Wait a second. This is good. The best player in the league is going to come play for my team! So, I put my pride aside and welcomed him in the hopes that he would bring "Not 5.. Not 6... Not 7..." but just a few championships. When last season started I was talking with my best friend Zach, who is a Lebron fan, thus now a Miami Heat fan. We didn't think that they would win it all in their first year, even with all of that talent. It takes time to create chemistry with so many dominating playing styles on one team. We set the over-under at one and a half season. That means that this is the big year! It's time to avenge the NBA Finals loss to Dirk & the Mavs.
I think that teams learned a lot with Lebron's decision. You can't just wait for your star players contract to expire and hope you can resign them. If it looks like they want to leave then you need to get something for them while you can. Utah showed this last season when they traded Derron Williams. Likewise when Denver shipped Carmelo to the MSG. Two superstars, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, arguable the best in the league at their positions, are both in the final years of their contracts. Like Lebron, D. Will, and Carmelo, CP3 and Superman are both expected to switch teams next summer if not traded prior to.
Will New Orleans bite the bullet and pull the trigger on a trade? Will Orlando play the waiting game and hope they can convince the 'center' of their franchise to stay with the team? While CP3 is a great point guard, Dwight Howard is as good as they come, and he is all Orlando has. I think if New Orleans trades Paul they could still be competitive. If Orlando trades Howard they set their team back 5 years.
Free Agents (that the Heat should consider):
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, teams can start talking contracts with free agents starting Monday at 10 a.m. If you look at where the Heat were lacking last season you immediately go to the Center position. While PG is a bit weak, Lebron and Dwade do enough ball handling for the team to focus on bringing in a solid center. I'm probably the biggest Joel Anthony fan out there but it's clear Miami can improve.
If you look at all the mockups for the top free agents around the league, almost every site has Denver's Nene at the top of the list. He provides a physical body to defend the biggest of the bigs and has a soft touch around the rim. He would provide an offensive option at center that Miami hasn't seen since the Shaq experiment. Oh yeah, didn't we win a ring that year?
Another option might be Dallas' Tyson Chandler. His 7-1 presence would be a big asset as current starter Joel Anthony tops out at 6-9. He has the potential to be a shot blocking master and can provide an improved offensive game. While this sounds good, it is most likely that he will resign with the defending champs... Unless he realizes that he will win the next 3 championships if he signs with Miami.
Miami has got a few things going for them. Lebron. DWade. Chris Bosh. South Beach. Enough said. This is the type of team that players want to come to and try to win a championship. Because of this, I would look out for a few of the following names: Tracy McGrady, Jeff Foster, Mike Dunleavy. Players like this are willing to take smaller contracts in order to play for a winner. And with the contracts of the Big-3, Miami will need to sign a few of these minimum contract guys.
Some other players that I like that might fit well in Miami are Rodney Stuckey, Greg Oden, and Chauncey Billups. All are long shots as they will all probably be resigned by their teams, but one can hope.
I'm trying to be as unbiased as possible here but I agree with all the oddsmakers that Miami should be the favorites to win it all this coming season. While the lockout may help some of the older teams like Boston, LA, and Dallas, I still think that with a year of experience playing together, Lebron and Dwyane are poised for an exciting season. Although they won't be able to break the single season wins record (due to the shortened season), I believe that they can win more games than they did last season. 58-8 sounds a little crazy but I wouldn't be surprised if the Heat go on a 20+ game winning streak at some point. Teams will be playing upwards of 20 games a month, giving the athletic teams an advantage. With Miami having arguably the two most athletic players in the league, I think they will be just fine.
I'm not going to make my official prediction until Christmas Eve, because I have a feeling things are going to get a little crazy with players moving all around in the coming weeks. But, I think if the Heat are able to pick up a solid player at the Center position to compliment the Big-3, they will again be serious contenders to make it back to the NBA Finals. It's not going to be easy making it out of the East with teams like Chicago and New York boasting strong lineups. Things could get really interesting if the Knicks are able to lure either CP3 or Dwight Howard in a trade.