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Hey LeBron, want to come back to South Beach?

LeBron James. Is he headed back to South Beach? (Image: NBA)
Roar Guru
31st March, 2016
3

The NBA world is saturated by ‘news’ on the biggest global basketball brand of our time, LeBron James.

The Eastern Conference gets a bit passé sometimes when all we hear is ‘The King’ this, and ‘the Cavs’ that. The casual observer could well be mistaken for thinking that James and crew are going to sweep through the East.

Unfortunately for them, that’s not going to happen this season. Actually they are not even going to win the conference, and the NBA Finals will not involve LeBron for the first time in seven years.

Not only are the Cavaliers struggling with consistency and LeBron’s insistence on attention seeking, but there is another very good team that will be waiting for them in either the second round or conference finals who matches them in every area.

The Miami Heat are proven in the playoffs and despite missing their best player in Chris Bosh they match up very well with Cleveland.

They concede the fourth-least points per game and rank seventh in defensive efficiency, as well as having a winning road record, which will be crucial should they face Cleveland.

The team defensive numbers are impressive, but perhaps more importantly they have four players in Luol Deng, Joe Johnson, Justice Winslow and Josh Richardson capable of guarding ‘The King’.

When you add this flexibility to the ability of Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic to attack the basket, the dominance of Hassan Whiteside and coaching prowess of Eric Spoelstra, you have a side who can win the East.

Cleveland rank last among all likely playoff teams in their defensive field goal percentage conceded within five feet of the ring, a direct result of their poor interior defence. Wade and Dragic should utilise this by driving and scoring, or dishing to Whiteside, who looms as the difference maker.

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Whiteside is reportedly a head case but is a defensive ace and one of the more effective players in the league since the All-Star break. He will feast offensively and can patrol the paint and make it difficult for James and Kyrie Irving to penetrate.

Kevin Love will get another reminder this is not a stat-counting environment as it was in Minnesota. He will be reminded that he is not made to handle the two-way pressures of a playoff series, especially with the Heat employing a small-ball line-up that forces him to defend a capable shooter in Deng, Winslow or Johnson.

If Miami can push into the third seed they won’t play the Cavs until the conference finals and may well have Bosh back by then. Even if they don’t, they have made the best of a bad situation by getting Johnson and now have a legitimate eight-man rotation capable of a Finals appearance.

Look for the Heat to beat the Cavs and for LeBron to possibly do what he does best – follow success and head back to South Beach

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