topic of much discussion in the media but also clearly a very real sentiment in NBA circles.

That’s an overwhelming win for the Heat.

Go read Amick’s entire article, which includes quotes from some of the executives on why they made their calls.

My two cents: I believe in tiers this time of year. That top tier is teams with a very real title shot, and to me there are three teams on it — Miami, Los Angeles and Oklahoma City. There are too many variables, the margins for error are too small among these three teams to call one a clear favorite right now. But almost always the eventual winner comes out of this tier.

The next tier is the “if everything goes right” tier — the group with no margin for error and guys that may need help with the top tier coming back to them a little. That is where Boston is for me — improved but not good enough to beat a healthy Heat team straight up (they couldn’t beat a banged up Heat team last year). Teams do come from this tier to win it all, see the Dallas Mavericks, but it takes a special kind of playoff run. Indiana is on the border of this tier, Chicago fell off it down a level or two. In the West, maybe the Lakers or Thunder will falter for some reason, but not both.

After those groups… well, life should not be championship or bust. It should be about enjoying the ride.

  1. shockexchange - Aug 29, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    With D12/Pau Gasol at the same ____ time, L.A. has “exceptionally more talent” than the rest of the L. If NBA execs think the Heat will still take the cake, that can only mean one thing – they think Horry Jr will continue to dominate the ball instead of pounding it inside to the bigs where L.A. has a distinct advantage.

    • dls612 - Aug 29, 2012 at 1:37 PM

      U can’t win it all on talent alone! The heat found that out the hard way!

      • shockexchange - Aug 29, 2012 at 1:48 PM

        @dls612 The Shock Exchange would agree with you in general, but the talent differential on the Lakers team is so ginormous that they could win on talent alone.

      • money2long - Aug 29, 2012 at 3:02 PM

        mike brown could stay at the snack bar the entire game and the lakers could still find ways to win games off sheer talent.

      • edweird0 - Aug 29, 2012 at 3:11 PM

        @shockexchange Isn’t that what they initially said about the Heat?

      • nobandwagonridersallowed - Aug 29, 2012 at 3:42 PM

        Yeah, you can win games just off sheer talent alone; However, you don’t win championships off of just pure talent. It takes a lot of things to be clicking, one being the cohesiveness of a team. When teams meet up that are evenly matched, more times than not the winner of those contest is the team with the better coach.

        How many championships has Michael Jordan and or Kobe Bryant won without, Phil Jackson?! And they had talented teams without him at coach. Hey, I’m just sayin’.

        Like, Chris Bosh said in an earlier post “On paper, the lakers are the best team”. Just looking at the individual numbers backs his statement, which is why he emphasized “ON PAPER”. I don’t remember the last time I saw a paper champion crowned and celebrated with a downtown parade. Lol! This is why they play the game! Can’t wait!

        Let’s HeatPeat!!!

    • shockexchange - Aug 29, 2012 at 7:19 PM

      @edweird0 Yes, that’s what people said last year. But I think the Heat was on par with OKC and the Celtics in terms of contenders. Last year’s Lakers team was still the most talented team in the L, they just underachieved. With D12, the title is L.A.’s to lose.

  2. nycalldayz - Aug 29, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    That is where Boston is for me — improved but not good enough to beat a healthy Heat team straight up (they couldn’t beat a banged up Heat team last year). Everytime I read Kurt’s articles he manages to mention the Celtics. What is your obsession with the Celtics?

    “That is where Boston is for me — improved but not good enough to beat a healthy Heat team straight up (they couldn’t beat a banged up Heat team last year)”.

    But the Heat struggled with a depleted Celtics team. Kurt, did u forget that the Celtics were missing four key rotation players(Bradley, Green, Wlicox, JO) and had injuries to Pierce(MCL Sprained) and Allen( Bone spurs) factor all of these and yet the ECF went 7 games. That’s not saying much about both teams in my opinion.

    • nycalldayz - Aug 29, 2012 at 1:46 PM

      “That is where Boston is for me — improved but not good enough to beat a healthy Heat team straight up (they couldn’t beat a banged up Heat team last year)”.

      Bosh was the only player on Miami injured. The Heat were relatively healthy as a team and healthier than the Celtics. The Celtics had no business going 7 gms with Miami, especially with all of their injuries(Bradley, Green, Wilcox, JO, Pierce and Allen).

      Kurt u need to give other teams more credit than that. Stop acting like Miami’s fan boy, because you’re not. The Heat have real fans they don’t need media bandwagon like u.

    • barkley4life - Aug 29, 2012 at 1:54 PM

      Bosh Wade>Bradley,Green,Wilcox,JO and whatever other role player you want to throw in there. You Celtics fan kill me with missing guys excuse. Two straight years you have been dominated by Lebron. As he gets better it only widens the gap. You have NO ANSWER for that matchup. Seriously is basketball that hard to understand. You have no answer at the 3 or 4. One on one you get destroyed. Small ball you get destroyed. The only team right now that can make the Heat pay for going small in theory is L.A. The Thunder have a MUCH better team then the Celtics and are better suited to play small ball and they had no answers once Lebron dominated out of the post.

      What answer do the Celtics have at defending the Heat?

      • nycalldayz - Aug 29, 2012 at 2:12 PM

        Not a Celtics fans. First off u clearly can’t read a sentence, because if u did u would see that is the argument I’m making. Injuries are no excuses. The argument of writers like Kurt Helin and others suggesting injuries played in a role in BOS/MIA going 7 games or injuries to Rose suggesting why Miami won.

        Neither are true. The fact is the 2011 Celtics roster was better than the 2012, yet they pushed Miami 7 games. One can say Miami should of swept Boston with or without Bosh. Boston was depleted with injuries and horrible bench yet still pushed your team 7 games. I hear Kurt Helin make that false excuse all the time about Bosh’s or Rose’s injury.

        The ECF went 7 games, because Bosh was out. False!
        Miami won the 2012 championship, because Rose was out. False!

      • barkley4life - Aug 29, 2012 at 2:36 PM

        You make no sense. The Finals went 7 games because when it mattered Boston was up 3-2 against a team with no Bosh and injured Wade. You clearly don’t understand basketball if you relegating the third best player on the team and arguably the most integral player on the team in regards to spacing as offense and no factor in them going 7.

        The last two games of that series…Boston was not even close to being a matchup threat once Bosh played heavy minutes. Going into Game 6 Bosh played less then 20 minutes. He played 60 in Gm6 and Gm7 and Boston was beating by an average of almost 25pts.

        Take Paul Pierce out of the Celtics lineup for the first 5 games and they get swept. I dare you say otherwise. I am not a Heat fan. Basketball is basketball because the series went 7 means nothing. Only thing that matters is the outcome and when the games mattered up 3-2 with their Big 3 intact 98-79…101-88.

      • mornelithe - Aug 29, 2012 at 2:55 PM

        @Barkley4Life: He makes perfect sense, you are simply ignoring facts. Not sure why, it’s not like admitting that Boston was severely banged up, is going to change the outcome, or make the Heat any less a formidable team. Nevermind Wilcox, Green or O’Neil. Pierce had a bum knee from early in the playoffs. Bradley was out. Allen had bone spurs. How exactly is that really difficult to understand? Again, this doesn’t change the outcome at all. The Heat won, that’s fine, I’m really ok with it. But ignoring the obvious is obnoxious.

        Does it mean a fully healthy Celtics squad would’ve won? Tough call, honestly, it’s a tough call. Everything says the Heat would still probably win, but you can’t sit there and say they have absolutely no chance whatsoever without the entire roster they envisioned going into the season. Not to mention that even with a depleted and banged up roster, they still took the Heat to 7. Boston was never supposed to be there in the first place, everyone said they couldn’t do it, remember? And yet there they were.

      • barkley4life - Aug 29, 2012 at 3:38 PM

        No you are ignoring facts. When the hell did Avery Bradley turn into Joe Dumars. Suddenly a rookie defensive two was going to change the entire complexion of a series. Last time I checked Wade was having fluid drained from his knee. Last time I check NOT ONE OF YOU APOLOGISTS have answered the one question that trumps your entire agenda. WHAT DO THE CELTICS HAVE TO DEFEND LEBRON AT THE 3/4? Drumroll please……nothing.

        Again who dominated game 6? Who dominated game 7?

        Tough call? ITS TWO YEARS IN A ROW! Do you think its a coincidence that Boston has yet to beat the Heat? That they have had no answer to Lebron since Tony Allen left.

        You were up 3-2 against a team with a two guard with no explosion and their 4/5 out 5 GAMES.

        Get a clue. You apologist keep throwing that stupid line of “well they took the Heat to 7 games” morons the Sixers took you to 7 games as well. What does that say? Throwout the 115-111 game and the Heat beat the Celtics by an average of almost 20! 7 games is the dumbest argument to even try to bring up…you were beat by 20 at home and 30 in game 7. Get a clue.

      • nycalldayz - Aug 29, 2012 at 3:47 PM

        @Barkley4life… So it’s alright for u as a Heat fan to suggest the Celtics went up 3-2 due to Miami’s injuries regarding Bosh and Wade. But those Celtics fans can’t make the same argument about injuries to the Celtics and hurting their team’s ECF run. I see…Seems like a double-standard?

        The fact is injuries played no role in the Celtics losing or Miami winning. The Heat, without Bosh had a 2-0 heading into game 3, fact. The Celtics, without Green, JO, Wilcox, Bradley. Injuries to Pierce( Sprained MCL) and Allen(Bone Spurs), and piss poor bench of Pietrus, Dooling, Sasha, Moore, Williams, Daniels, and Steimsma even the series 2-2, fact. The Heat’s bench was far more better than Boston’s bench, just the truth folks.

        Bosh returned for game 5 and Miami still lost, fact. Game 6, Miami showed up, Boston didn’t and Lebron had the game of his career, fact. Lebron was a one man show in game 6 and Bosh had nada to do with. Bosh barely played because that game was a blowout, fact.

        Game 7, the Celtics matched up with a full healthy Miami team. The Celtics build a double-digit lead in the first-half only to blow it during the finals minutes of that half. In-case u haven’t noticed, the Celtics are notorious for blowing big leads. Second half, both teams went back-n-forth until the Heat finally pulled away. During the entire game the Celtics bench total was 2 pts from Ryan Hollins! Good luck beating the Heat or any team when ur bench total is 2 points.

        Just get your facts straight Barkley

      • barkley4life - Aug 29, 2012 at 4:01 PM

        The facts are the Celtics lost by an average of 25 pts in the two games that mattered and one was at home for all the marbles. When you can change that come back so you can have a valid leg to stand on.

      • barkley4life - Aug 29, 2012 at 4:10 PM

        Oh and btw…thanks for playing right into it. I could have sworn Chris Bosh was the difference maker GM7. I could have sworn that the guy who missed 5 games had played about 40 mins going into gm7 dropped three 3 DAGGER threes and when Bosh Lebron Wade were on the floor….they outscored Boston by 21 AND SCORED ALL 28 PTS IN THE 4TH QTR.

        DAMN IF THE CELTICS ONLY HAD AVERY BRADLEY.

        IDIOTS!

  3. Mr. Wright 212 - Aug 29, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Yup, after they got the memo from Stern that he wants them to win, they pick the Heat.

    • dls612 - Aug 29, 2012 at 1:46 PM

      So I guess Miami got the memo to let Dirk get his first title then? If so that explains the 4th quarter absence of LeBron during the finals that year!

  4. mornelithe - Aug 29, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    Nycalldayz has it right, everyone who was watching the ECF last year without blinders on, could tell which team was far…far more depleted from injuries. How do we know this? Because when Boston’s starters went to the bench, Boston stopped making baskets. Allen was…for a time, able to nullify that drought, however, as the playoffs unfolded, his productivity dropped further and further due to the bone spurs. His 3-pt and FT productivity in the playoffs are clearly indicative of an ace-sharpshooter in pain.

    Are Jeff Greene, Chris Wilcox, and Germaine O’Neil going to put up starter numbers? Of course not, but they’ll certainly provide at least some offense, as well as O’Neil for defense. Not to mention being competent bench players who won’t get pissy for being bench players *ahem Allen*.

    That Boston took them to 7 games, with such a depleted roster, speaks volumes to how the Heat can be exploited. Granted, the Heat are more dangerous this year, but so are the Celtics, and certainly the Lakers, with their roster improvements. To say nothing of the maturation of an already formidable OKC team, who likely learned more from their loss to the Heat in the finals, than anything else during the season.

    Obviously the Heat are the team to beat, as the reigning champions. But, the one-sided glance at how the playoffs unfolded leaves his credibility in doubt. Though, that’s not really abnormal for Kurt.

    • barkley4life - Aug 29, 2012 at 2:48 PM

      Not one player you mentioned is a shot creator or maker. The Celtics stopped making baskets because they are a jump shooting team with no athleticism and outside of Rondo no one who can create anything going to the basket. Every player you mentioned was a pick and pop player. Celtics have no one in the post who could make the Heat pay for going small with their back to the basket. I swear I know I’m old but some of you don’t understand the concept of basketball. The Thunder were a better version of the Celtics offense and they too struggled to get anything at the rim. Why? Because defensively shooting jumpers works right into the Heat’s defense and allows them to run get on the wing and destroy you in transition. They then can get right back into set defense again, rinse, repeat.

      I can’t believe you said when Boston starters went to the bench….Boston struggled to score WITH THEIR STARTERS! If KG was not beast mode with that jumper Boston it could have gotten ugly early.

      Again they played 5 games with their third best player and probably the most integral part to flow on the offense! 5 games! But you right…injuries to 3 journeyman and a rookie were the reason.

      NONSENSE.

      • mornelithe - Aug 29, 2012 at 3:07 PM

        Yeah, you’re totally right, Boston would in no way have benefited from:

        Wilcox – 8.6ppg, 5.1RPG
        Green – 13.9ppg, 5.5RPG
        O’Neal – 13.7ppg, 7.4RPG 1.9blkpg

        You’re absolutely correct, there’s nothing there that could possible have assisted the Celtics v the Heat. What are you insane? And while Bradley wasn’t exactly a points powerhouse, his defensive ability was absolutely essential for the Celtics, and widely regarded around the league.

        Stick your head in the sand if you so desire, I really honestly don’t care. That you can discount 4 players that Doc Rivers wanted on his team, tells me you know less about basketball then those you’re railing against. Sorry, but I’m pretty sure everyone, even the entire Miami Heat roster will take Doc’s assessment over yours.

      • edweird0 - Aug 29, 2012 at 3:23 PM

        Lol you tell em bud!

      • nycalldayz - Aug 29, 2012 at 3:30 PM

        So u wanna have your cake and eat it to it sounds. Either you’re a Heat fan or u know nothing basketball, no disrespect. If u were watching the 2012 ECF like some of us u would of noticed both teams went small. The Celtics are not a big team as well as Miami. Both teams are small, but have flaws.

        The Heat have no PG or Center. The Celtics have no true PF. One team is older than the other after that these two teams are identical that is why they watch up so well.

      • barkley4life - Aug 29, 2012 at 3:46 PM

        Yeah both teams went small…and when they did with their team intact Bosh in Gm6 and Gm7…you were beat by an average of 25. Thats not an even matchup. That’s an ass whooping.

        Two teams are identical…did you just write that? There is nothing identical about them.

        Celtics..Older jump shooting team lacking athleticism who play great team defense. Most effective player is Rondo.

        Heat…Younger basket attacking transition team that plays great team AND Individual defense. Most effective player…is the best player in the game.

        I see tons of similarities now….I mean your right. They are virtually identical.

        Please your brain.

  5. florida727 - Aug 29, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    This is shocking! The execs picked the Heat to repeat? Wow! Talk about going out on a limb. Holy cow! The boldest of bold predictions.

  6. nycalldayz - Aug 29, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Obviously the Heat are the favs to repeat, because they’ve been to the finals 2 seasons(2011, 2012) in a row. But I wouldn’t write off other contenders like OKC, Celtics, Lakers or Spurs. Any team can be defeated.

  7. lakerluver - Aug 29, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    Hmmm, the same executives that picked my LAKERS the year before last? In other words, we shall see. Can’t wait!!!

  8. lakerfan4life - Aug 29, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    Hard to believe so many “experts” are practically handing the trophy to the Heat again. Nobody seems to take into account just how hard it is to repeat as NBA Champs. It doesn’t happen that often. And the teams that did, had a great coach that knows how to get in the players heads to motivate them to be able to do it two years in a row. It’s very difficult for a player to keep that focus two, three years in a row. Plus, LeBron is coming off playing in the Olympics over the summer after two seasons in a row of playing thru the last game of the season.

    No way Eric Spoelstra has the capability to keep the Heat playing at that high of a level, and focused enough to make it all the way to the top again. Hell, even Pop hasn’t done it, and he’s the best coach out there right now.

    • passerby23 - Aug 30, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      I don’t think anyone is handing the trophy to the Heat. They were asked to make their predictions and, quite frankly, they made the most sound one you could make at this point in time.

      The most compelling reason for picking them is that they got better and deeper, and now the pressure is off Lebron. I agree, I’m not sold on Spoelstra as a good coach, but it’s still a pretty damn lethal squad.

      Personally, I think the Lakers will win it assuming they stay healthy. I think they have a perfect formula for beating Miami: a crafty point guard who can break you down, a dominant, athletic center who can alter their rim-attacking style, and a scoring guard who can matchup with Lebron/Wade.

  9. lakerluver - Aug 29, 2012 at 8:13 PM

    @shockexchange
    Though your utter lack of respect for one Kobe Bean Bryant is totally off base and uncalled for I must applaud your objectivity as it pertains to my LAKERS. The executives can pick the “Heatles” if they like. However, just like Bosh and Durant said the LAKERS are the best team on paper, all of it means nothing until June!!!

  10. progress2011 - Aug 29, 2012 at 8:28 PM

    lakerfan,

    You do realize, that’s Pat Riley’s team ! LBJ and Bosh didn’t go to the Heat because of Spoelstra. They went there because Riley is the brains and influence behind the operation.

    You can bet, when push comes to shove, Riley is in the locker room and Spoelstra is getting water for everyone !

    But I agree with you, it does take A LOT to repeat. Mike Miller, James Jones, Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier have all fought the good fight. As much as they are all good guys and they have earned a certain level of respect…They no longer fill the needs of the Heat !!!

    They have enough spot up shooters in – Chalmers, Ray and Rashard

    The Heat has gotta get some “athletic size” in the middle. Bosh’s thin, lanky frame broke down, from trying to play the center role, the entire season.

    They must make some trades (they have assets) and get someone like Samuel Dalembert, Spencer Hawes (7’1″ – 245), Darryl Watkins (6’11 – 258), Alabi Solomon (7’1″ – 245), Anderson Varejao (6’11″- 260), Greg Monroe (6’11″ 260), Johan Petro (7’0″-247) , Desagana Diop (7’0″- 280 ) , Nene (6’11″- 250), Jason Thompson (6’11″- 250), Robin Lopez (7’0″- 250),
    The perfect fit would be Joakim Noah (6’11″ – 235)

  11. dal24la - Aug 30, 2012 at 1:19 AM

    Another article about title contenders with no mention of the Spurs, who are the top team of that “2nd tier” behind Lakers, Heat, Thunder. SMH

    • passerby23 - Aug 30, 2012 at 2:42 PM

      Can you see the Spurs – another year older who didn’t do a lot in the off-season to improve – beating a more experienced and talented Thunder team or the Lakers? I can’t. Although I don’t see Denver passing them in the rankings, an athletic run-and-gun team like the Nuggets are the kind of squad I could see upsetting the Spurs in the playoffs. A lot of things have to go right for the Spurs, which is why they are on the second tier, where the margin of error for Miami, OKC, and the Lakers is not as small.

  12. cantonbound13 - Aug 30, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    Stern already has them winning the next 2 years.

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