As part of this years SBNation NBA postseason preview, we analyzed the regular season, compiled projections for the playoffs and participated in a Q&A for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat.
Team Record 46-20
How would you describe the Heat in the regular season? Did they exceed expectations or disappoint?
A 46-20 record in a condensed lockout season, riddled with injuries and back to back to backs is not a disappointment by any means, but the Heat have different standards. Coming within 2 games of the championship last year and continuing the big 3 proposition that was constructed via the famous celebration in South Beach, it was expected that the Heat would finish with the number 1 seed. Miami fluctuated as a team and went form the best team in the league by far, to a team with personnel and motivation issues, to now the number 2 seed in the east who's playoff hopes hinge on the health of their superstars and role players. They certainly didn't exceed expectations but the playoffs leaves ample room for improvement.
What are the Heat's strengths? Are there areas that concern you?
The Heat's strengths lie in their athletic dexterity and ability to guard a multitude of positions on the perimeter. Specifically Dwyane Wade and Lebron James, who are so dynamic and well versed on defense that the Heat can switch effortlessly on picks/screens, provide necessary help and smother the passing lane. This triggers the Heat's most dangerous and subsequent strength: transition offense. No team in the NBA can score faster off a turnover than the Miami Heat can. Their weakness however, is their lack of frontline, depleted bench and rebounding struggles. To succeed in the playoffs, Miami will need some offensive help off the bench and they have yet to consistently get that. It's also no secret anymore that teams with a lot of size give the Heat problems and it is unacceptable that their SF LeBron James leads the team in rebounds per game. All of these issues get magnified when the game is slowed down and played in a half court set.
What is Miami's playoff rotation? Who is likely to see their minutes increase and who will likely fall out of the rotation completely?
This will depend on Mike Miller's health who recently injured his foot but if healthy, will likely cut into the minutes of Mario Chalmers. As we saw in stretches last year, Erik Spoelstra thinks their best lineup is with LeBron at the point forward and Bosh at the center, with Wade, Miller and Haslem. It is uncertain how much Ronny Turiaf or Joel Anthony will play because Spoelstra has been tinkering his lineups habitually but along with Shane Battier, should play solid roles going forward. James Jones is a huge question mark and at times as shown effectiveness but seen limited playing time throughout. Barring injury, Jones and rookie Norris Cole will likely fall out of the rotation.
Who is most likely to step up their level of play? Do you have a potential "breakout" performer this season?
LeBron James has had his hands full this regular season, leading the team in minutes played and almost every statistical category. For the Heat to be successful, Dwyane Wade will have to step up his level of play, especially down the stretch were they need him the most. Miami doesn't have enough offensive fire power on their roster for a "breakout" candidate. The Heat will simply need their big 3 to have a great post season and with all the media scrutiny and criticism of Lebron James, the physical inferiorities and size disadvantages Chris Bosh faces, Dwyane Wade will be the contingent X-factor. Simply put, Wade must elevate his game for the Heat to win.
Who far can you realistically see the Heat advancing in the playoffs?
The Heat can win the championship this year but the road will be far more difficult then last year. The Heat went 12-3 through the first 3 rounds of the playoffs last year and if not careful, could lose 3 games in the 1st round against Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks. Miami has enough talent in their starting lineup to win it all but it will solely hinge on how well the big 3 play. With the Knicks acquiring Tyson Chandler, the Indiana Pacers emerging, the Boston Celtics set to make a deep playoff run and inevitable threat of the Chicago Bulls, the eastern conference will serve to be a bumpy path to the NBA finals. The Miami Heat's fate specifically rests on the greatness and possible legacy of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.