Let’s be clear about something before we go any further. Along with the Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Miami Heat are the favorites to win the NBA Championship. These are the facts, and they are indisputable. But despite that fact, or maybe even because of it as we will discover later, all three of these favorites have flaws, reasons why they could very easily not win the championship in June. But as I thought about this further, the flaws for the Heat are worthy of their own post.
1: Their Bench Is Terrible.
Somehow, and I’m not sure exactly how they did this or even if it’s ever been done, every single one of their gambles has not paid off. Gambling on Mario Chalmers being able to be this team’s Ron Harper or Kenny Smith, a steadying influence who can control the game when necessary and take the pressure off of their 2 perimeter players? Didn’t happen.
Believing that Norris Cole’s early-season good run would allow him to become the young point guard they needed to take some occasional pressure off of LeBron and Wade? Nope. Eddy Curry and Dexter Pittman providing low-post scoring and defense so that Chris Bosh can be free to do Chris Bosh things? Not even a little bit.
(Side Note: What in the world has gone on with Eddy Curry? Remember he was a schoolboy phenomenon in Chicago, and he was one of the better offensive centers in the league in NY? Man that’s a shame.)
Mike Miller and Shane Battier providing defense and outside shooting, respectively? That hasn’t happened yet.
Will it? Perhaps. But the trouble with all of this not working out is that it’s not working out in the regular season, a time where you can experiment more freely than you can in the white-hot crucible of the playoffs. Want to see if your young troika of point guards can handle crunch-time minutes without looking like they just saw their mom naked? The regular season is when you try that out.
In the postseason you need to know who you can rely upon to make shots, make plays, and play well. And that leads us into point #2.
2: LeBron and D-Wade can’t do this all themselves.
Every championship team, from the Russell Celtics through to the Mavs last year, has pieces that aren’t stars who do good things. Where is Miami’s Robert Horry, Vinnie Johnson, James Edwards? Hell where is their Dennis Johnson?
As long as the Heat have this problem with their bench, that means only one thing. That means LeBron and Wade will have to again drag this roster to an NBA finals. And, frankly, that doesn’t work. It’s not that it can’t work because LeBron and D-Wade somehow don’t have the sand to pull off the trick. It’s that it can’t work because it’s never worked.
Every single championship team has those role players. Miami learned this lesson the hard way just last year. Do the Mavs win their championship with no JJ Barea, or Jason Terry, or no Tyson Chandler?
Of course they don’t. This has been a formula as old as time itself. Simply put, you can win by running your opponents off the floor. You can win by playing suffocating defense. You can win by shooting great, and by shooting poorly. But you have never won when you have a team so completely dependent on 2 players to do everything. This is not an assault on LeBron and D-Wade. It’s a fact. Go into the comments. And then name me a time in the history of the league when 2 players, even 2 players as gifted as LeBron and D-Wade, won a championship almost entirely by themselves. This team’s supporting parts, such as they are, aren’t championship level. But there’s something else.
3: The pressure is overwhelming.
Ever since the moment The Decision happened, whether it’s fair or not, people have judged this team to a higher standard. And after they fell apart in the NBA Finals against the Mavericks, that pressure has only increased.
Now do I think they’re going to have any trouble whatsoever with the 7th seed whoever that might be? Not really. I mean they might lose a game if it’s the Knicks, and Carmelo decides he wants to do a Bernard King impersonation at Madison Square Garden.
But as we get closer to the Finals, to that same spot where LeBron melted down last year, the questions about whether or not he can do it, whether or not he has what it takes to win his 1st championship, they’re not going to be softer. People aren’t going to stop asking them. They’re only going to get louder, and get more insistent. And when the Bulls come back around, looking for revenge for last year? Make no mistake. That pressure is real and tangible. And the higher the stakes of the game, the more people are going to look to see if LeBron melts underneath that. That can’t be a sustainable environment.
Will I be right? I’m not sure. That’s the fun of the NBA playoffs. This is only a scenario, a theory. When May comes we’ll find out if I was right or wrong.