Are The Miami Heat Championship Contenders Now?

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The Miami Heat have started this offseason by making four big moves, and they’re not even done making roster moves as there are still players who interest them. We do know how the roster looks since adding Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire via free agency.

Ira Winderman, from the Sun Sentinel, detailed how the roster looks at this point:

PG: Goran Dragic, Mario Chalmers, and Shabazz Napier

SG: Dwyane Wade, Gerald Green, Josh Richardson

SF: Luol Deng, Justise Winslow, Zoran Dragic

PF: Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Amar’e Stoudemire

C: Hassan Whiteside, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem

(Yes, I was surprised to see him call Zoran Dragic a SF as well)

That’s a very deep roster. Definitely deeper than the Cavs’ roster that had made the Championship last year. As Ira noted, Tyler Johnson and James Ennis are not even listed there and the Heat have every intention of keeping them on. That’s where dealing Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen comes into play to afford them the chance to dump cap space and create room for those two.

So, it’s safe to assume that roster moves are still to be made.

But, we still can look at the roster now and determine if the Heat are good enough to be considered in the talks as ‘Championship contenders’.

This past year, the Miami Heat unfortunately did not make the playoffs as we all know. Now, they are in the conversation for Championship contention? As I said, that’s a very complex and early question to be asking at this point, but if Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade can remain healthy, it might not be so foreign to think that this is a possibility. That is a gigantic IF though.

The 2007-2008 Boston Celtics were the last team to win an NBA Championship after failing to make the playoffs in the prior season, so it’s not like it hasn’t happened before. The Oklahoma City Thunder have been considered in contention for a championship this season and they missed out on the playoffs last season, so why can’t the Heat?

The Eastern Conference is still extremely weak and hasn’t improved that significantly. You could argue that the Knicks and Hornets (along with the Heat) were the teams that didn’t make the playoffs yet improved enough to warrant them consideration as playoff contenders. The Knicks and Hornets making the playoffs might be a bit of wishful thinking at this point, but they will definitely be in contention.

The next question that must be asked is what teams were good last year that were weakened with their losses to create room in the playoff picture.

The Wizards, Hawks, and Nets were the three teams that made the playoffs last year that lost at least one key player.The Hawks were first in the East last year and while they lost their top defender in DeMarre Carroll, should have no problem with making the Playoffs again. The Wizards lost their late game specialist in Paul Pierce and will most likely lose Nene but are still young and should still earn themselves a spot in the Playoffs as John Wall will continue to improve as a leader in Washington. So, that leaves Brooklyn who lost Deron Williams and continue to get older and older. The Heat can easily replace the Nets or even the Celtics, who are still very young, in the Playoffs.

Miami has 3 championships in the last 9 years. Those who say the Heat can’t win without LeBron are very wrong. The Warriors and Spurs have already proved that a team could beat a LeBron led team with good passing, defense, and shooting. Now the problem is that LeBron hasn’t missed out on the Finals in what seems like forever. The Heat, if they play to their fullest potential, might be able to knock out LeBron in the Conference Finals to stop him from making his 6th straight NBA Finals appearance.

Again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

It’ll be key for the Heat to get off to a good start. The chemistry might be off at first as the first game of the season will be the very first time that Dragic, Bosh, Deng, Whiteside, and Wade are all on the court together. Can Bosh work well with Whiteside and vice versa? Will Dragic continue to work the pick & roll well with Hassan Whiteside? Can Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh remain healthy?

So many questions, but there’s still so much time.

If I had to give a simple answer to the question, “Are the Miami Heat championship contenders right now?”, I would say yes. The Eastern Conference is too weak and only a couple of teams will truly be able to have a shot at Cleveland.

Maybe the Heat are one of those teams.