Miami has to upgrade their front court, period. Since Michael Jordan won his last NBA title with the Chicago Bulls in 1998, all who became champions next were teams with solid front courts. It has become a proven formula that the teams with the more superior big men win the Larry O’Brien trophies. It is those teams with the quality big men that won championships: David Robinson and Tim Duncan with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007 (latter two years Duncan by his lonesome), Shaquille O’Neal with the Lakers in 2000 – 2002 and him with Alonzo Mourning in Miami in 2006, Rasheed and Ben Wallace with the Pistons in 2004, and the list goes on. Although having quality big men alone isn’t enough to win it all because you will have to surround them with great stars, long-range shooters and all-around utility players, solidifying the frontcourt is a must these post-Jordan days in the League to win titles. Sure, Kobe Bryant is still today’s Michael Jordan, but he never won any one of his titles without at least one quality big man (he had Shaq and Pau Gasol). And yeah, although LeBron and company did not have a really dominant big man, they were fortunate to win last season because the OKC Thunder did not have Finals experience, even if they had Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. The latter team was inexperienced and immature. In the Heat’s case, experience and maturity prevailed. With the Lakers, it’s a different issue. Both teams are mature and have Finals experience. And the Lakers have more.
Miami made a significant upgrade on their backcourt shooters earlier this offseason by adding Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis; unfortunately, they did not see the Howard trade coming to Los Angeles. Miami should be thankful they have Chris Bosh, but sorry to say that when compared to Dwight Howard, the former is soft. Bosh is good, but he sometimes is like a small forward playing in a big man’s body. Bosh is already considered the Heat’s best big man but he is not enough to counter Howard. To a certain extent, people will agree that LeBron James will match-up better to Howard than Bosh will do. With the combo of Howard and Gasol, the Lakers front court is deadly. Both players are great shot blockers, double-figure rebounders, and can yield high field goal percentages. With Steve Nash playing alongside them, it makes them more deadly. The collection of Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, and Dexter Pittman will not be enough to counter the Lakers’ frontcourt. Not to mention both Haslem and Anthony are undersized. Other than Howard and Gasol, Los Angeles still has two good rebounders in Jamison and promising big man Jordan Hill.
Sure, the Heat have a plethora of three point-shooters in James, Allen, Lewis, Miller, Chalmers, Battier and Jones, but the Lakers also have them in Bryant, Nash, World Peace (now known as Military Industrial Complex), Jamison, Blake, Duhon, and Meeks to match. Comes crunch time (panic time) in the Finals, what instills fear to the hearts of players is shot blockers in the middle. They will avoid aggressive drives to the basket for the fear of getting their shots blocked and will shoot uncalculated long three-point shots that will either make or most of the time, miss. With Howard and Gasol together and if Coach Mike Brown plays Jamison alongside them, it’s going to be difficult for Miami to win the rebounding wars down the paint. James can outpower Howard in rebounding, but he is more of a point forward so don’t expect him to clean the glass that much because he will be tasked to facilitate the offense more. It is Bosh, Anthony, Haslem, and Pittman who will be expected to clean the glass for them. With the whole Heat lineup chipping in rebounds and blocks, it won’t be enough with Howard and Gasol boards and blocks numbers combined. Howard’s size and brute strength alone is hard to stop. And his presence will only make Gasol more confident and aggressive because the best big man in the League is looking out for him.
We also have to point out that during crunch time, players are more likely to stick to their natural roles, so obviously if you’re a point guard, you will more likely to dribble and pass than do a big man’s chores and if a center or power forward, block shots and rebound more because that is the instinct. True, versatile players like Battier and Miller can rebound and block shots, but don’t expect them to consistently take rebounds away from Howard and Gasol for latter two will win the battle of the boards and swat the ball to the floor or the crowd. And if Nash decides to throw the lob pass to Howard multiple times, what can Miami do? I don’t really expect him getting embarrassed by the any of the Heat’s big men.
This is a mind-opening post for the Miami Heat: A USA Men’s National Team can get away with a lack of quality big men in the Olympics, but in the NBA, it’s a necessity to have to win it all. Pat Riley and Coach Erik Spoelstra have to make some moves, trades or free agent acquisitions whichever, in order to counter the Lakers’ roster specifically their frontcourt if they aspire to become NBA champions by the end of the 2012-2013 season.