By Josh Baumgard
The Miami Heat begin their quest Tuesday night against the Bulls for the ever-elusive third consecutive championship. Let’s take a quick glance at the state of the roster for 2013, how much their competition has improved, and whether this title is more possibility or probability.
Heat fans, now is the time to wet your pants and set a season-long Heat DVR recording. Besides boasting a core of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, they have five players (Allen, Battier, Chalmers, James, Mason Jr.) who shot it 41 percent or better from three last year and two more in James Jones and Rashard Lewis who are career 40 and 39-percent 3-point shooters, respectively. That’s SEVEN legitimate shooters on a team where floor spacing is an integral part of their identity, and an eighth (Cole) who is looking more and more consistent from this area in every game.
Miami’s perceived weakness of size the past few seasons has been addressed with Glassy Greg Oden. Anything he provides them with this season — more importantly, in the playoffs — takes this team from elite to can’t-touch-this status. Expect Bosh to play a little less at the five this year with Oden and Andersen squabbling for minutes.
Don’t forget Beasley, at 6-10 sans the hair, also offers some interesting lineup versatility, with his ability to man the wing as well as the four spot. Let’s see if the elevated talent around him enhances his game. He’s never been much of a passive scorer in this league, where he isn’t initiating his own offense. He also is the most enigmatic player of this decade.
The lineup combinations are endless. They can plausibly overcome a severe injury to a key player not named LeBron due to their overwhelming depth and plethora of creators offensively. The additions of Beasley, Oden, and Mason Jr. are more luxury purchases than necessary ones. Pat Riley doesn’t need the helicopter, but it sure is fun to jump from South Beach to Coconut Grove in five minutes during rush hour. In Oden’s case, the helicopter is glass. In Beasley’s, the pilot is blind.
1. LeBron James will hit 80 percent from the line
Shane Battier took the over when asked about the odds of LeBron surpassing the 80-percent mark this season. For a player with incredibly few weaknesses, It would be foolish to bet against him. His career best was 78 percent set during the 2008-09 season in Cleveland. His career average hovers at 75 percent.
2. Chris Bosh will have his best season in a Heat uniform
Dwyane Wade is an old 31. He always has something to prove, but look for his minutes, and therefore points, to take a little dip this season. This means more offense running through Bosh. He won’t have to do as much dirty work with Andersen and Oden (hopefully) snagging minutes at the five. The Heat offense is at its peak when feeding off the inside-out presence of of Bosh, annually among the league’s most underrated two-way players.
3. When Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers share minutes, interesting things will happen…
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