1) Miami Heat 66-16 in the 2012-2013 season. 1st in the East. 1st in the Southeast.
Miami is now home to the 2-time NBA Champion Big 3. James, Wade and Bosh played spectacular along with the help of their long-range shooters from the bench to cap another difficult, but successful title run. Ray Allen proved to be quite the pickup for the Heat, hitting a clutch three to keep Miami's title hopes alive in Game 6 of the Finals. Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade did their jobs to help the cause and both had strong years respectively. And then there's LeBron. LeBron won yet another MVP, and he seemed near unstoppable at times during the playoffs. Got to wonder if he's even human. Now going into a new year, the target is once again on their backs with every team in the NBA giving it 100% against the giants of the league. Can anyone stop this team from three-peating? With injured players back and healthy, new and old challenges await the Heat, and another run at the title begins in Miami.
Acquired: Greg Oden, Michael Beasley,
Drafted: James Ennis (#50 acquired in trade with Atlanta, overseas)
Lost: Mike Miller
Starters: Mario Chalmers (PG), Dwayne Wade (SG), LeBron James (SF), Chris Bosh (PF), Chris Anderson (C)
Bench: Greg Oden (C), Ray Allen (SG), Shane Battier (SF), Norris Cole (PG), Udonis Haslem (PF)
Up: Chris Bosh - Bosh has been the glue to this Miami team. While Wade and James put up the points and amazing dunks, Bosh has consistently been a solid rebounder and mid-range jump shooter for the Heat. He fills his role and hasn't complained a bit. He deserves credit for that. This is a new year for Bosh, as the team has invested in more center prospects. Possibly a chance for Bosh to get back to the Power Forward position he started out in Miami playing.
Down: Dwayne Wade - Wade wasn't awful last year at all, in fact he played quite well for the Heat in the Finals. The down portion for him is his health. While Bosh and James have stayed healthy for the most part, Wade went down with another injury during the season. His style of play is reckless, and causes him to have scary injuries from time to time. For the Heat to win the title again, he's going to have to be at his best, and that means him being healthy for the long run.
X-Factor: LeBron James - He might just be the X-Factor for the next 5 years of the NBA. LeBron has had massive success in Miami, yet now that his deal with the Heat is running out, it's time for LeBron to consider his next move in his career. Teams are already courting him before this year has even started. The Lakers look like they're completely rebuilding, and could use James to help them do that quicker. Also, his hometown team in Cleveland certainly would forgive him if he returned to the Cavs, who have quite the young and exciting squad themselves, unlike the veteran bench the Heat have. It's a tough decision for LeBron and Miami, who will have to consider Luxury Taxes when thinking of how to handle the situation.
Question to Ponder...What's Miami's plan when the Big 3's contracts end?
It's a long term question, but you gotta ask right? This team is stacked with veteran players or risky players looking to remake their career. When Miami originally made the deals with the Big 3, the rules didn't penalize as harshly for going over the Luxury Tax, but now it would be nearly impossible to keep all three of them without having to pay a remarkable Luxury Tax bill. So what's the plan? If they decide to keep one or two, who do they let go? Who do they decide to pair with them to try to keep them on the team? Can they convince LeBron to stay, with all the other teams trying to court him away? This situation causes an insane amount of questions, thought it's something that has to be going through Miami management's mind every day. Could the end of the Big 3 be here faster than we anticipated? Who knows, but how Miami handles their contracts will be one of the top stories of the year.
Bold Prediction for the Miami Heat: By the time the playoffs begin, Greg Oden will be the starting center!
I'm rooting for Greg Oden big time. He had an insane amount of potential when he was drafted #1 in 2007. Usually the injury bug can bother a player for a few years, but the bug absolutely took over Greg Oden's career. He barely ever saw the court, and forced the Trail-Blazers, who originally drafted him to give up on him and look elsewhere. Now getting his return in Miami, I believe he fits the Heat's style the best. Sure he can't run up and down the court like other players on this team, but that's not what Miami will ask for him. He'll be a force inside, disrupting shots and getting boards. He can do that. He's big and tough to box out. Birdman got a shot on the Heat last year and turned into a great role player for this team. Oden is better than him. I think at the beginning of the year, they take his progress slowly, but when it gets to the second half of the year and playoff time, Greg Oden will be the guy starting at the center position for the Miami Heat.
Projected Record: 68-14 1st in the East, 1st in the Southeast.