C: Joel Anthony/Zydrunas Ilgauskas/Jamaal Magloire/Dexter Pittman
PF: Chris Bosh/Udonis Haslem/Juwan Howard
SF: LeBron James/James Jones/Jerry Stackhouse
SG: Dwyane Wade/Mike Miller/Eddie House
PG: Carlos Arroyo/Mario Chalmers
Head Coach: Erik Spoelstra (2nd season)
2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $69.2 million
Off-Season Grade: A+
It was possible but highly unlikely; a pipedream if you will. If anyone could pull it off, Pat Riley was the guy and South Beach was the place for it happen. That is exactly what transpired this summer when Riley did the unthinkable of getting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to sign for less than the max value and join forces.
You then have to credit Riley for holding his ground the past year and not trading away the expiring contracts on the roster to even have the cap space needed to make such a splash. Even if it meant giving away former second-overall pick Michael Beasley, former first-round pick Daequan Cook, and a first-round selection for next to nothing.
Miami then surrounded the Big Three with the veterans to serve as complementary players to the Big Three. Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem both took less than market value for a shot at winning a title, while Carlos Arroyo and James Jones elected to return to the Heat for the league minimum. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Eddie House were all added to the equation with the hopes that they can play a few minutes a night and embrace their roles.
It has been written a thousand times by a thousand different people; how will the Big Three co-exist? Who will get the ball in the final seconds when the game is on the line? Will the other two be OK not being that guy?
My take is that these three knew what they were getting into when they agreed to play together. If they cannot figure it out, they have nobody to blame but themselves. They have targets on their backs the size of Manu Ginobli's bald spot, and if you do not think that will motivate LeBron, Wade and Bosh to go out every night and try to destroy the competition; I think you are drastically underestimating their desire to win. I mean, if LeBron averages a triple-double, wins MVP, and leads the Heat to a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, isn't that the ultimate F-U to everyone who rained on his parade the past several months?
How effective the supporting cast will be might be the difference between this team winning 60 or 70 games this season. The Heat already suffered a blow when Miller suffered a fracture and torn ligament in his thumb that will reportedly sideline him until January. If the other players can stay healthy, play defense and knock down open shots when they get the looks, that is all that can be asked of them.
Anything less than a NBA Championship will be a disappointment in South Beach. But you cannot deny that this will be one of the most anticipated seasons in quite some time, and the Heat are the main reason why.
Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2011:
We get to find out which aging free agents want to sign with Miami for a shot at winning the NBA title. This is pretty much how the next five summers will shake out for the Heat unless of course this whole LeBron-Wade-Bosh thing blows up.