2012-13 Result: 66-16, 1st in the Eastern Conference, won over the San Antonio Spurs 4-3 in NBA Finals, World Champions
Key Additions: Greg Oden
Key Departures: Mike Miller, Michael Beasley, Roger MasonThe defending champions chose not to shake up their roster in the offseason, instead unloading players who filled duplicate roles and signing up one extra big man to make up for what seemed to be the only chink in their armour for the past two years.
While critics have panned the lack of a legitimate big man in the past, the Miami Heat seem to have embraced coach Erik Spoelstra’s run-and-gun philosophy, anchored on four-time MVP LeBron James, franchise all-time scoring leader and nine-time All-Star Dwyane Wade and eight-time All-Star Chris Bosh. Of the three, James will undoubtedly be the heart and soul of the team. After playing small forward exclusively for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the versatile 6’8” LeBron has embraced the role of power forward wholeheartedly, improving his rebounding and learning to pass more off the post. Wade, for his part, is still one of the best scorers in the league and his shot selection improved tremendously in 2012-13.
The X-Factor, though, will be forward/center Chris Bosh. The media have portrayed him as just riding on the coattails of the more distinguished members of Miami’s Big Three, and his production has dipped significantly after moving Toronto. From a career-high 24 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in 2009-10, Bosh averaged only 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 2012-13. Nevertheless, he has proven to be a dependable defensive presence, swatting 1.4 shots per game, including a crucial block that secured the Heat’s Finals Game Six victory over the Spurs.
The rest of the supporting cast is very solid: Ray Allen is always a dependable, if streaky shooter; Chris Andersen provides a lot of energy whenever Bosh has to sit down; Shane Battier is one of the most intelligent players in the league; and Mario Chalmers provides another scoring option to a team that is already the best in the league.
Season Prediction: The Heat are coming off a championship season, and their latest offloading moves have made them a tighter, more compact team. This team, however, boasts perhaps the best individual talents in the world, and a third straight championship will further cement their legacy as one of the best to ever walk the hard court. They will be challenged by the likes of the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers for pole position in the East, but their talent and toughness will bring them back to the Finals and another Larry O’Brien trophy.