Miami Heat: Why LeBron James and Miami Are Still Favorites in the East
If it is at all possible, I believe the Miami Heat are flying under the radar this season. There’s a dumpster fire out West that is the Lakers, Brooklyn has their shiny new arena and team, and the Knicks have a revamped team and re-energized Carmelo Anthony. With all of that, people seem to be overlooking the reigning NBA Champions in South Beach. What a terrible mistake. Miami is still the best team in the East – arguably in the whole NBA. Here are the top reasons why they should still be considered the favorites in the Eastern Conference this season.
They Have LeBron James: Duh. To put is simply, he is the best basketball player on the planet. His résumé reads like that of a superhero’s: 2011-12 regular season MVP, Finals MVP, and 2012 Olympic gold medalist. The list goes on and on. We are now numb to the stats LeBron continues to put up on a nightly basis because he is consistently getting those numbers. Last season LeBron averaged 37.5 minutes per game and had an incredible year on his way to being named MVP, with 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.9 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game. So far in this 2012-13 season, LeBron is averaging 38 minutes, 25.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 0.8 blocks. Those number are slightly declining you say? Not so fast.
Here comes the bench.
Improved Reserves: It is hard to get better when you have three perennial All-Stars already on your roster and you’re coming off a championship season. But the Heat managed to do just that. Adding the best three-point shooter in NBA history to the bench in Ray Allen instantly improved the second unit. Norris Cole is back to his old self after a slumping end to last season and is part of a dangerous two-headed monster at point guard. Rashard Lewis is still a lights out shooter that has to be guarded. Mike Miller is playing less minutes, which means a healthier Mike Miller down the stretch. Joel Anthony is still one of the top post defenders in the league and doesn’t need the ball to impact the game. Who do you stop? With the spacing provided by Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, go ahead and pick your poison. Let them drive to the hole? Help on the drive and try to recover on the kick out? It’s almost impossible to guard them with the players they have. This team is deep, talented, and prepared for a deep playoff run.
Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh: Just the fact that it took this long to even mention these two players tells you something about how good this team is. This is no doubt considered LeBron’s team, but he has the best two sidekicks in the league. Wade is averaging 19.8 points per game and shooting 50.4% from the field. Bosh is averaging 18.5 points and shooting 54% from the field. The only words for that are consistency and efficiency. With LeBron setting them up, they are getting some of the easiest baskets of their career, and that will continue throughout the season as competing teams focus on stopping LeBron.
When Wade, Bosh, and James even get close to their averages, this team is hard to beat. Forget about the two 20 point losses to the Knicks. Forget about a loss to the Warriors in December. The Heat are the team to beat in the East. They may be hungover from a championship season at the moment, but they are good enough to coast their way to the All-Star break and turn it on in the second half of the season. It will be championship number two this season for LeBron. Mark my words. No team is beating the Heat.
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Brady is a die hard Jazz fan who was born and raised in Utah. If he isn't watching basketball, he is writing about it. He is a perfect example of a basketball junkie. You can follow him on Twitter @bradyslife.