Cleveland to Miami. It was a move that LeBron James felt he had to make. He needed help, needed to be surrounded by a stronger supporting cast, and needed to be paired with another superstar (or two) if he was going to start winning all those championships he was destined to win.
LeBron left Cleveland after his team was bounced in the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals by the Boston Celtics. That series gained a degree of infamy on the basis of LeBron’s mysterious disappearing act in Game 5, where it appeared that he shut it down and accepted the fact that the Celtics had the stronger team. “The Decision” that followed came during the summer after that series, with LeBron picking the Miami Heat over a number of other suitors in order to form an unstoppable wrecking crew.
Pat Riley and Dwayne Wade sold the dream to LeBron and he brought his immense talents to South Beach, with Chris Bosh joining them to form their own “Big 3”. No longer would James have to carry such a heavy workload or be saddled with inferior teammates. In theory, each would take turns dominating the action and closing out games. The Heat’s complimentary players would flourish due to all the attention being focused on the “Big 3”, stretching the floor and making teams pay for their double-teams. Seemed like the perfect situation.
We are now in the second year of the Miami experiment, and to the surprise of many it hasn’t gone as smoothly as anticipated. LeBron is still vying for that elusive first championship, and his team is currently in the midst of a dogfight with the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Having watched the majority of the Heat’s games against the Knicks, Pacers, and the Celtics in these playoffs, it is amazing to watch the level of effort LeBron has to exert on a nightly basis to cover up for the ineptitude of his teammates and make the games close. It got me thinking; taking Wade out of the equation, is his supporting cast in Miami any better than the one he played with during his last year in Cleveland?
2009-2010 Cavs: Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas
2011-2012 Heat: Joel Anthony and Ronny Turiaf
Advantage: Push. Shaq (38 at the time) and Big Z (34) were clearly on their last legs during the Cavs playoff run that year, while Anthony and Turiaf provide the Heat with energy and hustle plays but no offense to speak of. These players seem to net out, as even in his advanced state Shaq could still score (11.5 PPG in the playoffs) but was a complete liability on defense, whereas the Heat’s centers can defend but are liabilities on offense.
2009-2010 Cavs: J.J. Hickson, Antawn Jamison, Jamario Moon, Anderson Varejao
2011-2012 Heat: Chris Bosh (has missed the last nine playoff games), Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, James Jones
Advantage: If the Bosh-ster were playing this would be a no-brainer, but with him on the shelf I’d go push again. UD and Varejao are both grinders who’s overall contributions mirror each other, while Jamison’s 2010 playoff stats (15.3 PPG) exceed the combined efforts of Battier (5.2 PPG) and Miller (5.7 PPG). At this stage of his career Battier will make the occasional three from the corner, but he mostly brings to the table an inflated defensive reputation. Miller has some good games and bad, but more often than not is laboring up and down the court like the old guy at the “Y”.
2009-2010 Cavs: Mo Williams, Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, Anthony Parker
2012-2012 Heat: Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole
Advantage: Chalmers has been impressive lately, driving to the rim and gradually becoming the team’s third option on offense. Still, at this stage of his career I’d narrowly take the Williams/West 2010 combo over him.
Either way you look at it, there isn’t that much of a difference in talent between the players LeBron has had to go into battle with over the last few years. Sadly, the only distinguishing factor between the two rosters is D-Wade, one of the top players in the entire NBA. It is impossible to win the title solely on the efforts of two men – James and Wade are playing heavy minutes and doing more of everything in Bosh’s absence. LeBron in particular is playing like a man possessed for 3+ quarters each game, in some cases even guarding the opposing teams “bigs” down low while leading the Heat in rebounding. Even if they make it to the Finals, is Miami a strong enough team from top to bottom to beat the Spurs or the Thunder?
Bosh is still listed as day to day and the Heat are hoping he returns to the lineup for tomorrow night’s pivotal Game 5. Who knows what kind of impact he will have or how long it will take him to get back into the flow of things. At this juncture, the Heat must feel that even a Bosh that isn’t entirely 100% healthy is a better option than the players they are currently rolling out there.
LeBron left Cleveland to play with a stronger supporting cast and have an easier time on his quest for championships. He is still working as hard/f not harder than he was with the Cavs, and aside from Wade is still searching for the helps he needs.