In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.
What can be said about the Miami Heat that hasn’t been written in hyperbole? It’s like taking a frontpage ad in the New York Times telling people that Columbus arrived in America. It’s world changing news, but it’s 500 years too late.
If you haven’t heard by now and do not own a television, computer, radio, ipod, cell phone, landline phone, never been in a sports bar, don’t have at least one friend with half a brain, never watched half a second of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN U, ESPN Classic, ESPN Does Las Vegas, or just came out of your bomb shelter from 1963, this guy named LeBron, formerly of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who is kind of good at basketball took his talents to South Beach. Not only did he go to South Beach but he took his friend Chris Bosh, formerly of the Toronto Raptors, there, too, while Dwyane Wade re-signed with Miami. Add in Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, and a handful of veterans past their prime that are chasing for a ring and you have a very happy Pat Riley.
This is the kind of “Wouldn’t It Be Awesome If This Could Really Happen” team that immature guys like myself make in NBA2K11. But then it really happened. Kudos to Pat Riley for pulling it off. I’m now convinced Pat Riley could sell high fructose corn syrup to a diabetic. I’m sure in another life Pat Riley was a used car salesman – and a damn good one, too.
Dwyane Wade/LeBron James/Chris Bosh vs Deron Williams/Andrei Kirilenko/Al Jefferson
Call me delusional. Call me crazy. Call me a homer. But the Jazz can match up against Miami. Don’t believe me? Look at this:
Deron Williams 6’3″ 209 lbs. vs Dwyane Wade 6’4″ 220 lbs.
Let’s first focus on this strictly in a defensive point of view. Deron Williams has quietly put himself in the discussion as one of the best perimeter defenders at his position. We have seen him shut down Brandon Roy, Chris Paul, and other good perimeter players. He plays big for his position. He offensively can compete with Dwyane Wade on most nights. While he is not as explosive as a scorer he is a smart point guard who can get the Jazz’s offense humming like a well oiled machine of back doors and cuts. Dwyane Wade can take over a game offensively. We saw it in the Boston series in last season’s playoffs. But with Williams guarding him as well as Raja Bell don’t count on it happening.
Al Jefferson 6’10″ 280 lbs. vs Chris Bosh 6’11″ 235 lbs.
Bosh is a top 5 PF in this league. He is long. He is quick. He has a silky smooth midrange game too. Unfortunately for Bosh he will be facing another top 5 PF when he faces up against Al Jefferson. If Al Jefferson wasn’t playing for the Toyota Timberwolves the last two seasons he would be in a discussion as a top 3 PF. Bosh is facing a guy who outweighs him by 45 pounds. If you don’t think that is a big weight disparity then go to your local gym, pick up a 45 pound weight, throw it at your friend, and then see how he fares. Jefferson may be outhustled a couple times in transition but Jefferson is going to love coming off a screen to an isolation that leaves just him and Bosh down low.
Advantage: Big Al
Andrei Kirilenko 6’9″ 235 lbs. vs LeBron James 6’8″ 250 lbs.
This is the matchup that the Jazz will focus on all night. If Deron Williams and Al Jefferson are focused and on their game, LeBron can become their main concern. The key will be making LeBron feel like he has to do it by himself. Andrei Kirilenko has put more weight on this year and looks to be in better condition but LeBron is still LeBron. He’s the reigning MVP and can go into God-mode at any stage of the game. Kirilenko’s job will be pestering him, causing turnovers, and preventing LeBron from getting his teammates involved. Turn this game into LeBron vs. Utah. If he is able to get Dwayne Wade & Chris Bosh to work in complete harmony then they will have formed Voltron. Game Over.
Advantage: LeBron James
This daunting matchup is not as bad as it would seem. Yes, this is still 3 of the 5 starting U.S.A. dream team players vs Utah but don’t forget that D-Will was part of that Dream Team, Kirilenko led his Russian team to Euro gold, and Al Jefferson might be given a long look by the U.S. team after this season.
Which leads us to …
Jazz Bench vs Heat Bench
This is where this game will be won. If the Jazz starters can play sound defensively then it’ll be up to the starters to play assassins to the Heat’s aging bench. Allow me to list those on the Jazz bench who’ll be fighting for minutes:
- C.J. Miles
- Gordon Hayward
- Earl Watson
- Mehmet Okur*
- Kyrylo Fesenko
- Ronnie Price
- Jeremy Evans
Now let’s compare that to those who’ll be fighting for minutes on Miami’s bench:
- Udonis Haslem
- Zydrunas Ilgauskus
- James Jones
- Eddie House
- Patrick Beverly
- Carlos Arroyo
You know when you watch The Discovery Channel and they have a documentary on how lions hunt? Let me give you a quick summation:
Lions don’t hunt alone. They work in a group known as a pride. They are very patient hunters. They lack the stamina for a long drawn out attack. So they must wait for the perfect time to attack. Say they are hunting zebra. They will follow the herd and make a target on their weakest herd members. Who are the weak members of the zebra herd? The newborns and the old frail elders. This pride of lions will follow the zebra until the strongest of this herd are tired and need rest. So when the leaders of the herd of zebra come to a pond of water to get their much needed rest that’s when the pride of lions attack. They go for the weak of the herd and make them dinner. It’s an unforeseen attack. Most of the pride are hidden in the brush. They work in an ambush.
What does The Discovery Channel have to do with basketball? The Jazz’s bench will be Utah’s pride of lions. The Jazz will wait patiently and weather the storm of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh until they will inevitably have to get their rest. Miami will then have to send out their young bucks and frail elders. That’s when the Jazz will unleash their pride of lions on Miami’s weak, their newborns and frail old veterans.
If Utah’s bench comes ready to attack then they can put their team in a position late in the game to win it.