As I watched the Miami Heat dismantle the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday Night, one thing became abundantly clear. The Heat are one of the deepest and most complete teams in the history of the NBA.
While Milwaukee is throwing out Gustavo Ayon and whatever Ish they have at the end of the bench, Miami’s puts in the 8th best three point shooter in NBA history, Rashard Lewis, as well as the creator of Let it Fly Energy Drink, Mike Miller, to mop up.
After the game, Samuel Dalembert commented that he would probably be playing for the Miami Heat next season. This of course, was a possibility until he decided to sign with Milwaukee for more Bucks. This got me thinking, is there anybody on the Bucks I would take on the Heat if I were Pat Riley? Monta Ellis is a better player than Mario Chalmers, but would a volume shooter be able to work as a facilitator for the Big 3?
Would a team comprised of the best players from the rest of the Eastern Conference playoff teams beat the Miami Heat in a seven game series?
Anybody picking anybody but the Heat to come out of the East has inside knowledge of an impending catastrophic knee injury to LeBron James or they are delusional (I’m looking at you Knicks fan). The fact that Vegas has the odds for the Heat to win the East at 1/22,392 tells you the house thinks it’s not a matter of if, but in how many games, it’ll take Miami to get to the Finals.
Let’s play a little fantasy basketball and see if the best remaining 15 players in the East would beat the Heat.
I selected three from each position and treated it like an All-Star team, where role players don’t really exist. I also factored in current health. Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose, we’ll see you next year.
Guard: Mario Chalmers (Norris Cole)
Guard: Dwyane Wade (Ray Allen)
Forward: LeBron James (Shane Battier, Mike Miller)
Forward: Udonis Haslem (Rashard Lewis)
Center: Chris Bosh (Chris Anderson, Joel Anthony)
East Playoff All Stars
Guard: Deron Williams (Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings)
Guard: Paul George (Joe Johnson, JR Smith)
Forward: Carmelo Anthony (Josh Smith, Paul Pierce)
Forward: Carlos Boozer (Kevin Garnett, Al Horford)
Center: Brook Lopez (Tyson Chandler, Roy Hibbert)
(A case could be made for Luol Deng and Jeff Teague and after a solid game one, Jeff Green, but at that point you are really splitting hairs.)
At first glance, one trend jumps out. This is a horribly inefficient group of basketball players.
They are a collection of volume shooters facing a Heat team that has a knack for making good players have bad nights. How many of those “All-Stars” haven’t been described as frustrating at some point in their career? (That should be Josh Smith’s middle name).
I am not a Hollingerian sabermetrician by any means, but I understand the value of advanced stats as long as somebody else is doing the math. One of the best ways to figure out a player’s efficiency is one of the simpler “advanced” stats, PPS (Points per shot). A lot of players put up 27 points, but they do it on 11-30 shooting.
If you look at the PPS entering the action Tuesday night, an interesting trend unfolded. They ranked pretty much in the same order they ranked during the regular season. During the season, LeBron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade ranked 1-2-3 with Nets teammates Brook Lopez and Deron Williams at 5-6 with Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony not too far behind.
In the playoffs (entering Tuesday) Chris Birdman Andersen went 4 for 4 and scored 10 points, but LeBron scored 27 points on only 11 shots. LeBron had one of the most efficient seasons in the history of the league. The way he is locked in, If LeBron and Savanna Brinson wanted to become the Duggars and have 19 kids and counting, they would only need to do it 17 more times in their lives.
Besides the two Heat players mentioned, the top 20 also includes Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis (who doesn’t really count because he took only one shot, which he made.) On the flip side, Paul George is the only one to crack the top 20, but his performance is indicative of why even this superteam would have trouble against the Heat.
George was lauded for his triple double in Game 1 against the Hawks, notching 23 points, 11 boards, and 2 assists. But a look at the numbers reveal George’s triple double was so ugly, it makes Jason Kidd’s 11-11-10 TD’s look like Mila Kunis. George actually went 3-17 from the field, a whopping 23%, with most of his points coming from the line. (He bounced back game 2 with a better shooting night, but it still took him 21 shots to get 27 points.)
Lopez, Pierce, Wade, Jennings, Williams and Anthony mostly matched their regular season output with the exception of Wade who went down and Jennings who jumped up. Of course that would remedy itself in game two, as Wade scored 21 on 14 shots while Jennings scored 8 on 15 shots. Overall the assembled team had 1.1 PPS, shooting 44% while the Heat shot 56% and had a 1.6 PPS.
All the efficiency numbers aside, there are several reasons why the Miami Heat could beat the East All-Stars in a 7 game series. If you consider the Heat’s Big 3 and the combination of Paul George, Melo and Boozer a wash, you are left with the positions that have always been singled out as the weak points, point guard and center. Until the acquisition of the Birdman that is.
Chris Andersen is not better than any of the three centers on the other side, but his style of play is problematic for guys like Lopez and Hibbert, bigs who don’t get as many rebounds as their size indicates they should and Tyson Chandler has his own offensive limitations.
While Deron Williams is arguably the best point guard of the group, if the Heat/Bucks series is any indicator, the combination of Chalmers and Cole wouldn’t have a problem with Ellis and Jennings.
In the end, the East Super Team is a collection of streaky shooters who like to shoot A LOT. If they are struggling, they like to shoot themselves out of the cold. In some cases, it works, like when the Knicks beat the Heat in their first two match ups on their way to the November championship. Shooters got hot, and I would expect that to happen in a series like this. The problem is, it would have to be over 7 games and against a team that is in an unprecedented groove, losing only TWICE in the last forty-something games.
Miami has a strong defensive unit and some of the best three point shooters in league history, so I see this going Miami’s way. Accounting for the ability of the All-Stars to alternate the hot hand, I would fully expect it to be 7 close games.
Miami in 7.
Patrick Sicher (@PSicher) is a staff writer for PageQ. He also writes for BlackSportsOnline.com and SportsHandicapping.com, where being white and too broke to gamble hasn’t stopped him from becoming a respected voice in the sports media world.