The Miami Heat are seven games into their journey of becoming World Champions. Some ludicrously thought this team would go unbeaten so for them the current 5-2 record is obviously disapointing but what have we learned from this team that is really still in the infancy stages of it's development? It's basically a whole new roster that has to blend and jell over the course of the regular season. Watching Miami play this season we've gotten glimpses of the potential this ballclub has, but we've seen the flipside also of when things go wrong, they go horribly wrong.
In my opinion, I don't see the Miami Heat beating the top two Eastern Conference sides – Boston and Orlando – in a seven game series. Just won't happen, and here's why.
This is the major area where Miami have been exposed. Especially in the opening night game against Boston. Joell Anthony is the starting center, way undersized at 6'9 to match up with Boston's bigs or even Dwight Howard. Yes I know that Miami thumped Orlando in Miami, I saw that more of an aberration rather than the norm. Plus Howard still had a decent 19 and 7. The Heat are giving up way too much size and rebounding amongst their bigs. During the loss to the Hornets it seemed as if New Orleans was grabbing every offensive board, the Heat gave up way too many second chance points. There is a reason why Miami are currently 18th in the league in rebounding. There's no one there to do it.
The biggest concern in the frontcourt has to be 'superstar' Chris Bosh. For a guy who is supposed to be a max contract guy he sure is delivering more like Jonathon Bender than an All Star. His game is finesse preferring to shoot J's from the perimeter than bang with the big bodies of Garnett, Perkins and Howard. His rebounding numbers are down in the 13 ppg and 5 rebound range. Just not good enough for what Miami expect from him.
The Heat actually play better with big Zydrunas Ilgauskas on the floor and he can stretch the opposing defences with his shooting but he slows the side up when he's on court. Advantage Boston and Orlando.
2) Bench Depth
Look at the benches of Orlando and Boston and you'll see what the Heat don't have, depth. The Celtics are bringing Big Baby Davis, Nate Robinson, Jermaine O'Neal, Marquis Daniels off the bench. Orlando has Mickael Pietrus, Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass, Marcin Gortat and JJ redick. Size, shooting and defenders. That's what makes those teams so special. The second teams can come in and maintain leads, even increase them in certain instances. When it comes down to brutal playoff basketball, are James Jones, Juwan Howard, Dexter Pittman and Jammal Magloire really going to give any teams nightmares matching up? Eddie House gets a pass because he's proven he can hit the big shots when it matters but where is the scoring and defence going to come from when the Big Two are resting? ( Yeah I left Chris Bosh out on purpose, see above )
3) Point Guards
This is crucial. Not only for the Heat's point guard position but also their inability to contain the play of the two elite PG's they've faced so far, Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul. Both had field days running pick and rolls and generally penetrating the interior. Rondo had an insane 17 assists while Paul reminded everyone why he's still the best PG in the league notching 19 on Saturday. Arroyo is not a strong on ball defender and the opposition can easily blow past him. Who can the Heat bring off the bench? Eddie House? Defence isn't exactly his strong suit. WAIT! they've got LeBron and D. Wade, two great on ball defenders I hear you say, they'll do the job. Maybe, but who defends a Paul Pierce or a Vince Carter? The deficiencies may not be exposed on offence where LeBron can run the show if need be but on defence – where championships are won – it may be too much to cover.
Where is this teams scoring going to come from when the stars are having an off night? Bosh is already proving ineffective on offence and at times so far it seems as if either Wade or James have taken it upon themselves to do a lot of scoring for the side to win. The Heat are 20th in scoring at 99.3 ppg, meaning that unless one of their Big Two scores big, the rest of the team don't score enough to win games. When teams are able to limit the effectiveness of James/Wade, who will step up? James Jones is scoring at a ridiculous clip from three point range right now (.512%) but is still only averaging 10 points off the bench. The Heat will need to find a more balanced attack to win. The game against New jersey yesterday was the first time Bosh and the two stars hit at least 20 points each in the one game. They're going to need that more consistently.
5) Regular Season v Playoff Form
Let's not get carried away with the win/loss ratio during the regular season. Miami are more than likely to win at least 55-60 games. But regular season and playoff basketball are two different beasts. How many were quick to anoint Cleveland champions based on their regular season form the last two seasons? When the game is slowed down and defences clamp down, how will Miami cope? When the lanes are cut off for LeBron and Wade what are the other options available? Boston are masters at executing plays in a halfcourt offence while playing suffocating D, and Orlando have the shooters to space the floor. Wins over Orlando or Boston early in a season mean nothing in May and June. Beating those teams four times in a series is a whole other ballgame. Will coach Spoelstra be able to make the necessary adjustments over the course of a series? Will LeBron just give up when faced with adversity as he did against Boston last year? It's one thing to play freely and loose during the regular season but it's the playoffs where dynasties are formed and legends made. Battle tested teams such as Boston and Orlando have already been through wars and have the personnel to claim victory once again.