Roundtable: Sizing up the Heat
Miami is stacked with talent, but it may not be enough to get 72 wins
The Heat may coast through the regular season, but is that a good thing?
The Heat's biggest threats: Celtics, Magic and reigning champion Lakers
With the start of the 2010-11 season less than a week away, four SI.com NBA writers conducted an e-mail roundtable about the league's biggest storyline: the new Miami Heat. Here's what they had to say about LeBron James and Co.:
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM MIAMI
IAN THOMSEN: I'm sure it will depend on the health of their stars and how cautious they'll be with Dwyane Wade in particular. But they're going to basically kill everybody. Think about how defenses would load up on Wade or LeBron James and each would still get his 25-35 while leading Miami or Cleveland to victory more often than not. Now the defense can't focus on LeBron or Wade or Chris Bosh, so they're going to feel like the doughnut just came off the bat. They'll have space that they haven't seen in years.
This is a details-fixated franchise that tends to max out its talent during the 82-game season. I'm convinced the Heat are going to run away with the No. 1 seed overall. The playoffs may be a different story, but we aren't going to see chemistry issues among their three guys because they're going to make the game seem easy most nights during the regular season.
CHRIS MANNIX: Ian's right: Miami is going to run away with the top seed in the East. I'm thinking 70 wins is a nice number with a legitimate chance at toppling the Bulls' record 72-win mark. But I'm interested to see how the supporting cast -- namely Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Joel Anthony and James Jones -- jells over the course of the season. Smacking around the Detroits, New Jerseys and Torontos is one thing; but Miami is going to need more than James, Wade and Bosh to take down the Celtics, Magic and Lakers.
THOMSEN: This is one area where I'm going to differ with Chris -- they aren't going to break the Bulls' record. Those Bulls had been together a long time, which gave them an advantage of being able to play off each other effortlessly. Miami won't have that strength of understanding. Plus, I suspect Miami is going to rest its stars whenever there is a hint of injury, and that conservative approach to health is likely to cost it a few regular-season wins in exchange for its larger goal of being strong for the postseason.
JENKINS: Chris raises a good point in that the Heat's flaws -- if they even have any -- might not be exposed in the regular season because they will win so many games and spend so much time crushing inferior opponents. I'm not sure how good that is for their long-term health, because come playoff time, they will be facing other elite teams that have identified and addressed their shortcomings. The Heat may never be forced to do that. To advance in the playoffs, I have to believe they will need a couple big men to emerge, obviously not as scorers, but guys who can bang with Boston and Orlando and neutralize them a little on the glass.
Also, if/when the Heat do get in close games, I'm curious to see the dynamic between LeBron and Wade. After LeBron's announcement, he talked about wanting to be a facilitator, like a modern-day Magic Johnson. But judging from the preseason -- which I understand is a dangerous thing to do -- it looks like he is still going to dominate the ball and show that nobody can stop him. In the end, that may be the best strategy, but I wonder how Wade will fit into it. Again, they probably won't face many situations where it matters, at least until spring. Then they may have to figure it out on the fly.