The Heat won last year, and with style too - Game 6 was one of the best games in Finals history and Ray Allen showed up as only he can.
However, their playoff run this year was not the same domination as last year. The Heat had two game sevens, and even struggled against a hobbled Chicago despite winning in five games.
The Heat appeared vulnerable to bigger, more physical teams. Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh also looked old, and Lebron was forced to carry the load.
So the Heat are defending champs but not by any means invincible. Here's a list of teams who could threaten the Heat again next season.
This one isn't exactly a shocker. In two playoff series the past two years, there have been thirteen games - each with numerous technical and flagrant fouls, and plenty of smack talk.
The Pacers-Heat series this past year was memorable, and a star was born in Paul George.
Roy Hibbert and David West dominated the Heat. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh both floundered. Considering the series in retrospect, I can only credit Lebron and inconsistency by the Pacers as the reason for the Heat's victory. The Heat might not get so lucky next time.
Derrick Rose is coming back next year, and with a vengeance.
Although some people think he sat out too long, it might be worth the wait. Consider that the last two seasons Rose played, the Bulls got the first seed over the Heat both times and Rose beat out James for an MVP.
Rose has become a smarter player and the Bulls have become a smarter (and better) team with Noah and Butler showing their talent. Against a healthy Bulls, the Heat will struggle.
Having a rich Russian owner has paid off. The starting lineup of Williams, Johnson, Pierce, Garnett, and Lopez is flat out scary.
And with Blatche, Kirilenko, and Terry coming off the bench, the subs aren't too bad either. Although I don't believe this team is the best ever, based on overall talent at every position, that argument could be made.
It has an MVP, multiple All-NBA first teams, Gold Medalists, a Finals MVP, a Sixth Man of the Year, and its coach is an all time great. Are they past their prime? Maybe. But the talent is unquestionable.
San Antonio Spurs
I was debating putting this team on the list because they're a year older, and don't have the athleticism, and Duncan's declining, and... Wait, I've heard this argument the past five years and nothing has changed.
Duncan is still an elite big man, even if he requires more rest. Popovich is the best coach in the league and continues to find diamonds in the rough.
Parker is as good as ever and they are bringing just about everyone back. It's impossible not to include the Spurs.
This team is the least likely team of the ones I mentioned to upset the Heat. They have the talent and we know the Heat struggle with big men (cough, cough Dwight Howard), but I can't see them beating the Heat this first year. They have ability, a great center, and good shooters but I'm not sure how they would deal with Lebron.
Still, if they shut everyone else down and were hitting offensively, they'd stand a chance. Can they beat the Heat? Yes. But they need to do absolutely everything right.
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