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Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with the team that, one season removed from 15 wins, is returning to the NBA postseason: the Miami Heat.
The Heat are a team built around the strengths of their best player, Dwyane Wade. Wade is having an MVP caliber season and has done a fantastic job elevating his game this season and staying healthy, leading Miami into the postseason after last season's dreadful performance. Wade leads a talented, if underwhelming, team into the playoffs and the Heat go into the playoffs with upset on their mind. This Heat team has Wade, Udonis Haslem and Dorell Wright (although he hardly plays) remaining from the 2006 NBA championship team, so this is a team with players who know what it takes to win in the postseason. For a team as young as Miami is, that experience is vital to their success. In the playoffs, where the pace is slowed down and the games get more physical, games usually come to key possessions and any team that has a player like Wade with the ball in his hands in crucial situations, the Heat have a chance to win any game that they're in. Dwyane Wade has done a great job expanding his game to include the three point shot, and the Heat actually posses a few shooters that can help stretch the floor in Mario Chalmers, 3-point shootout winner Daequan Cook, Chris Quinn and Yakhouba Diawara.
The Heat are also a unique team, because they can win in grind it out types of games that can put an emphasis on the importance of Dwyane Wade, and they also are a team that is athletic enough to run the floor and play fast with teams that try to use that to their advantage. Players like Wade, Haslem, Michael Beasley, Jamario Moon and Jermaine O'Neal may not be at home underneath the basket, but all of them are capable of scoring inside the paint and taking smaller defenders to the basket if called upon. Offense remains the biggest asset the Heat have.
All things considered, the Heat are a very small team. Playing O'Neal at center may have its advantages on the offensive side because he can knock down 15 foot jump shots and help pull the defense away from the basket, but he gets bullied around by bigger players. Udonis Haslem will be called upon to guard these bigger players when O'Neal can't, but 6'9" is a generous listing for him and there's only so much he can do that undersized. Jamaal Magloire has really fallen off the face of the Earth relevance wise and could give minutes at the center position, but won't be much of a difference maker on either side of the basket.
Also, this is a team that relies too much on Dwyane Wade. He's the only game changer on the Heat, so if they need someone to facilitate he's the one required to do so. If they need a basket, they turn to Wade. If they need someone to run the offense, they turn to Wade. That's going to catch up to them when teams have seven games to zero in on Wade and figure out new strategies to contain him. Other players have to step up, and nobody has emerged as a consistent second option to take some of the pressure off of Wade. Also, this team is prone to turnovers and can fall behind early. When that happens, Wade is the only way that this team can climb back into games. That kind of dependence on one player is dangerous in the playoffs, especially when the Heat fall into helter skelter styles of play.
Why They Will Win It
The Heat have one of the best players in the game, and when you have him, you're capable of winning in the postseason. Dwyane Wade is good for at least a few victories any series and has lifted the play of his teammates this season to the point where they are in the playoffs. The other players on the team understand their roles and really do try their best to fill those roles and they seem comfortable stepping aside for Wade. They're a versatile offensive squad and they follow the leadership of Wade and really give it their all every night that they step onto the floor.
Why They Won't Win It
Even though the team has one of the top five players in the league, they're really talent deprived. They're very young and very small, and those factors matched with total dependence on Wade don't bode well as far as a run to the championship is concerned. They don't have many options at center and don't have any big men aside from Haslem who really thrive in tough, physical situations under the basket. And Haslem is too small to have to do it all by himself. The team has effort and plays hard, but sometimes it comes down to the fact that your opposition has more people to turn to and more ways to attack you than you do.
The Heat go into every single game believing they can win simply by the amazing presence and performance this season of Dwyane Wade. In any one game, Dwyane Wade is more than capable of carrying this squad to a victory and he does so on a consistent basis. He can carry them out of the first round by his grit and determination alone, but it's not plausible to believe that he can single handedly carry this Heat team to a championship. Depending on their draw in the first round, the Heat are capable of making it to the semifinals which is fantastic considering the team that they've fielded this season. Wade has done a tremendous job with this team, but a lack of options and lack of help will do them in against much better teams.
Coming up next: the Philadelphia 76ers.