Posted by Neil Paine on April 16, 2009
Coach: Erik Spoelstra
Last NBA Title: 2006
5-Year Playoff Record: Won 7 Series, Lost 3, 1 Final, 1 Title
Championship Odds: 0.0%
Key Question: How far can Wade single-handedly carry this team?
Regular Season: After a miserable 2008 that saw Dwyane Wade miss half the season and the team win a league-worst 15 games, the Heat bounced back nicely in '09 under 1st-year head coach Erik Spoelstra. Wade played the most games of his career and was as dominant as ever, rookie Mario Chalmers was a pleasant surprise, top draftee Michael Beasley improved as the season progressed, and a midseason trade for Jermaine O'Neal and Jamario Moon seems to have at least partially resuscitated the big man's career and given Miami a Shawn Marion replacement in the process.
Prime-Time Players: 1. Dwyane Wade. If it weren't for LeBron James and (perhaps) Chris Paul, Wade would hands-down be the best basketball player on Earth right now. He dispelled any notion that his aggressive style burned him out by having a monster Olympics and following that up with a great NBA campaign in 2009. And remember the shows he usually puts on during the playoffs? He's capable of single-handedly winning at least 1 series for Miami.
2. Mario Chalmers. "Superintendent" Chalmers has been surprisingly good for a rookie, even after considering his turnover issues. He can knock down shots and does a good job of picking his spots on offense, plus we know he can make game-changing plays if called upon.
3. Udonis Haslem. One of the few remaining veterans of Miami's '06 title run, Haslem doesn't put up gaudy numbers but he's a hard-working role player that every team needs at least 1 of to make a difference in the playoffs.
But don't count on... Jermaine O'Neal. JO has made Miami a stronger team inside, especially on defense, but he has a long history of invisibility in the "second season". Even with the change of scenery, I don't think Miami fans should expect any different from O'Neal this time around.
Why they can win: Wade is amazing, and has repeatedly shown the ability to lift mediocre teammates to heights they'd have no business going otherwise. Plus, the Heat are a pretty solid defensive team.
Why they can't win: They're a one-man show on offense, and while that one man is awesome, he can't go it alone. There's also the question of experience: while Wade, Haslem, & O'Neal are old hands, they'll be using a whole lot of fresh faces as well.
X-Factor: Avoiding the beasts of the East. By securing the 5 seed, Miami drew Atlanta in round 1 rather than one of the elite 1-3 seeds. And as luck would have it, Atlanta's just about the only upper-half Eastern Conference team they have any shot at upsetting.
|Heat vs.||Off.||Def.||Reb.||Coach||Exp.||The Skinny||Prediction|
|Atlanta||Push||Push||Atlanta isn't upset-proof||Hawks in 5|
|Boston||Can Wade carry them past injured C's?||Celtics in 6|
|Chicago||X||X||Thank goodness for home-court advantage, huh?||Heat in 7|
|Cleveland||Not much Miami can do against deeper, better Cavs squad||Cavs in 5|
|Detroit||X||X||X||Remember when this series was a marquee matchup?||Heat in 6|
|Orlando||Heat barely offered resistance in season series||Magic in 5|
|Philadelphia||Push||Push||Push||X||Miami wins… but by the slimmest of margins||Heat in 7|
(Key: "X" = Advantage; blank = disadvantage)