Posted Jul 9 2010 12:00AM
Dwyane Wade is one of the three best players in the NBA and Chris Bosh is an All-Star big man. As one of the best duos in the league, they would have made the Miami Heat a top-four team in the Eastern Conference. But now that LeBron James has decided to join them in Miami, the Heat immediately jump to the top of the conference hierarchy.
The Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic have no choice but to find some way to get better, because the level that they played at last season may not be enough to top the star power in Miami.
And clearly, this alliance will have much bigger implications than the trades that brought Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to Boston.
When Allen, Garnett and Paul Pierce played their first game together in November of 2007, they were 32, 33 and 30 years old respectively. They made an immediate impact and won a title in their first season together, but we knew at the time that their shelf life would be limited.
When James, Bosh and Wade play their first game together this fall, they'll be 25, 26 and 28. That's the scariest part of this. They're all in their primes and they're set to play together for five years. If ever a roster of five players could look like a dynasty, it's the squad that Pat Riley has put together right now.
"It gives me the best opportunity to win and to win for multiple years," James said of his decision.
It doesn't matter who Pat Riley gets to fill out the roster. Yes, they need a center, a point guard and a couple of shooters. But competent players will want to play with the new Big Three. And by playing with Miami's Big Three, they'll be better players than they were elsewhere.
Do the skills of James, Wade and Bosh perfectly complement each other? No. They'll all need to get more comfortable playing without the ball. But talent is talent. And even the best defenses in the league will not be able to stop three stars of their caliber.
Defensively, the Heat have the potential to be a terror. If Erik Spoelstra was able to turn last year's band of expiring contracts into a top-10 defensive team, he can take the athleticism of James, Wade and Bosh, and put them in the top three defensively. They will be as disruptive as they were together in the 2008 Olympics, and they will convert countless steals into easy buckets.
If James had decided to stay in Cleveland, there would have been a nice balance between the Cavs, Celtics, Heat and Magic in the East. Four teams with four different identities and a seemingly equal shot to get to the Finals. The Eastern Conference playoffs would have been a dogfight after the first round.
But with two of the three best players in the league playing together and another All-Star at their side, the Heat are the clear favorites to challenge the Lakers for the NBA title in 2011. Kobe Bryant can't help but take notice.
Meanwhile, the Cavs fall back into obscurity and must find some way to recover and retool without their hometown hero. With Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams and Anderson Verajao, they still have some good players on their roster, but as currently constructed, they will struggle to qualify for the playoffs.
The Magic were the best team in the NBA for much of last season, but they will have a tough time matching up with the Heat on the perimeter. The Celtics were the ultimate "team" in the playoffs, but now look older than ever, with their defensive guru on the bench in Chicago.
The Bulls will be the up-and-comer. Derrick Rose is already a star after just two years in the league, and Carlos Boozer gives him one of the best pick-and-roll partners he could have. The Knicks, Nets and Sixers will improve, the Hawks will still win their share of games, and we should never sleep on Scott Skiles' Bucks.
None of these teams will back down, of course. The 2011 Eastern Conference finals are still 10 months away and no one will concede the East to the new big three.
Until we see how James, Wade and Bosh play together, nothing is for certain. But it's clear that the balance of power has shifted toward South Florida.
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