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What to expect from LeBron and the Heat?

Oct 28, 2013, 2:00 PM EDT

LeBron James AP

You’re busy, so I’ll save you some time: a championship.  They’ve won two straight, basically their entire squad is coming back, and their best guy is the most dynamic and exciting player since Michael Jordan.  The Heat have all the tools they need to make a run at a three-peat – but even with them all in place, the bigger question is: who might stop them?

The way I see it, there are 6 teams that could have a chance: 4 longshots and 2 serious threats.  Let’s start with the East.

EASTERN 

The Bulls: Chicago is a good team without Derrick Rose, and a title contender with (the old) Derrick Rose.  But how deep can they go in the postseason? Thing is, Rose’s most recent relevant data points are from 18 months and a horrific knee injury ago.  He looked great in the preseason, but it’s far too early to see how his knee will hold up long-term: it’s just been too long since we’ve seen him play a full year.  Time will tell, but Rose’s return makes me hesitate – right now, the Bulls are a longshot to stop the Heat.

The Nets:  Again, too soon – but for a different reason.  The team hinges on Deron Williams and Brook Lopez: a great combo, but Lebron’s supporting cast (Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier – the list goes on) far outstrips its counterparts in Brooklyn.  Depth is key, and the Nets don’t have Miami’s lung capacity.  As for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, they’re not getting any younger, and I’ll be surprised if their presence tips the scales in the Nets’ favor.

The Pacers: Though summertime roster moves did bolster their bench, Indiana is the only team of these three that remains largely unchanged since nearly beating Miami in the East Finals last year.  A missed assignment here, a blown call there, and one or two plays could have made the difference for the Pacers going to the NBA Finals.  Paul George and Danny Granger should continue to emerge, Roy Hibbert should continue to dominate (just ask Tyson Chandler), and with C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland the bench is stronger.  We’ve actually seen this team play the Heat, and nearly beat them.  All in all, in the East the Pacers have the best preseason shot at upending the Heat.

WESTERN 

The Spurs: Another team we’ve seen play the Heat and nearly beat them, plus I’ve learned my lesson in the past: never count out Gregg Popovich, and never say Tim Duncan’s too old.  Obviously at some point Duncan will be too old, but the man just keeps putting up rock-solid numbers and defense year after year.  Besides, he’s not the brains of the operation anyways – Tony Parker’s running point, and Pop’s the reason for the dynasty.  History teaches me not to bet against those three pieces, so watch out for the Spurs.  (Playoff sweeps are telling – just ask the Grizzlies) Can San Antonio beat the Heat? Maybe – probably not, but they came very close last year and they could likely again be one of the last few standing.

The Rockets: Two words: Dwight Howard.  The D’Antoni/Kobe/Dwight circus show was wearing thin in L.A., and it’ll be interesting to see how Dwight fits into the Rocket’s culture. Last year was miserable, and now he’s got a fresh start, a new city, and a great young core with Chandler Parsons and James Harden.  But again, we run into a common theme this year: the unknown.  Howard alters teams and defenses with his presence, but he’s never played with these guys under this system in this city with this coach and this organization.  Signs are positive, but there’s just no way to tell this early – so far it’s all he-said she-said guesswork.  Can they beat Miami in seven games?  Not right now.  So much hype, and to even get there they’d have to move past…

The Thunder: Kevin Durant is a killer, simple as that.  He’s the deadliest player not named LeBron James.  He has zero conscience from three; he’s Magic Johnson’s awareness with Bob Cousy’s handles and Reggie Miller’s stroke.  Durant, Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Reggie Jackson – their guard play is phenomenal.  Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins round it out inside, but the key is the guard play.  If the Thunder have an advantage over the Heat, it’s depth on the wing.  If they can exploit that, throwing bodies at LeBron enough to tire him out and slow him down just enough, OKC could have the best chance to beat the Heat (unless the Pacers get them first, in which case whatever will Sportscenter talk about in June??).

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Honorable Mention: Clippers, Warriors.  Both electrifying teams, great fun to watch, but missing some pieces.  Clippers need a stronger paint presence (DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are a high-flying trapeze act, not game-changing forwards); the Warriors need some time to gel, and for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to play off each other – watch out for Golden State in the next few years.

_____

WRAPPING UP 

The Pacers and the Thunder have the best shot at beating the Heat.  Indiana nearly beat them last time, and come back this year with more experience and a deeper bench.  The Thunder have the guard depth to counter LeBron, but that may not make a difference anyways with the Heat’s top-to-bottom array of weapons.

Bottom line?  The Pacers can beat the Heat, as can the Thunder, but it will take each team’s perfect stretch of seven games (because there’s no way the Heat lose in less than seven) to do it.  Miami, on the other hand, has the athleticism, depth, leadership, and firepower to win again.  That is what to expect from LeBron and the Heat – another championship.  They are not a perfect team, and they can be beaten – but in the end, the most likely scenario I see is LeBron & Co. with Miami’s first franchise three-peat.

  1. kingwithringz - Oct 28, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    We taking it one game at a time. Teams are gonna be so busy gunning for us, they will forget about each other and that will be a huge mistake.

    • antistratfordian - Oct 28, 2013 at 9:34 PM

      Gunning for Miami… nothing new for this group. It’s been that way since 2010. Even with every team wanting desperately to ruin their night, they still won 27 straight.

      And essentially because of two games last year people think Miami will disappoint in 2013-14… ?? I scoff at these rank tickle-brained clotpoles!

  2. emdawt - Oct 28, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    The Heat have been to 3 straight NBA Finals. It’s very tough to make it to 4 straight. They were pushed to 7 games in the ECF and Finals.

    Waiting for them this year again will be Chicago (with Derrick Rose) and Indianapolis (with Danny Granger – maybe). I don’t think the Heat make it past the semifinals but good luck to them.

    • redbaronx - Oct 29, 2013 at 2:50 PM

      @emdawt – I agree with you on the law of averages (See Lakers in 1986 getting ousted by Houston in the WCF), but I doubt Miami would fall before the Eastern Conference Finals. Indiana has a shot (i’m not convinced about the Bulls) if anyone does in the East. Then again I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Heat win it all again either.

  3. jennsanz - Oct 28, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    No New York?

  4. cantonbound13 - Oct 28, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    What to expect? Flopping, whining, maybe Bosh Spice crying, moments of Roid rage by LeBron, uneducated bandwagon fans spewing nonsense. That about sums it up. I give it 3 minutes to see a post by stalker Princess Leaha, unless her unemployed, lazy fat a$$ is watching Jerry Springer.

    • knickshater - Oct 28, 2013 at 3:49 PM

      What we can expect from this coming season is the Heat challenging for the title and for the Knicks to remain the dysfunctional losers they have been all these years.

      Oh and we can expect you to throw your toys out of the pram like the little immature child you are if Miami 3-peat.

    • leahcima1 - Oct 28, 2013 at 4:18 PM

      Losers like cantonjerk0 just sit and make up bull about winners. Winners go out and play better than the rest of the teams and — win. The win championships and MVPs. Losers like cantonjerk0 get their jollies trying to irritate people. Unfortunately for cantonjerk0 I enjoy making crap out of him. And sorry no-where-man you don’t irritate me at all. Just look at the thumbs up totals and the thumbs down totals and lmao.

      • cantonbound13 - Oct 28, 2013 at 7:37 PM

        That time of the month Pricess Leaha? So sad that you need a basketball team to make you feel like a winner. I understand your anger with the government cutting down on food stamps.

      • leahcima1 - Oct 28, 2013 at 7:54 PM

        Oh cantonjerk0 you’re so clever.

  5. HotHotHeat - Oct 28, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    82-0???

    • suckit619 - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:38 PM

      Only in your 12 year old wet dreams

  6. spursareold - Oct 28, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    No team since the Boston Dynasty of the 50s and 60s has ever even APPEARED in four consective NBA Finals. LeBron isn’t done ringing by any means, but he’s done for right now. Those long seasons and deep playoff runs, couple with the Heatles playing USA*Basketball will take their toll.

    • davidly - Oct 29, 2013 at 6:53 AM

      The Lakers appeared in four straight from ’82 to ’85, but I get what your saying.

    • davidly - Oct 29, 2013 at 6:55 AM

      Oh yeah, and the Celtics from ’84 to ’87. The interesting thing about the Lakers’ run, however, is that they won the fourth appearance.

      • fpstratton - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:47 PM

        Very good point. The Lakers and Celtics pretty much dominated the league in the mid-1980’s. In fact, from 1980-1987, eight full NBA seasons, the only four teams to appear in the finals were: Los Angeles, Boston, Houston, and Philadelphia!

      • redbaronx - Oct 29, 2013 at 2:56 PM

        @davidly – The Lakers lost appearances 1 and 4 between those years. Philly in 82 for the first one, and the Celts lost twice as well (85 and 87).

        Miami has their work cut out for them. I think the main concern for them is health. Particularly Wade needs to be healthy.

  7. 1972wasalongtimeago - Oct 28, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    What to expect? I expect another awesome season from a once in a lifetime team. Expect greatness most of the time. Expect a few down spells. Expect a 1 or 2 seed. Expect an easy 1st round. Expect the 2nd round opponent try to turn it into a brawl. And then expect that anything can happen from there. Hope we win it all.

    I also expect to make a ton of Greg Oden’s male member (PBT censored) jokes. I expect to listen to a ton of Pearl Jam (biggest rock band in the world, again), and I’m going to make a ton of fun of the Knicks and Jason Kidd.

    • gostlcards5 - Oct 29, 2013 at 1:19 PM

      Well said. The Pacers bench depth is much better this year, so I can’t wait to see another Pacers/Heat ECF. That’s where it’s going.

      • redbaronx - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:20 PM

        @gostlcards5 – I’d love to see another ECF Pacers/Heat matchup! Should be even better this year.

  8. antistratfordian - Oct 28, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    I think the “serious” threats are only as serious as the Phoenix Suns were to the Bulls in 1993 or the Utah Jazz in 1997. So, not that serious. But still a challenge.

  9. jhonthebeloved - Oct 28, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    hello peoples……Miami all day

    • suckit619 - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:18 PM

      The Heat are done. Enjoy that last banner being raised tonight because it won’t happen again…. And all the Heat “fans” will disappear again like they did in game 6 of the Finals…

      • fpstratton - Oct 29, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        Suckit619: I sure hope you’re right!

  10. golfrangeman - Oct 28, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    Once again canton idiot has nothing intelligent to say. Completely obsessed with LBJ and the Heat. You got one hell of a life!!

  11. anythingbutyanks - Oct 29, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    So no Bulls because of the uncertainty around Rose, but the Thunder are going to challenge them in spite of the uncertainty around Westbrook? The team was fairly lost without him in the playoffs last year, and his injury is far more recent than Rose’s. I would take the Thunder with Westbrook over the Bulls with Rose, but the Bulls without Rose over the Thunder without Westbrook. At least grade them out fairly if you are weighing the uncertainty associated with the injuries.

  12. fpstratton - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    Dwight Howard and the Rockets are contenders to dethrone the Heat? That’s the funniest one I’ve heard all year. Howard does not have the heart or commitment to lead ANY team to the title. He has consistently played poorly in big games, both in Orlando and in Los Angeles. He may have physical gifts, but I can’t understand why people continue to elevate him to a status that he clearly falls short of.

    • redbaronx - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:24 PM

      @fpstratton – Well said. But with that being said…..Howard did make the Finals once, and this Houston team is arguably more talented than the one he had in Orlando. As long as he plays D and cleans up on offense, Houston has potential with Harden, Lin and co. Howard might actually thrive in that low pressure scenario. We’ll see.

      • fpstratton - Oct 29, 2013 at 4:33 PM

        Well, stranger things have happened then an underachieving player finally finding his niche, but I just question Howard’s hunger and desire at this point. This is no knock on his likeability. In fact, he may have a healthier attitude towards his job than many of the rest of us, but it takes a special individual to lead a team to championships, and he just seems soft to me.

      • redbaronx - Oct 29, 2013 at 7:34 PM

        @fpstratton – I agree with everything you said. But even players with mental deficiencies get to the Finals on occasion with talent around them. (Howard with Orlando, Kenyon Martin with Kidd and the Nets, Shawn Kemp with Seattle and Gary Payton)

        The West is pretty much up for grabs this year. I think the Spurs, OKC and the 2nd tier of Houston and the Clippers could make it. No team is so overwhelming in the West that they’re a lock for the Finals.

  13. suckit619 - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    What a garbage article. The Bulls are longshots? They have the BEST shot at beating the Heat. The Pacers barely even have an all-star. The Bulls have an MVP and other all-stars. Sounds like another LeBron dickrider in the media…

  14. suckit619 - Oct 29, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    How many times is LeBron gonna flop tonight? That’s the question!

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