Brandon Di Perno: In terms of the Heat winning a third straight "easily" I would have wanted them to face the Thunder. I feel the Thunder sans James Harden are not as strong as a team as they used to be, and thus would have allowed Miami to take advantage of certain match-ups (Fisher on anybody) and just wreak havoc. Nevertheless, as a basketball fan I'm very happy we get a repeat of last year's Finals. I have a feeling we'll see some very interesting play from both LeBron and Wade, as they look to cement their legacies by winning a third straight championship.
David Ramil: I thought that OKC would've been a slightly easier matchup because they lack the Spurs' experience and the revenge factor isn't as important. The Spurs want to be in the position to face Miami and that makes them dangerous.
2) Do you think the Heat has a couple more championship runs left in the tank (if the Big 3 stays together)?(via Osi.)
Earnest Christian: When you have the best player on the planet in a LeBron James alongside a healthy Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on your roster, you are immediately catapulted into the elite and are already positioned to compete for championships. But with this being the 4th year, Miami absolutely needs to get younger in some aspects. We already expect Shane Battier to retire at the end of the Finals and there is speculation whether Ray Allen will do the same. All in all, expect Miami to take care of the Big 3 first and then rework the supporting cast for the next couple of the seasons. Plus with an uncertain Eastern Conference next season, it's almost feels like Miami is expected to be back in this same position next season vying for yet another NBA championship for a 5th straight season.
David: I've always thought that even if just two of the Big 3 stay, we're still contenders in the Eastern Conference. Teams are improving (namely Washington and Toronto) but they might not ever take that next step. Can Rose bounce back and lead the Bulls? And even if teams improve in the offseason, will that be enough to guarantee bumping Miami out of the top spot? We say in 2011 (ugh!) that talent isn't always going to ensure a victory.
This sort of ties in with the second question but where do you see Wade two to three years from the now? Since I think James is going to see how Wade holds up when Decision Partie Deux happens. (via Osi.)
Brandon: This is a tough one for me. It depends. Dwyane, is my all-time favorite player, but his knees aren't what they used to be. Nevertheless, because he is healthy right now I think if Miami continues this trend of using him sparingly during the regular season he will continue to be very productive. Wade is still very efficient, and I have a feeling he ends his career in Miami. The only concern for LeBron is that he would have to carry the team for the entire season and risk injury. In 2-3 years I see Wade in a similar position as this season. Hopefully, advancements are made in the medical field pertaining to knees and we see his career prolonged. I'd rather see a healthy, fun Wade then one who is a shell of his former self. Wade is great right now, but the minute where he finds himself lacking what made him great I think it's time to walk away from the hardwood.
David: He has genuinely surprised me because I think he's been better than expected. The maintenance program has worked (at least this year) for sure. But we always knew Wade's style of attacking the basket would be detrimental to long-term health. So that means his style must change. We saw him shoot from outside the 3-point line against the Pacers. That must be part of his game (along with his reliable mid-range shot) that he continues to develop as time goes on.
4) Favorite Heat player of all time? Or if that's too hard: If you had to pick a Heat All-Time First Team, who would it consist of? (via Osi.)
David: Favorite player would be Alonzo Mourning, maybe Glen Rice. Strange considering they're totally different types of player with Zo's defense, grit, and fiery spirit while G-Money's soft jumpshot (and rare defense) was a thing of beauty. All-Time team in terms of talent would be Shaq, Bosh, James, Wade, Hardaway. In terms of personal preference? Zo, P.J. Brown, Rice, Wade and Hardaway.
Earnest: Being that I've been on this Heat train for a very VERY long time (25 years), there are guys who do have a soft place in my mind and there are guys who are bonefide favorites. At the end of the day I have to go with the guy who is the sole reason I became a Miami Heat lifer in the first place in Glen Rice. As far as my all Heat first team, it would look like this
G Tim Hardaway
G Dwyane Wade
C Alonzo Mourning
F LeBron James
F PJ Brown
Can you point out the chinks in the armor for the Spurs, offensively and defensively, and if so, how should Miami attack those particular weaknesses? (via Tenki)
Brandon: My biggest worry, is that San Antonio is better than last year and Miami isn't. However, Miami was able to constantly burn San Antonio in the small ball battle last year, and they continue to thrive in the sort of offence this season. Zach Lowe did a great job pointing out in his article how the Spurs constantly disregarded Dwyane Wade last year as he was injured. They can't do that this time around or he'll light them up consistently, an athletic Wade means that San Antonio will have to keep an eye on him at all times leaving LeBron free to attack the paint at ease. While some see it as an advantage, San Antonio had a way tougher journey to the Finals than Miami. I see that as weakness, Miami is relatively healthy whereas the Spurs are banged up. The Spurs have played 18 playoff games, compared to Miami's 18 these playoffs. While three games don't seem like a lot to an average basketball viewer the results are obvious. Tony Parker (a huge threat) is suffering from an ankle sprain, and who knows how productive he'll be this time around. Miami wins the battle of attrition and with an older roster this becomes a huge advantage especially if the series goes to 7 once again. The Heat tend to pick it up in the final quarter to win games where they're behind. They can't do this against San Antonio and will have to figure out how to score early and consistently. This will be a tougher match-up than last year, but I think Miami will come up on top once again. At the end of the day, we have LeBron James on our roster.
David: The Spurs' really don't have many chinks in the armor, especially offensively. I would say their weakness lies in the reliance of the outside shot within the context of their offensive schemes. Their offense is so smooth and it's predicated on crisp passing, sharp cuts and exploiting another team's weaknesses. However, like Miami, if their outside shooting isn't a factor (which is almost always is) you can hedge off the 3-point line ever so slightly and double-team when they post up Duncan, Diaw or, rarely, Splitter. If you're going to play the passing lanes (like Miami does), you've got to be ultra-precise or their well-honed passing will kill you. On defense, I think the Heat can use their big floor-spacers, namely Bosh and Rashard Lewis, to exploit the Spurs. Having Bosh and Lewis on the perimeter keeps San Antonio's frontcourt rotation (Duncan/Diaw/Splitter/Bonner) outside and frees the paint up for Chalmers/Wade/James to attack. And if these three attack the paint and draws a double, that leaves an open shot on the perimeter. Also, I think San Antonio's second unit can be exploited on defense - Ginobili, Belinelli, Mills, etc., can be ineffective at times but they make up for it with their prolific scoring.
I think both teams matchup fairly well, in terms of both experience and personnel. The series could all depend on one player having a very good night that stands out...say Chalmers "breaking out" for 20 points or, conversely, Danny Green hitting seven 3-pointers. Miami's "Big 3" will get their points and so will San Antonio's; it'll be up to each team's supporting cast to determine the outcome of the series.
If Heat did some type of ‘charity' run to the 'ship for a former NBA player who did not win a ring during their time in the league (for whatever reason), who would you like see win one with the Heat and why? (via Osi.)
Brandon: Steve Nash. Two-MVP's later, numerous trips to the Western Conference Finals, terrible times with the Lakers, battling back from injury. If anybody deserves to have a ring on his resume it's Steve. The man is a leader, and a "great locker room guy" and would surely bring the right attitude and leadership to the Heat franchise. The Juwan Howard treatment, although somewhat degrading is beneficial in finishing one's career. Also who's to say that Steve (when playing) wouldn't give us some great moments a la Gary Payton in 2006. Steve deserves a ring, and I for one would love to have him on our team, even if he was just a face on the bench.
David: Wow, as a Heat fan, I'd probably have to say Hardaway, especially as his chances of making the Hall of Fame grow weaker. All-Time guys that never won a ring? John Stockton. But definitely not Charles Barkley. It's the only thing that keeps him grounded and vulnerable or else he'd never stop talking.