An Exploration of LeBron’s Options This Offseason

nba_g_james_b1_1296x729

Four years ago, when the Big 3 were stunting on stages in Miami and proclaiming they’d be the winners of the next 7 to 8 NBA championships, the thought that their reign of dominance over the NBA could be stripped away after only 4 years together seemed impossible. When the Big 3 came together they were on top of the world. As the most exciting and hated thing to happen to the world of sports ever, the Miami Heat’s time together has been an honor to witness. However, as we all know, good things must come to an end, and this summer might just be it for Miami’s Big 3. Or not… Let’s explore what could happen this offseason with the world’s most talked about sports team ever.

Option 1: LeBron leaves Miami

Not that LeBron would really give two shits, but if he were to sit down with me and discuss what I think he should do this summer, I’d say leave. The NBA is slowly but surely being conquered by young stars, and young teams. I’m talking the Damian Lillards of the world, the John Walls and Bradley Beals, the Kevin Durants and Russell Westbrooks, the James Hardens and Dwight Howards… While this year was surely a year for the veterans, highlighted by the Spurs 5th title since 1999 last night, the future of the league is in the hands of the young. LeBron picked a team in 2010 that was just that. Chris Bosh was younger, Dwyane Wade still had about a foot in the door of his prime and the future stars of the league now either weren’t around or weren’t established yet. Besides the Spurs who are the ultimate exception if you’re talking about teams who can succeed with aging stars, but then again they are the Spurs, the greatest dynasty in sports history and the team who runs the smoothest and beautiful offense ever known to man. Anyway, what’s clear is that in this league where the young stars are on the come up, you don’t want to be on a team like the Heat.

The Finals for LeBron were very reminiscent of a lot of his time with the Cavaliers. He played like he usually does: a bull made out of bricks, but the rest of his team failed to show up.

LeBron's supporting cast didn't show up when it meant most, leading to an embarrassing defeat in this years finals.

LeBron’s supporting cast didn’t show up when it meant most, leading to an embarrassing defeat in this years finals.

Dwyane Wade looked old and tired. Chris Bosh wasn’t making threes, which takes him out of the game completely considering he’s taken a vow not to take shots in the paint anymore. The rest of the role players just didn’t step up when it counted most. Ray Allen shot 17-41 in the Heat’s final 5 embarrassing games. Rashard Lewis, the unsung and unlikely hero in the series against the Pacers was a plus minus king in the Eastern Conference Finals but posted a -31 overall through the Finals. Mario Chalmers forgot how to put a basketball in a hoop. Shane Battier’s minutes evaporated. Norris Cole shot 31% from the field and was a -27 throughout the finals. And all of a sudden the supporting cast that looked so capable and reliable throughout the season and the rest of the playoffs looked amateur and unprepared.

The Heat don’t have the space for real role players because their roster is so clogged up by the salaries of the Big 3. The Heat can beat a team like the Thunder who rely on stars to win games, but when it comes to beating real, dynamic, well-rounded basketball teams like the Spurs of this year or the Mavericks of 2011, the Heat can’t survive because they don’t have the pieces to do it. Having stars is great, but if the players surrounding those stars aren’t showing up, or partly in Miami’s case, very old, then Miami won’t win anymore rings. They cruised through the regular season, largely because the Eastern Conference is so bad, they send teams below .500 to the playoffs. They had an easy trip to the finals but once they got there it was clear as the skies in Miami that LeBron needs help and he won’t get it, and isn’t in a position to get it in the future.

Why would LeBron stay with a team who’s other star is slowly becoming a shell of what he once was. Dwyane Wade is no longer a viable 2nd option for LeBron if he wants to win more championships. He’s getting old, he’s less athletic, his lift is disappearing and without a jump shot, he won’t be able to extend his career the way guys like Vince Carter or Jason Kidd did. Shane Battier has retired, Ray Allen is mulling it over, and while Udonis Haslem might be back, players like Chris Andersen will likely be offered more money than the veteran’s minimum this summer during free agency.

Point guard play was a huge problem for the Heat this series, as was defense. This year the Heat dropped out of the top 10 in defensive efficiency for the first time since the Big 3 came together in 2010 and a large part of that is lack of athleticism and energy on the defensive end. Dwyane Wade used to be an all-nba defender but looking at him now, he doesn’t have the physical abilities to contain quicker players on the perimeter. The Heat lack any interior defensive presence so rotations and help defense is pivotal to their defensive performance. Unfortunately, when you have a team full of aging veterans, rotations will be slow and help defense may not be there. The slower, older players won’t be able to keep up with ball movement or penetration of a team like the… I don’t know… Spurs. LeBron can’t do it all. He played 400 more minutes than any one of his teammates this year and about 1300 more than Dwyane Wade, the guy who was supposed to be the Robin to his Batman. Playing the minutes LeBron did the entire season, and carrying that sort of load means only bad things for him come the playoffs when that load and that grind is inevitably increased. He needs some young talent. He needs to join the current of a team on the rise, instead of fight the current and try to carry a team on the decline. His trip to the finals was easy as it could be this year, but next year will not be as easy. His teammates are only getting older, and the other teams in the East are only getting better. Who’s to say Washington can’t give the Heat a run for their money next postseason? What about a Bulls team with a healthy Derrick Rose? The Pacers never seem to give up either. Staying in Miami with the team he has doesn’t help him while every other team in his way is only getting better.

image

LeBron’s Decision Could Decide the Rest of His Career

What are his options? Well, we always hear things about Chicago, Houston and Dallas and their willingness to do just about everything they can to get Carmelo on their team. Well, if LeBron was a free agent, those teams would forget about Carmelo entirely and focus their attention on LeBron. While a Rose, James, Noah superteam in Chicago seems unlikely considering the rivalry between the two teams, a sign and trade with Houston isn’t out of the realm of possibilities, especially when people think Carmelo joining the Heat is a plausible off-season event. Then there are other teams who are less popular options for LeBron but are certainly there. There’s Cleveland who with Kyrie Irving and a No.1 pick coming up in 7 days would welcome LeBron not only with open arms but with a team full of young talent and role players to help out. There’s always Philadelphia and even the Hornets; the Michael Jordan owned franchise who have enough room this off-season for another max contract to join LeBron with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson down in Charlotte. There’s also been rumors of a move to the Clippers. LeBron and his wife, Savannah love Los Angeles and although it would involve trading DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford, the Clippers would love to get LeBron to team up with Griffin and Paul. All of this is speculation, and hypothetical but what is concrete is that LeBron cannot do it on his own. Through a combination of lack of youth and lack of talent off the bench, the Heat aren’t a viable option to win more championships in the future and LeBron has to see that now while he’s still in his prime.

Option 2: BIG 3 Take Pay cuts and Welcome Some Help 

Right now the Big 3 is due about 20 million each this year and even more the next year. They want some help, but ironically their contracts are the things preventing them from receiving that help. While they already took pay cuts to come to Miami in the first place, taking even less might be the thing they need to surround themselves with a supporting cast that can compete with the likes of the Spurs. Dwyane Wade certainly doesn’t deserve to be earning 20 million a year anymore, and for these stars, and especially for LeBron who is still trying to build his legacy by way of rings, cutting salary to create a better team could be pivotal for his future success. LeBron could also look down south in Charlotte and see that there is still money after the career. Jordan just became a billionaire through a combination of larger stakes in the Hornets (previously bobcats) and endorsement deals, of which LeBron has an ocean full, meaning while he may get paid less now, post-career life for LeBron will be anything but lucrative. While its easy to sit here and tell people to take less money, if the real goal is to win championships, which is really the only thing differentiating LeBron and Michael at this point, then why not take 13 million a year instead of 20? Is the lifestyle they’re living really going to change that much? Sure LeBron and the Big 3 won’t be making what they’re worth, but it’s the kind of selfless thing that the Spurs Big 3 did and look where its got them.

Once on top of the world, taking another salary cut may be the thing to get them back there.

Once on top of the world, taking another salary cut may be the thing to get them back there.

 

This 4th player doesn’t have to be of a Carmelo Anthony caliber. Frankly, adding another superstar isn’t what they need. Carmelo wouldn’t help them defensively or athletically, two problems they faced against the Spurs. There are rumors of a Kyle Lowry addition going around, which would surely help the Heat’s lack of point guard play they so severely suffered with during the final stretch of the playoffs. He would likely have to take about 10 million a year and the Heat can afford him if the Big 3 were to cut their salaries immensely. Another addition could be power forward Pau Gasol who has been openly unhappy in Los Angeles for the past few seasons. His price range is probably in the same realm as Lowry’s. Pau could help the Heat with rebounding and a presence inside both offensively and defensively. Pau can still attract a lot of attention in the post and has the ability like Bosh to play a stretch 4 or 5 if he needs to. Bosh has developed into a stretch 4 so there won’t be any issues about a clogging in the paint. Gasol is also a very talented passer and could not only help the Heat move the ball but an inside passing tandem of Bosh and Pau could be very effective.

If they choose not to go with players of that caliber, there is always the smart, yet rarely talked about option of using the large cap space to add several effective role players rather than one expensive star. While the star will bring firepower and more responsibility for opposing defenses, it still doesn’t help the bench problem. Using the space to sign a number of guys like an Andray Blatche, Rodney Stuckey and Evan Turner could be a direction in which the Heat acquire more value and address the problem of depth rather than making headlines with an addition of another star. The Spurs proved it this season that its not about the stars but about the role players and how everyone co-exists and plays together on the floor. Once again, these are all of the most hypothetical order but very possible if the Big 3 would do the usually improbable with famous star athletes: take less money.

Option 3: LeBron Stays in Miami and Waits for Free Agency Next Year

James and Love, both teammates on USA, could both be free agents in 2015

James and Love, both teammates on USA, could both be free agents in 2015

If LeBron were to opt into his contract and play out next season he actually may have the best of both worlds. Here’s why: Although the Heat were embarrassed by the Spurs, you really can’t discredit what the Heat have accomplished in their time together. Like LeBron said, “he’ll take 50%.” If the Heat stayed together they’d likely be the 1 or 2 seed once again and a definite lock at #3. It won’t be as easy as this year as players are only getting older and younger teams are only getting better but a LeBron Heat team is still one of the best in the league. The Heat also have the opportunity to sign some smaller free agent additions that could help reinvigorate them. Rashard Lewis is a free agent, as is Mario Chalmers, both of whom they could let go without feeling uneasy about it. In their place, there are some interesting options for role players on the market. Given the wide selection as well as Pat Riley’s uncanny ability to convince players to take less than what they’re worth puts the Heat in a good position to pull in some surrounding pieces.

There is a plethora of role players on the market this off-season who have the potential to give the Heat a boost in a number of ways, especially in their guard play. These are affordable guys like a Rodney Stuckey, Jordan Farmar, Evan Turner, Mo Williams, Dejuan Blair, and Jodie Meeks… The list goes on and on. Not only are these players cheap as it stands, but also role players do have a history of taking less money to join the Heat. With a few of those type of players joining the already proven, championship caliber Miami Heat team, the Heat can trampoline themselves back to finals success next season. So LeBron could stay, and see what magic Pat Riley is able to pull off and if its not to his liking, and the Heat don’t win a championship next season, he still has the 2015 offseason where he’ll be 30 years old and in a free agent class with superstars like Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, possibly Carmelo Anthony, or LaMarcus Aldridge. Then in 2015 he has the ability to form another superteam with that class of stars, or wait for teams like the Knicks or Bulls who will have much more cap space when contracts like Bargnani, Chandler and Boozer all expire, respectively. So opt-in, play it out, see what Riley can muster up and if he doesn’t win, look at 2015 as a completely fresh beginning with a new crop of stars to team with and a new batch of teams begging at his knees – sounds nice doesn’t it?

Option 4: LeBron Opts Out and Signs An Extension

This to me is the most unlikely of the bunch, but it is possible. Say LeBron opts out and resigns with the Heat. In 2015, Dwyane Wade may face the idea of retirement as he’ll be in the second half of 33 years of age. Chris Bosh will be an unrestricted free agent. And LeBron will have the Heat to himself and leverage to say to Pat Riley, “I don’t want Wade and Bosh back. Bring me new stars.” Or, at that point in Wade’s career, he’ll sign a much smaller contract and play a Manu Ginobili type of role, enabling the Heat to treat his contract as that of a 6th man, and sign other big free agents on top of Wade and James. LeBron will be able to dictate who the Heat sign, and with the expected cap space in 2015 – barring any extended contracts with new players – he’ll be on a team in a position to recruit other free agents to join him. If teams like the Knicks think they’re an appealing place to play, what do you think a free agent is going to be thinking when he has a meeting with LeBron James and Pat Riley and they ask said free agent to join LeBron. Which player in his right mind, looking for championships, is going to say no to not only playing in a place like Miami, but on a championship caliber team with the greatest player in the world and 4 finals appearances in the last 5 years?

It’s appealing, one of the more appealing pitches that teams will be able to offer free agents in 2015. This extension also doesn’t have to be that long. LeBron can sign a shorter extension, something along the lines of 3 years, it doesn’t have to be a 4 or 5 year deal. He’ll also probably opt for an early termination option to give him the freedom to get out of Miami if the new look team isn’t panning out how he planned.

With so many options, hypotheticals and different outcomes at every turn, this offseason will be a complicated one for LeBron. He might be on vacation with family, and might insist to the media that he hasn’t thought about free agency, the only thing on his mind is where he’ll be playing in 2014-15 and where he can win a championship. All we can do now is wait and see.

Why the Celtics May Be The Best In The East

The Celtics-Heat playoff series this season was one to be remembered. There was the game 6 where Lebron dropped 45 to force a game 7. There were even the loyal Boston fans cheering even after the big 3 stepped off the court in game 7. When I look back at that series I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened had Avery Bradley been healthy. Some may say he’s a non-factor. Some may say his health was irrelevant, but don’t underestimate his impact to their team. He’s a difference maker. I believe the old saying is the little details can make a big difference. He is the epitome of that saying.  He not only would’ve provided a perimeter defensive stopper but would’ve moved Ray Allen down to the 6th man position, not only giving him more time to rest but putting Ray Allen in a better position to provide an offensive spark for the team in tight situations.

The Celtics were so close, in game 7 they were tied going into the 4th. However, the Big 3 had nothing left to give, there was nobody to stop Miami’s perimeter guys and the Celtics were held to 15 points. Avery Bradley could’ve provided offense, given Allen more rest to hit threes in the clutch and take that game further. Anyway, what if? What if? What if?

This season, besides what patriotic Celtic fans may think, the Celtics got a whole lot better. Sure, they lost Ray Allen but lets be completely honest with ourselves, as much as we hate to say it; Ray Allen is declining. He averaged 14.2 points a game this season, which, let me remind you all is the second lowest average for him besides his rookie season in Milwaukee. In the playoffs, he averaged 10.7 points his lowest playoff average of his career. He also shot the worst 3 point percentage of his career in the playoffs, shooting only 30% from deep. John Terry can do more, and is a more versatile offensive player.

They also resigned Jeff Green the promising young forward they got through the Perkins trade two seasons ago. They wisely resigned Garnett who is still a top 10 power forward in the NBA and played some of the best basketball of his career last season. They signed a solid offensive guard off the bench in Courtney Lee who averaged 11 points a game for the Rockets last season. They also got extremely lucky this offseason in the draft when Sullinger and his unpredictable back slipped to the 21st pick. They also picked up the 7 foot Brazilian, Fab Melo out of Syracuse who could definitely be a huge defensive presence in the NBA. Those new additions sliding into an already strong team with Pierce, Rondo, Bass, Dooling, Pietrus, and Bradley could be the deepest team in the NBA. I think with their added depth in the back-court and front-court they could definitely pose a threat to the Heat who are clearly one of the thinnest teams in the NBA.

Heat at Thunder: NBA Finals Preview

This is going to be extremely exciting. The Thunder crowd is going to be absolutely bonkers tonight and that will hopefully be a huge boost to the Thunder. This whole series will come down to the production of each teams respective big three’s and their supporting players. Before I go into this I would just like to go down in whatever history I end up in that the Thunder are going to win in 7 games.

Coming into this series the Thunder look invincible. They won 4 in a row against a team that was considered unstoppable after winning 20 in a row. They are dangerous and have proved themselves as real winners. The Heat came off a strange series vs the Celtics. It was very up and down, they had several moments where they looked invincible and several where they looked like headless chicken running around on the court. The Heat can’t do that, they can’t have off nights, or moments where they’re tuned out because the Thunder obviously aren’t fazed by any pressure. No game is too big and you can count on the Thunder not to have any off nights.

Before we focus on game 1 specifically, in general the Thunder need to take advantage of their strength down low. Perkins has had moments where he’s produced a post game, and Ibaka should definitely take over Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh. If they can attract double teams down low, or just produce down low it takes pressure off of perimeter guys like Durant, Harden and Westbrook, and that will be the difference against the Heat because Bosh is more of a finesse guy and can’t post up Ibaka and Perkins so they will have something the Heat don’t. The Thunder also have the advantage of the bench. They have consistent role players, as supposed to the Heat’s supporting guys who hit some threes from time to time and do almost nothing else. Every guy has to continue producing like they have throughout the postseason because they could win with their second unit. In addition, they have to try and attack the paint as much as possible. The Thunder have a bad habit of settling for jumpers from time to time, if they get a bad bounce or the shot goes long the Heat are going to be breaking. They have to limit the fast-break opportunities for the Heat. The Thunder, especially Durant have to attack and try get the big men in foul trouble because of the lack of depth, and a semi-healthy Bosh. The Thunder also have to continue to play well at the end of games, and well under pressure. They have it all figured out in late game situations and the Heat don’t so if they can exude composure in the 4th quarter that alone will be a huge advantage. I think the Thunder have so many good interior defenders that James will be finding it harder to attack the rim all the time, and will settle for more jumpers. When Garnett was out of the game he had his way inside against the Celtics, the Thunder have to make sure that doesn’t happen. They have to come out aggressive to set the tone down low. The Thunder also have the underrated advantage of Sefolosha on the defensive end. He is going to bother Wade like crazy, in a postseason where he’s already had some offensive troubles from time to time. Sefolosha has guarded star players in every series and will pester Wade like a fly buzzing around his room in the dark. That should definitely bother Wade enough to maybe slow him down and keep him off stride just a bit.

The Heat on the other hand need to make Durant play defense. He is so long and often lurks along the perimeter and uses his wingspan to block shots, or poke away some steals. They should get Lebron into post-up situations vs Durant because if Durant has the length, Lebron has the strength. Not only can Lebron take advantage there but it forces Durant to focus on man to man defense instead of lurking or helping most of the time. I think Wade needs to get going very early, and he should be Spoelstra’s first priority offensively. When he is hot everybody else flows off of him. He has had a very poor series of 1st half’s throughout the postseason and if he can get easy shots early then he will get comfortable early. If he has a night off as he has in 1st halfs, then the Thunder will take over because if one member of the Big 3 is down the other team still has an effective big 3 to counter. They absolutely need to their bench to step up. Battier has been playing well, Norris Cole has played great basketball, Haslem has always been great but other then those three their bench is awful. The Thunder will step all over them if they don’t produce so that’s an essential thing. Lebron especially has to remember the attitude he came into game 5 with and have that same energy every night of the Finals. There is no room to not be that energized in the NBA finals. When he is aggressive and in a scorers mentality he is unstoppable and the Heat therefore, become unstoppable. He can’t be soft, and not attack the rim no matter how hard it may be for him. Wade as well. They both have to be tuned in.

All in all, I think the Thunder will win this series because their bench is a lot stronger. They have home-court advantage and none of their big three has a disadvantage against any defenders on the Heat. Durant averaged 29 points against the Heat this season and can handle Lebron due to his length. Westbrook can handle Chalmers and the whole Heat defense easily due to his quickness, and his lethal jump shot off pick and rolls. He averaged a steady 20.5 points a game during the regular season against Miami. James Harden has a size advantage over Wade and is a great playmaker, and playmakers can play against every team. He averaged 15.5 points against Miami coming off the bench this season. Lebron and Wade will play their games and both average 25+, Lebron will probably get 30+ against the Thunder but Bosh will have more trouble because of the bigger and stronger defenders guarding him. He only averaged 15 ppg against the Thunder in the regular season, the Heat can’t beat the Thunder with only 15 a game from the third of their Big 3.

In game 1, specifically the Thunder need to use the especially rowdy crowd to their advantage and use them as fuel to get them a W. Quick stat, they are 8-0 at home in the postseason. It’s dangerous territory for the Heat to come into and they should be frightened. Both teams need to set the tone and that comes from the production of the Big 3. This will be interesting to see which teams Big 3 comes out attacking first.

More To Come

Don’t think because the Thunder have gotten to the next level and the next tier of excellence that they’re going to stop there. They’re not done. Actually, far from it. They’re on their way to winning an NBA championship. 5 years ago Kevin Durant joined the Oklahoma City Thunder or Seattle Supersonics as they were known and won 20 games. 20 games. The next year they picked up Russell Westbrook in the draft. They won 23 that year. In 2009, they picked up James Harden and Serge Ibaka and won 50 games, while suffering a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Lakers in the first round. The next year, they were the 4th seed in the NBA and won 55 games. They advanced to the conference finals but lost in 6 games to the Dallas Mavericks who went on to win the NBA championship. This year they clinched the 2nd seed in the West by winning 47 out of 66 games. That was just to highlight the growth and development of this team as a unit. They worked their way up through hard work and patience and they progressed every single year. Kevin Durant is now a 3 time scoring champion, James Harden the 6th man of the year, and Russell Westbrook a top 5 point guard in the NBA. Now they’re in the NBA finals. It wasn’t easy though, they were down 2-0 to a team who had won 20 games in a row and looked unstoppable. However, they won 4 in a row and finished the aging Spurs and are now bound to win an NBA championship, with their three best players all under the age of 24. So, if they don’t win it this year, which they most likely will, they will certainly win it in the years to come.

What’s so good about the Thunder? How did this small market team come out of nowhere in the past 5 years and take over the NBA? Well, one thing is for certain they have every piece to the puzzle in place. They all know their roles and there is not a hole in this roster that needs filling. They have the unstoppable scorer, the best 6th man in the NBA, and a top 5 point guard. They have the runner up for defensive player of the year playing alongside Kendrick Perkins one of the grittiest, and toughest players in the NBA. They have Thabo Sefolosha, one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. On the bench, Derrick Fisher a 5 time NBA champion who brings the wisdom and experience to the young team. They have Nick Collinson a terrific post defender and pick and roll defender. Daquon Cook even gave the Thunder a boost beyond the arc in this series. Everybody knows their role and everybody is so damn good at it. They are so good defensively, because they are constantly helping each other out. Offensively, they are often too quick for most teams in the league. Besides the Heat, no team gets up and down the floor as quickly as the Thunder do. Then of course, it’s nearly impossible to stop Kevin Durant from scoring, and if you focus too much on him then Westbrook puts you on a poster while Harden gets another and 1.

The reason they are destined for an NBA championship is because neither team in the Eastern Conference finals can beat the Thunder in a best of 7 series. The Celtics first off are too slow and I don’t think they can compete with the youth and quickness of the Thunder. Sure, we all said that about them vs the Heat but it’s different. The Heat can’t beat the Celtics because of the lack of depth, the Celtics make up for their lack of athleticism with their overwhelming depth. The Thunder however, are the better version of the Heat. They have their own big 3 but they have so many premier role players that there is no area in which they lack. The other thing is that the Heat are having troubles because the Big 2 are finding it extremely hard to get to the basket because of the stifling Celtic defense and because of Garnett in the middle. James and Wade aren’t great shooters however, Durant, Harden and Westbrook don’t need to get to the basket to score. They can all shoot the ball from everywhere on the floor, especially Durant. They shouldn’t have a problem settling for jumpers, because they do that naturally already. Perkins or Ibaka can also outmuscle and outplay Brandon Bass down low, another minor advantage that could prove invaluable if these two teams meet up. And one of the most important things is the Celtics have yet to face a team in the playoffs with a defender who can really bother Garnett. Al Horford was the closest thing to Ibaka and Perkins yet and Garnett averaged 18 and 10 against him. Garnett has yet to play against a really good and tough post defender and a tough big man in the playoffs. He won’t be playing against a Spencer Hawes or Joel Anthony. He’ll get takes from Ibaka and Perkins and that will completely alter his production making it much harder for the Celtics to score. If the Thunder play the Heat, well it should be even easier. The Thunder are just a better version of the Heat and a younger version. Instead of a Big 2, and an inconsistent 3, they have a really big young 3. Instead of no big men, they have Perkins and Ibaka, with Collison for support. Instead of aging veterans surrounding them, they have young talented players like Sefolosha, and Harden. The Thunder would pound the Heat inside. Ibaka and Perkins would absolutely have their way down low and would outrebound everybody on the Heat, making it a lot harder for the Heat to get out and run, which is what they love to do. Additionally, the depth of the Thunder would prove lethal like the depth of the Celtics is proving to be against Miami. Durant and Lebron will cancel out, Westbrook and Wade will cancel out and we know Harden will produce more then Bosh so there goes their big three. And when the stars in Miami are out the Heat can’t handle Harden and Derrick Fisher on the perimeter. They’re outnumbered and outmatched as they say.

The Thunder may have improved this season and gotten to the next level, but i assure you they’re not finished. In fact, there is tons more to come.

Celtics vs Heat Series Preview

Image

I’m really excited about this series. It’s going to get extremely gritty and intense and I can’t wait. For me, this series will be tough for both teams to win. In terms of game 1, I think the Heat will take this one. Not only because they’re at home but because the old and veteran Celtics just finished their series with Philadelphia two days ago. They grinded it out in 7 games and right now they must be exhausted. I don’t think they will be ready for the explosiveness and fast-breaking pace of the Heat right out of the gate. In terms of the series as a whole it should go down to 6 probably 7 games. If I were the Celtics I would be relatively worried about the Heat right now. They play just as good defense as the Pacers and the Pacers are quicker and even they couldn’t stop Lebron and Dwyane Wade from sheer dominance in the last three games. The two superstars are feeling it, especially Wade who is playing some of his best basketball of all season. They got the Heat at the wrong time. I’m just wondering if the Pacers couldn’t keep Lebron and Wade to under 25 points, then how will the Celtics be able to? The Celtics, a team who don’t matchup as well with the Heat and aren’t as quick along the perimeter. If Lebron and Wade continue to score 30-40 ppg then the series is over because when those two are playing like that and working together they are the best team in the NBA. The Celtics have to limit their turnovers, because if you choke up the ball too much to Miami they will eat you alive. The Celtics also have to take advantage of KG down low. He’s been playing amazing basketball of late, while carrying the Celtics offensively. Nobody can guard him on the Heat, he should isolate a lot down on the block and definitely get his usual  free throw line jump shot on the pick and roll. For KG, he even might get a few straight line drives because one pump fake off the pick and roll against a slower defender he can get straight to the basket. The Heat have to take advantage of Dwyane Wade. He is playing the best basketball he’s played all season and now since Avery Bradley is out of the picture, he’ll have Ray Allen guarding him. Ray Allen is not only slower but Wade won’t exactly have to do much to break Ray’s ankles either. They have to take advantage of that matchup because if he can get Ray into trouble then there goes their 6th man early and that takes away a lot of the Celtic offense and disables them to spread the floor like they love to do. Then the simple thing has to happen, the bench has to get involved. Like Shane Battier, Mike Miller, they have to make their open threes to take some pressure of the usual suspects. They need Mario Chalmers to be more agressive to the hole and then they should be fine, because their team defense is unbelievable. All in all, I think the Heat are destined for the finals once again because they’re the Heat, because their superstars are playing the best basketball in the world right now and because they’re younger, quicker and their best players outmatch the Celtics offensively. I’ll go Heat in 7.

Heat vs Pacers Matchup

I like this series, it’s like the popular kids vs the nerds (or any other stereotype comparing two completely different groups of people. Watch High school musical if you’re wondering what I mean.)  Already 2 games have gone by and that just shows how equally matched this series actually is. Of course the roles in this series are defined. The Heat is the superstar studded team who is the favorite to win. The Pacers; the underdogs that nobody knows how far they can go.

In the Game 1 loss for Indiana, they failed to do anything to stop Dwyane Wade and Lebron James who recorded 29 and 32 points each. The Pacers almost have their work cut out for them on defense. Besides Lebron, Wade and previously Bosh, nobody else seems to want to put the ball in the hoop or play… basketball for that matter. They really need to focus on limiting Wade and Lebron. They also have to continue to get it to Hibbert down low, even increase his touches if they can. He is 7’2 and the biggest man on the floor for Miami is only 6’11. He has a huge mismatch down in the post, and if they can utilize him on isolations by the block then they’ll be at their strongest. They also have to get more guys involved and get them hot early. For example, Granger who finished with 7 points on 1-10 shooting, or Paul George who finished with 6 points on 1-5 shooting. Paul George has to get more shots, and the Pacers have to find a way to free up Granger from the defensive chokehold of Lebron James. Their biggest strength is their depth and their depth could actually win them the series, so they need everybody in their rotation putting up at least 10 points.

In Game 2, the Pacers proved many critics wrong. They won a game on the road and a close one at that. This proved that they’re mature enough and experienced enough to win a game on the road in the playoffs. However, it also exposed their lack of a closer. They missed 3 of 4 free throws in the last 1:20 of the game, if they had sunk their free throws then America wouldn’t have had to watch the rest of the game while holding their breath and sitting on the edge of their seat. If they had got Hibbert involved, this game would have been over before it started. He only got 6 shots in this game. Chris Bosh wasn’t even playing, so imagine if they had gotten it to Hibbert early and he had gotten the Heat big men into foul trouble. This game would’ve been in the bag. They have to utilize their advantage down low, if they don’t then this series will be a very difficult one to win. I think overall the ball isn’t being shared enough among the Pacers players. Their offense has been mostly focused around perimeter scorers, which is the wrong way to play the Heat. They have Lebron, Wade, and Battier who are all premier defenders on the perimeter. They have to share the ball more. In this game, Granger, George, West, and Barbosa took a combined 48 shots. The rest of the team took 26 shots. This team is very deep, but if they don’t use their depth, they can forget about advancing. The Heat’s flaws are the same as ever. No depth, no big men. They’re lucky Wade and Lebron can carry them to a certain point because otherwise they would be finished. In game 2, Lebron and Wade combined for 52 of the Heat’s 75 points. In a game without Bosh, they needed a third scorer and they couldn’t find one. Anywhere. They need someone to step up, especially against such a deep team like Indiana. Finally, I don’t want to be a Lebron hater but the MVP showed glimpses of another choke filled playoffs in game 2. He missed both free throws in the final minute that could’ve got the Heat within 1.

For the future, the Pacers need to really share the ball and get everybody involved. They need to remember they hold arguably the most valuable advantage down low and they have to use it. Also, keep up the defense. They’re holding the Heat to 37% shooting from the field and can’t afford to loosen up when they get home. They have to be confident in themselves when they get to Indiana, they beat the Heat at home and hopefully that will encourage guys to step up and score more. They also have the crowd behind them and that will be huge for their possible success. In general, they have to remember that there is no pressure on them right now. They are the underdogs and they have already exceeded expectations. The pressure is on the Heat, not only because they’re the Heat but because they gave one up at home and because Bosh is out for the rest of the playoffs. They have to relax and continue to force the Heat to feel the heat, for lack of a better pun. For the Heat, they desperately need someone to step up. Lebron and Wade won’t win them the NBA championship by themselves. They need someone to score off the bench for them. Now more then ever, considering Bosh is out for the series, their lack of depth will be exposed. Who will be the hero to help out Miami?

I’ll give this series to the Pacers in 7 games. The Heat just won’t be able to match the depth without Bosh in the lineup, but the Heat being the Heat will still be able to squeeze out 3 wins from Lebron and Wade on their own.

Heat Better Without Wade?

This question has been in the midst of c0nversations throughout Dwyane Wade’s injury. Are the Heat better without Wade? Well, let’s look stats before we analyze the circumstances.

With Wade they were 5-4. However, they could’ve been 3-6 had it not been for Dwyane’s game winners against Charlotte and Minnesota. Without Wade they are 5-1. In the past 2 seasons, Lebron James has scored 25 points a game per 40 minutes without Wade on the floor. Chris Bosh has scored almost 20 a game. Without Wade, Lebron has scored 35 points per game and Bosh has scored almost 25 per game. Everyone seems to be making a huge deal over these stats. And excuse me for sounding like a father having the “talk” with his son but it’s to be expected. It’s perfectly normal. When one superstar is off the court the others will step up and carry the load. That doesn’t make them better or worse as a team. But better individually. For example, whenever Melo is injured Amar’e performs better. Last year in the playoffs Amar’e left game 2 with a back injury. Melo dropped 42 points. So it’s a normal thing.

Another thing we have to take into consideration is that a team with 3 superstars are still dealing with chemistry issues and when there are three hot shots on the same floor it’s often that one will take over and the others will take the backseat. When there are 2, well we all know there are two seats in the front of the car. Maybe when there are just two of them on the floor there is more room to operate, more room for them to get their own jobs done.

The other thing we have to consider is that without Wade they would be 3-6, and without Wade the finals last year could’ve been a blowout. Let’s flashback to the 2011 NBA Finals. The Miami Heat vs Dallas Mavericks. Game 2: D-Wade 36 Points. Lebron and Chris Bosh combined: 32 points. Game 3: D-Wade 29 points. Lebron 18, Bosh 17. Game 4: D-Wade 32 points. Chris Bosh and Lebron combined for 32 Points. So yes, maybe during the regular season where every game isn’t pivotal to a chance at a championship maybe the Heat will succeed better without Wade. And it’s not even Wade specifically who is the one. If any one of the Big three was injured the Heat would perform better. When playoff time comes around, and finals time comes around. You’re gonna regret ever wondering if the Heat were better without Wade.