Can the Miami Heat win it all this season?
Already you were hearing it -- guys were saying it on ESPN and talk radio shows across the nation even before LeBron made his announcement.
If the Heat don’t win it all this year, it’s a failure.
That’s a bunch of manure.
Winning a championship takes a lot of things, including luck with injuries and a few bounces to go your way. It’s hard. The Heat now have a wide-open five-year window, if they get no titles in that time it will be a failure.
But they are a long way from a title this year. Even with three of the best players walking the planet on one team.
Look at the teams that were in the Finals this year -- both teams had a big three. Plus the Lakers had Ron Artest (or Andrew Bynum, if you count Artest in the three) plus they brought Lamar Odom off the bench. The Celtics are really a Big Four now, and they needed Big Baby and Nate Robinson off the bench to win them one of the finals games. It takes depth to win a title.
Pat Riley was a magician to get all three of these guys in one uniform. But he has a lot of work to do. He has to build a team around these three -- and do it on the cheap. If he can move Michael Beasley he will have about $1.8 million to play with after the big three sign. If not, it’s all minimum contracts from here on out.
What does he need to do? One of my favorite basketball minds -- David Thorpe of ESPN -- broke it down in a Q&A at TrueHoop:
They need 3-point shooters off the bench, and in the starting lineup. They don’t need a point guard, necessarily, because Wade and James are both such willing distributors. And look at the teams that have won titles in recent years. Many have not had transcendent point guards. Jason Williams, Avery Johnson, Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar ... they’re not lottery picks....
And then you have got to find some centers. They don’t need to score. They just need to rebound, play defense and race the floor.
One holdover on the Heat roster, point guard Mario Chalmers, could work in the Fisher-like point guard role -- an untraditional point who does not handle the ball that much. But he needs to accept that role and step up to the challenge. Last season his game regressed. He only shot 31 percent from three. With these guys, he can get good looks spacing the floor, but he has to knock down the catch-and-shoot.
There are a lot of other catch-and-shoot guys out there -- the better ones cost. But good scouting (here and Europe) could find some guys the Heat might be able to afford.
Centers are a bigger problem. Solid big men who can defend and rebound get big money. Brendan Haywood just signed for six years, $55 million. Teams want to give 38-year-old Shaquille O’Neal $5.8 million a year for two years. And he’s a shell of himself.
For what the Heat have to spend, they will not get much. This is where the multi-year plan comes in. They need to get younger players they can develop, Thorpe notes. Guys who may not help much in November but could in April and will next year.
But what about this year? Bosh is not a true center, he cannot bang with the bigs in the East like Dwight Howard and Andrew Bogut and Jermaine O’Neal now in Boston. Not and have his knees hold up.
You can create a tempo game. You can aggressively trap. You can make it a game about aggressiveness, and those three will all have a great feel for that.
(Heat coach) Erik Spoelstra is a very bright guy. If he doesn’t have the roster for it, he’s not going to play a classic defensive scheme and get crushed. He will strategize with what he has....
This team, though, they might not have to go small. They can go unique. They can have James and Wade as the backcourt, with a couple of 6-8 athletic shooters, and Bosh, and then race the floor. That’s not a tiny lineup.
The Heat are going to be very entertaining this season. They are going to be figuring it out on the fly, and they can’t be traditional. They won’t be. We’ll see how easily egos can be set aside, especially when the inevitable rough patch comes.
But win it all this year? It takes depth to win. And that may take a year or two to build in Miami.
But it’s going to be fun to watch them get there.