After silencing most of their critics and haters with back to back NBA titles, Lebron James and the Miami Heat have once again opened the flood gates to more criticism and even more hate than before. That’s not to say, there has ever been total silence since ‘The Decision’, but winning two titles in three trips makes a lot of the criticism and hate look foolish.
While, I’m not sure I get the continued hate of Lebron and the Heat, some of the criticism is very relevant. The point is – the Heat were a flawed team, even after defeating the Spurs in seven games last season. However, there was nothing done about it. In fact, the Heat actually digressed and the Spurs, who actually strengthened themselves, were just the team to take advantage. However, the silver lining in all of this, is that the Spurs were probably the only team in the entire league that could have taken advantage, and may be the only team that can take advantage for the foreseeable future. Name one team as they’re currently constructed, in the east or west, that has a legitimate shot at defeating the Heat 4 times in a playoff series. I’ll say, the Oklahoma City Thunder and that’s about it.
That’s not good for a guy like me, who doesn’t see anything wrong with a little parity. However, for the Heat it’s all good. It’s so good, that unless Lebron comes up with a sequel to ‘The Decision’, the Heat are unquestionably still the favorite to come out of the east. Unfortunately, we all know that just winning the east won’t be enough.
The Miami Heat have a lot of work to do, to dethrone the Spurs, however. Some of it could have been done over this past off-season, but the Heat’s front office chose to stand pat, and that was a terrible mistake. Losing a player like Mike Miller was an especially huge blow. Miller, gave the Heat not only another guy who could come off the bench and make shots, but he was also a good defender who has a great head for the game. Who did the Heat, basically replace him with? Michael Beasley. There’s no denying that Beasley can score, but he struggles big time on the defensive end, and let’s just say his head for the game is lacking. It’s even more painful when you consider Miller could have been signed with Miami’s mid-level exception. A pretty cheap price tag, yet the Heat chose not to bring Miller back.
We’ve also known since the ‘Big 3’ was formed, that the Heat have struggled with rebounding and interior defense. Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen fell into their lap last season, and paid big dividends, but changes or additions still needed to be made. On a gamble, the Heat decided to sign oft-injured center, Greg Oden. That experiment failed miserably. Oden, played very little all season and was no factor at all. It may not seem like a big deal, but Oden and Beasley took up two roster spots, at least for most of the season. Two solid contributors could have been all the Heat needed to make this a series.
The Heat became content after winning the 2013 NBA title. It’s obvious they felt like the ‘Big 3’ was enough to win it again and complete the ‘3-peat’. It wasn’t nearly enough. That’s not to point blame at Lebron, Wade, and Bosh. It’s to point blame at a bench that lacked firepower. It is extremely puzzling how key players that came through so well with their backs to the wall last season against the Pacers and Spurs, could not seem to get it going this time around. Shane Battier, ended up being benched and played very little and Mario Chalmers was a no-show.
So, much of the blame will be pointed at Lebron, but he could do the pointing if he chose to. He could easily point his finger at the front office for not signing Miller and he could point at the bench for their non-contributions. The inadequacies of the bench, eventually took its toll on the starters. Lebron played way too many minutes. When, Wade’s knee wasn’t feeling good, Erik Spoelstra couldn’t look down the bench and replace him with Ray Allen or Mike Miller. Which, brings up another point. Spoelstra’s use of his bench was very questionable. Allen, who started game 5 after Spoelstra benched Chalmers, was forced to play more minutes than he’d been accustomed to playing the past two seasons, and while inserting Rashard Lewis into the starting lineup for Shane Battier was a good call early in the series, on the offensive end, these moves eventually made an already thin bench even thinner.
Maybe, this annihilation will serve as a wake up call for the Heat, that Lebron can’t do it by himself. If that was the case, he could have stayed at home in Cleveland. It’s also clear, that the ‘Big 3’ alone can’t beat a team that uses all it’s resources like the Spurs do. The Pacers and Nets let Miami off the hook this season. So did the Spurs last season. That should have been the wake up call when the Heat barely beat the Spurs in last year’s Finals, but they chose to ignore. Now, there are serious questions of whether or not the Heat can actually get Lebron the help he needs. The Heat need more rim protection, athleticism and youth. Who would have ever thought that the Spurs would end up being younger and looking like they had more spring in their step than the Heat?
They need more scoring punch and playmaking to supplement James and Wade. Lebron, is depended upon to do everything. Another guy that can run the offense in spurts could be vital. How huge were Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills for the Spurs when Tony Parker needed rest? Mario Chalmers, was a big disappointment during the playoffs and the Heat have to decide if they want to bring him back. A nice combo guard could be the upgrade and just what the doctor ordered to help reduce the minutes played by Wade and James.
Lots of questions, but no simple solution. Especially, when you factor in the ‘Big 3’ stand to make over $20 million apiece, if Bosh and James decide to opt-in to the final year of their current deals. That doesn’t leave much room to make any substantial changes. So, unless the Heat unload one of the ‘Big 3’, it seems very unlikely that the Heat would be able to make a serious run at Carmelo Anthony or any other big name free agent. It makes no sense to pursue a player like Melo anyway.
Breaking up Lebron, Bosh, and Wade would be a huge mistake and like a panic move to me. The ‘Big 3’ are still far too formidable to be broken up. A little fine tuning is all they really need to have a shot to reclaim their title and silence their critics once again.