Heat Suddenly a Real Contender?

Call me crazy but ever since the regular season ended I’ve heard a strong buzz surrounding the Miami Heat’s prospects of advancing to the NBA Finals. I was particularly surprised given basketball experts have talked about how Miami wouldn’t make it to the NBA Finals all season long. It’s not so much that people said it was out of the realm of possibility, but there was a strong feeling the Heat simply are not ready to truly contend, particularly in a competitive East. However, now, I’m hearing more about how the Heat have overcome their weaknesses and are ready to make the next jump. I for one am not convinced.

The Heat still have a glaring weakness in the paint. The Heat’s bigs, particularly Chris Bosh, have done well against the Sixers, but I refuse to be fooled – Elton Brand is a husk of his former self, and the Sixers as a whole just aren’t very good. Even without Perkins, the Celtics will prove to be a tough matchup inside, and if the Heat make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, they will likely have to face Noah and Boozer from the Bulls or Dwight Howard from the Magic. Bosh was supposed to be the difference maker in the post, but the regular season has shown that he struggles against physical players and defenses. The Heat simply lack the frontcourt depth to bang the ball inside and rebound consistently.

Speaking of depth, it surprises me how people are starting to conveniently ignore the fact that outside of Lebron, Wade, and sometimes Bosh, the Heat have almost nothing from a scoring perspective. The Heat really do not have any other players that can consistently score. The regular season has shown us that as long as the Big Three play well, the Heat will do well. But, when one of them struggles, particularly when Lebron or Wade struggle, the Heat tend to lose games. Given its the playoffs, Lebron and Wade will play with a high level of intensity every night, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have off shooting nights. They are bound to have a couple games where one of them, if not both of them, lose their touch. Who’s going to fill the scoring void when that happens?

Part of what is working in the favor of the Heat is that the field in the East is truly wide open this year. Chicago is still the favorite to come out of the East, but they have shown some cracks in their first two games against the Pacers (relying too heavily on Rose being the chief cause for concern). Boston seems to lack the same level of intensity they showed last year (at this point you have to view the Perkins trade as a mistake, regardless of whether it made sense on paper when Ainge pulled the trigger). And, Orlando is still Dwight Howard and a bunch of 3-point shooters. When you look at it this way, picking the Heat to make it to the NBA Finals seems much more plausible. However, history has shown us that to win titles, you have to be able to rebound and play great defense. While the Heat have great team defense, their weakness in the rebounding department will show through in later rounds of the playoffs. Until Miami can show me its bigs can play, I’m sticking with them not making the NBA Finals this season.

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