With arguably 3 of the top-15 players in the game, we knew that their cohesion as a unit was inevitable, and that it would be undeniable on the day that everything clicked for the Heat. Contrast this with the the awkward and sometimes uncomfortable season opener a year ago to their Christmas Day opener in which they came out strong to up end the Mavericks in Dallas. Gone were the awkward, “LeBron’s turn, Wade’s turn” offensive sets, replaced with a legitimate looking basketball offense.
Perhaps humbled by their Finals defeat, the Heat ceased the media showboating, gaudy WWE-esque sideshows and apparently have decided to let their on-court actions do the talking instead. No matter what, we’re finally seeing the Heat team that we thought we’d be seeing all along. Clearly all of the fan vitriol and media criticism made the Heat as opposed to breaking them.
However, there may be no greater reason for Miami’s boost in performance than LeBron James. Thus far we have witnessed the best and most complete version of The King to date.
For years basketball analysts and observers have bemoaned and disparaged James’ lack of a low-post game. However, we saw right away in Dallas, Lebron posting up Vince Carter on the lower left block and exhibiting some tangible low-post moves while backing Carter in. Clearly James’ work with Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon over the summer has paid off. He’s added a new dimension to an already elite skill set.
One reason those same people wanted to see him add those skills to his game was that he is an average to below-average three point shooter who attempted several threes per game. A player with LeBron’s athletic and physical gifts settling for long jumpers instead of using those attributes was frustrating, but he’s been able to increase his efficiency so far this season by improving his shot selection. Through 2 games LeBron had attempted zero 3-pointers, and shot 60% from the field. This trend carried into Wednesday night’s game in Charlotte and attempted zero 3’s while shooting 56.5% in 39 minutes.
In short, arguably the league’s best player has found new ways to become more efficient and dangerous while still being faster and stronger than anyone at his position, in addition to being an elite defender.
Really, you can count all of the two-way players that are equally physically elite in the NBA on one hand. Consider the fact that his low-post game will only improve with more reps and LeBron James just became the scariest player on the floor in the league at the age of 26.
I know, I know… it’s a long season with a weird schedule and we’re only 3 games in, but when you include the previous season’s body of work, you have an OK sample size to work with. Although the Heat’s success will likely be determined in part by the likes of Eddy Curry, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers, they appear to have other capable parts like Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier to support the Big 3.
Moreover, if they can occasionally get performances like Norris Cole’s 20-point performance off the bench against the Celtics (where he scored 14 of his 20 points in the 4th quarter) the Heat will be difficult to defeat 4 times in a 7 game series. To be honest, it’s difficult to imagine any team not from Chicago or Oklahoma posing a true threat to Miami; barring injury or catastrophic collapse, of course.
Obviously no team has ever won a championship after the first three games of the regular season, but when a team that has been through as much on-court adversity as it has off the court, with as much talent as they have and are better by the experience– it’s at least worth noting.
Derek is a life-long Minnesota Timberwolves and basketball fan who
covers the team for 612Sports.net. His work has also been featured on
several other sites and can be found on Twitter (@Derek612). When not
writing, he is also a college student and enjoys coaching youth
basketball in his free time.