LeBron James finally got the monkey off his back by winning his first NBA championship. He was named regular season and Finals MVP; then led The United States to a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympic Games. While he had a lot of help, I am willing to give James the majority of the credit about why Miami had a successful season. So what will James do for an encore this season?
At times during the playoffs it looked like the Miami Heat didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to get the job done when they were down 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers and 3-2 to the Boston Celtics. But, led by James, the Heat battled back to take control and seize both series. With performances in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, James seemed to a new chapter in his career. He put up 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists against Indiana in Game 4 and 45 points and 15 rebounds against Boston in Game 6. With his back against the wall, this is something we have not seen from James in the past. Of course, we all know what he did during the Finals (28, 10 and 7 against the Oklahoma City Thunder). He was too big and strong for Kevin Durant to guard him. Miami won the series after dropping the first game, 4-1.
The Heat didn’t do much in the offseason, adding only Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. They still don’t have a true center on their team, even though Chris Bosh can play the center position. If the Heat were to meet the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals, do you think having Bosh guard Dwight Howard would be a smart idea? Given how limited Howard is offensively, I still don’t think it’s in Miami’s best interest to go that route. Allen will help with Miami’s bench production, even though he was hurt during last postseason and ended up losing his starting spot to Avery Bradley before Bradley was injured. The Eastern Conference should be all Miami’s but I am predicting that the Heat could falter in the playoffs due to them not having a legitimate center.
Point guard(s) – Mario Chalmers: Chalmers came up big in the playoffs last season. A player who takes more grief from his teammates than he gets credit, Chalmers played like an NBA veteran. He reminds me of a young Chauncey Billups, not lacking in confidence or his ability to get the job done. He is a solid defender and knows his role on the team. I think this coming year is a big one for Chalmers and I hope he builds on his solid postseason performance.
Norris Cole will back up Chalmers.
Position Grade: B-
Shooting guard(s) – Dwyane Wade: The good thing about Wade is that he should be completely healthy for the start of this season. And that spells trouble for opposing teams. Wade battled knee injuries, among other things last postseason, and it seemed to hinder his performance some. After turning 30 years of age, how much does Wade have left in tank? His body has taken a tremendous beating throughout his career. As his begins the last stage of his career (hopefully five more years of good basketball), Wade looks to prove that he isn’t slowing down any time soon. But even when hurt, he is still one of the best in the game.
Ray Allen will back up Wade.
Position Grade: A-
Small forward(s) – LeBron James: Do I need to say anything about this man? James has won three out of the last four Most Valuable Player awards, two gold medals, and now a NBA championship. He is the best player in the league, and it’s not even close. I look for James to have another big year, filling stat-sheets and taking home more awards. Only injury will prevent him from accomplishing what he wants to do.
Shane Battier will back up James.
Position Grade: A+
Power forward(s) – Chris Bosh: I didn’t think Bosh was a big part of the Heat since he had been labeled as the “third-wheel.” But I was wrong. When he came back against the Boston Celtics in Game 5, even though Miami lost, you could tell that Boston had to focus on him. By having Bosh out there, with his ability to hit 18-ft jumpers, opens-up driving lanes for Wade and James. I expect him to have another solid season, by regular NBA standards, and helping the Heat to the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Udonis Haslem will back up Bosh.
Position Grade: B+
Center(s) – Joel Anthony: Even though I am reading articles about Bosh becoming the “new” center on the Heat, I am holding off until I actually see that Anthony isn’t going to start. I believe Anthony did himself a disservice last season when he became extremely irrelevant as the season wore on. He became non-existent in the Eastern Conference Finals and permanently extinct in the Finals, where he played a total of two minutes total in the Finals. I believe Anthony will start the season as the starting center, but it won’t end that way.
Position Grade: D+
Josh Harrellson might be given the chance to start instead of Anthony.
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Mario Chalmers
G: Dwyane Wade
F: LeBron James
F: Chris Bosh
C: *Joel Anthony*
Starting Lineup Grade: A-
G: Norris Cole
G: Ray Allen
F: Shane Battier
F: Udonis Haslem
Bench Grade: B-
Coaching Grade: B (Erik Spoelstra)
I expect the Heat to claim the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, along with winning the Southeast Division.