The one question most people ask me is whether I think the Heat will win a 3rd straight NBA title. But, my question entering the season isn’t whether they’ll do it, but whether this will be the best Heat team ever? I believe this team has the potential to be.
Let’s start with LeBron James. He is the best player on the planet, and it’s not even close. Meantime, Dwyane Wade is feeling and looking as healthy as he has in a long time. The Heat also has the luxury of resting Wade during the season, when needed. Keeping him healthy and fresh is one of the keys to the season, and trust me, it’s on Erik Spoelstra’s mind. Finally, the 3rd member of the big three, Chris Bosh, is determined to have a better season. So far in camp, he’s more aggressive and confident with his shot.
But, those players are more of a given. You know what to expect when they’re healthy. The real reason I think Miami has the chance to improve from the last three seasons is because of the bench. This bench is deep, talented and competitive. They want to play and contribute.
The usual suspects are still around. You have the shooters in Ray Allen, Shane Battier and James Jones. Next up is the spark plug and ball handler in Norris Cole. The big men, Chris “Birdman” Anderson and Joel Anthony, can provide the defense and toughness. Finally, the newest members of the team can really provide a boost to an already deep bench.
Michael Beasley is back for another stint with Miami, and he comes in focused to not mess up his opportunity. Beasley has said all the right things during training camp. He knows one misstep and he’s out of a job in Miami, but he also knows that if he keeps his head on straight he can get quality minutes for a championship team. The real story with Beasley in camp is that he’s playing productive basketball. Above all, that will get him in the line-u p and keep him on his team.
The other big addition and I do mean big, is former top overall pick Greg Oden. Oden is even more of a wild card than the previously troubled Beasley. Oden’s troubles haven’t been off the court, but instead his inability to stay on the court. Oden’s knees will always be an issue. I know it. You know it. The Heat knows it. And most importantly, Oden knows it. He told me early in training camp that his knees will never allow him to be a 25-30 minute a night guy again, but that’s not what Miami needs. They need a big man who can play some defense in key moments, in particular in the playoffs. This team will do everything it can to make sure he can hold up to reach that point. If that means playing sparingly in the regular season, then so be it.
The last bench player that needs to be mentioned is Roger Mason Jr. He was an under-the-radar pick up for the Heat. A veteran NBA player, he quietly came to camp with a great chance to find a role. Spoelstra is very fond of his talent and experience, and he does immediately command respect from his teammates because of his experience.
Maybe the toughest part of the season will be how Spoesltra actually juggles all these names. It will also be tough on certain guys who may see action for two or three games in a row and then take a seat to let others play. It’ll be a work in progress.
But make no mistake about it, this is the deepest Heat team I can remember, and when it’s all said and done, could be the best Heat team ever. For a team that’s won back-to-back titles, that’s saying a lot.