The Miami Heat were able to silence all the critics last year.  Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James made it to the NBA Finals in their first two years together, ultimately reaching the pinnacle of the NBA world last summer by defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder for the NBA championship.  There is nothing else anyone can say against LeBron anymore – no doubt he is by far the best player in the world and has no major weaknesses.  The Eastern Conference is full of nice teams, but there’s only one elite squad and that’s the Miami Heat.

If it sounds like I’m optimistic for the Heat, it’s because I am.  This is a team that is undoubtedly the best in the conference and has improved through free agency.  Ray Allen, who still remains as one of the best shooters in the game, is now a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate for his new team in South Beach.  Rashard Lewis, the man who had one of the worst contracts in NBA history, is now bolstering a surprisingly deep Miami Heat bench.  The lack of an above average, or hell, even average center on the team really is overblown. 

They proved last year they can get by with guys like Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem who focus on hustle and defense.  Basically, these guys get the rebounds and start the signature Miami fast breaks.  A lot of people will probably forget that the reason the Heat brought home the championship last season was because of their bench play in the Finals.  Mike Miller and Shane Battier excelled and Mario Chalmers finally became the floor general as their point guard.  Norris Cole showed a lot of promise as a rookie in last year and should solidify himself as the top backup for Chalmers.

If anyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop with the Heat, they are going to be sorely disappointed.  Dwyane Wade rested over the summer instead of playing for the U.S.A. in the Olympics and will have a very limited training camp/preseason.  He may not have the explosiveness he once had, but he’s still a legitimate starting All-Star caliber player and I imagine coach Erik Spoelstra will monitor his minutes to conserve him over the strenuous 82 game season. 

Chris Bosh remains as the most underrated player on this team, which is shocking because he’s an All-Star big man.  He’s an easy punching bag due to his emotional outbursts and well, he does look like a dinosaur. Jurassic Park extra or not, the guy can hit a midrange jumper.  Once you think you’ve stopped Wade and LeBron, Bosh nails a 15-footer and is working on a solid double-double.  When it comes down to it, LeBron James carries this team on his back when he needs to and he does it spectacularly.  He can bring the ball up when Chalmers isn’t playing smart, he’ll play isolation when Wade is missing shots, he can post up when Bosh is having an off game, and can play any position on the floor.  He cannot be stopped on offense once he gets a head of steam and his defensive prowess is awe inspiring sometimes.  Seriously, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched a Heat breakaway off a steal that finished with a fast break dunk for LeBron.  The offense is sexy, but the Miami defense is what makes them championship favorites.

Pat Riley is an evil genius, that’s the only way to explain this immaculate roster.  While teams around the league are pressing to have a team salary under the cap, the Heat are adding impact players at a discount.  You could argue that not a single player on the roster is playing at market value.  LeBron is going to compete for, yet another, MVP award and him, Bosh, and Wade are almost assuredly going to be All-Stars again.  Pat Riley will most likely be Executive of the Year, again, and the Miami Heat will challenge the 65 win plateau and for another NBA championship.

Season Outlook: The Heat will win over 60 games and finish atop the East by 5-10 games.  LeBron James will win another MVP and they will be back in the NBA Finals.

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