Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Ex-player and GM and current NBA analyst Steve Kerr has his doubts about the Heat getting out of the East. Do you? If so, what are your doubts?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Very slight doubts, but they’re still my favorite to win the East. Any reservations I have stem from improvements in Indiana, Chicago and Brooklyn. But I’m not buying the whole “it’s exhausting to keep pushing to titles” stuff as reason enough for Miami to fall short. They have refined and polished their roster and approach each season since the 2010 free-agency bonanza, and have tweaked things just enough to feel fresh (though I’m no Michael Beasley fan). Mostly, I think it’s hard to overestimate LeBron James‘ sheer force of will and talent right now.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: There’s always doubts: Dwyane Wade‘s health, Greg Oden‘s capability to contribute, an injury to a key player. And obviously, Indiana, Chicago and Brooklyn are primed to pounce. But, the Heat have LeBron James at the height of his power and seeking the first three-peat since the Shaq-Kobe Lakers more than a decade ago and Michael Jordan‘s Bulls twice before that. Once Michael got the Bulls out of the East in 1991, how many times did he fail to do it again? Once, and put a giant, stinking asterisk next to 1995. Am I saying that LeBron in his prime will always find a way to get his team into The Finals? I suppose I am.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Doubt is fair because year after year of being the best and having everyone aiming for you adds up. That emotional fatigue can come into play. The health of Dwyane Wade for the long haul is another doubt. But the Heat are also still the team to beat in the East. They will be my pick.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I have doubts, but less for the Heat than for any other contender. Kerr’s point about the durability of Wade and Bosh is valid, and Ray Allen and Shane Battier are also a year older. But the Pacers will still be somewhat limited offensively, the Knicks have their defensive issues, and durability is also a question in Brooklyn. Chicago is getting Derrick Rose back and Jimmy Butler has a world of potential, but they’re still missing that terrific bench that they had two seasons ago. So while “the field” in the East is stronger, there’s not a single team that I would pick over Miami at this point.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Well, obviously the road for the Heat to get out of the East is more difficult than it was a season ago, when the Heat were within one game of not making it to The Finals. They’ve also lost Mike Miller, who was seemingly held together with athletic tape but turned in several big performances. If anyone, I think Indiana might get in Miami’s way, as they actually have a bench now, although I also think they’re going to be taken much more seriously than they were a season ago. Miami doesn’t have the flexibility to make any huge personnel moves, and who knows what Greg Oden is able to contribute. But Miami does have two things that nobody can take from them: 1) Experience and 2 ) The best player in the world, LeBron James.
Karan Madhok, NBA India: Steve Kerr has cited exhaustion and injury concerns for Wade and Bosh amongst the reasons to be skeptical. Sure, those are legitimate doubts, but is there any contender in the East without serious doubts? None of the contenders — the Bulls (Rose’s form post-injury), Nets (age), Knicks (depth), or Pacers (inexperience) — are not sure-shots to win in the East. And in a conference riddled with questions, the answer will most likely again be the league’s best team that features its best player: the Miami Heat and LeBron James.
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: Is doubting the champions the right thing to do? No. Is doubting the team that has won two straight rings the right thing to do? Hell no. I believe that the reigning champion team is always the favorite for the title. In this case my belief is even stronger, as we are talking about the Miami Heat. LeBron’s Miami Heat.
Guillermo Garcia Arroyo, NBA Espana: I agree in terms with Steve Kerr’s opinion. I have a lot of doubts about Miami’s chances of ‘three-peating’. In the last Finals we saw the Spurs, not the most physical team in the League, come within a few seconds of a title. Even in the Eastern Finals we saw how a big man like Roy Hibbert put Miami in a lot of trouble. I think the Pacers, with players like Hibbert, David West or Luis Scola and with one more year of experience are in a good position to defeat the Heat. Miami will need more from Chris Bosh, whose performances weren’t always as good as expected last season. We cannot forget the Chicago Bulls, a team that gave the Heat fits last season even without D-Rose. Also we have Knicks and Nets as outsiders — great teams with great rosters that will require a great effort, physically and mentally, from the Miami Heat. A great effort that I doubt they can keep up after two seasons at the highest level.