Now that football is over, many South Florida sports fans have begun giving their full attention to the Miami Heat. Sure, you've caught most of their games, but with the Hurricanes and Dolphins out of your life now, it only makes sense that your favorite professional basketball team would get some extra love.
Whether you're one of those people who are just catching up on the Heat, or you've been living and dying with their over dribble since training camp, the news is all the same: The Miami Heat players aren't half-bad. Actually, they're pretty good, with a chance of being great. That last part is pretty amazing considering there isn't a single player on the Heat's roster who's ever made an NBA All-Star appearance.
As of this week, the Heat is hovering around the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Come playoff time, they certainly can be the top seed in the East. Here is why come June, the Heat could shock the world and make the NBA Finals.
5. Erik Spoelstra is the best coach in the Eastern Conference, and it's not that close. Comparing Boston's Brad Stevens to Erik Spoelstra is insulting. Stevens has accomplished nothing in the NBA and certainly doesn't have the track record of success in clutch moments that Spo does. Unfortunately for Stevens and the Celtics, they don't hang banners for drawing up supercool out-of-bounds plays coming out of a timeout in December.
Cleveland's Tyronn Lue isn't on Spoelstra's level either. His coaching success is a byproduct of LeBron James' greatness. Unlike Lue, Spo has shown he can coach a winner before and after LeBron. When push comes to shove, the Heat has an enormous advantage in the huddle. That matters most in the postseason when you're forced to beat the same team four out of seven times.
4. The Heat's depth and versatility will help the team match up well with anyone. The NBA playoffs are a lot about matchups. When you need to defeat the same team four times in two weeks, coaching chess often makes the difference. Heat fans can tell you better than anyone that sometimes winning a 98-97 game is all about role players shutting down the other team's shooters in
Miami has a bit of everything on the roster. If a team like the Wizards wants to play small ball, the Heat can send in Richardson with Dragic and Winslow. If the Cavs want to go big, the Heat can pair Bam Adebayo with Hassan Whiteside. There are even bodies to stop LeBron.
The Heat might not be elite in any one spot, but the team is above average almost everywhere. That will matter later.
3. The Heat has Hassan Whiteside, and the rest of the Eastern Conference definitely does not. Whiteside hasn't had the most amazing season, but when May comes around, none of that will be important. All that will matter when the Heat takes on the Wizards, Cavs, Celtics, or whomever else is who is on the court at that time and how they play at the time.
When the time comes, few teams, if any, have what it takes to equalize an athletic, seven-foot center like Whiteside. He is capable of changing the entire game on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball. No other team in the East can say they have the same at the center spot.
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2. Come playoff time, the Heat will have more motivation to win than any other team in the East. Simply put: The Miami Heat isn't taken seriously, even by a large part its fan base. When the playoffs roll around, you can be sure the Heat will be the underdog more often than not. Miami will be the team that has never been there before, unlike the Cavs. It'll be a team with just enough veterans to get the job done. And the Heat will be pissed off enough not to care about which team is supposed to win.
The Heat has more to prove than any other team in the East. This is a squad made up of other teams' spare parts. This is a squad made up of nobodies who became somebodies in Miami. If you put another team in front of them that has even a bit less want than them, that team better be supertalented and bring their A-game.
1. Really, is there anyone who should scare them? It's pretty simple: If you're going to allege the Miami Heat can't possibly represent the East in the NBA Finals, you need to be certain there is a powerhouse team that will beat the Warriors. Which team is that? The Celtics? They're young in many places, and the Heat has already proven capable of beating them this year. The Cavs? Their defense is atrocious, their season is headed in the wrong direction, and they have a broken roster full of has-beens or never-wases.
The Heat can beat them all. The Wizards and Raptors are nothing special. There is no juggernaut in the East this year, and that's the biggest reason to never say never when it comes to Miami playing basketball till mid-June.