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NBA Finals Preview: How Can the Heat Not Win?

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As advertised, I was not amused with the conference finals.

The Dallas Mavericks, to steal the name of Mark Cuban's short-lived show, became The Benefactor of a high energy Phoenix Suns team that ran out of adrenaline sometime last week, and won their first Western Conference championship.

Meanwhile, the Miami Heat blitzed through the Detroit Pistons almost as badly as the Pistons tore through the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. Miami, like the Mavs, won their first conference title.

Both conference finals series lasted six games, and few of the games were close. It was a boring round of basketball, and I was right: they should have cancelled the playoffs after a most excellent second round.

Not everyone agrees, though. Fellow sports writer Q Bit learned the hard way the penalty of questioning my ultimate authority on the NBA playoffs. He now gets a cavity search any time he goes to the library.

The NBA Finals could be just as fugly as the third round. And while my initial prediction of Pistons-over-Mavs is now way around, that should mean I'm going with the Mavs, right?

Before I answer that, let's just take a gander at Miami's roster, shall we?

  • Point guard Gary Payton, former first round pick for the Seattle SuperSonics.
  • Backup point guard Jason Williams, former first round pick for the Sacramento Kings.
  • Two guard Dwayne Wade, former first round pick for the Heat.
  • Backup guard/forward Derek Anderson, former first round pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
  • Third string guard/forward Dorell Wright, former first round pick for the Heat.
  • Small forward Antoine Walker, former first round pick for the Boston Celtics.
  • Power forward James Posey, former first round pick for the Denver Nuggets.
  • Backup forward Wayne Simien, former first round pick for the Heat.
  • Center Shaquille O'Neal, former first round pick for the Orlando Magic.
  • Backup center Alonzo Mourning, former first round pick for the Charlotte Hornets.
  • Third string center Michael Doleac, former first round pick for the Magic.

As Captain Obvious (or Ric Romero) might deduce at this juncture, a lot of Miami Heat players have been former first round picks. Now, understandably there are only two rounds, so many of the players in the league are first rounders.

But only three men — Wade, of course, and bench riders Simien and Wright — were drafted by the Heat. And besides Simien, Wright, and Posey, everyone else was a first round lottery (top 13) pick. Shaq went No. 1 overall. Mourning and Payton were No. 2 picks. Wade went No. 5 overall. 'Toine was a 6th pick, J-Will a 7th. And so on.

Now a lot of these players were good or great players who couldn't win elsewhere. Others left their fans disappointed. Walker spent a number of the years with a so-so Celtics franchise. Jason Williams was sloughed off to the Grizzlies after a few exciting years with the Kings. 

Some players just bounced from team to team, and Miami was their next stop. James Posey and Derek Anderson both followed this pattern. 

Some players are Hall of Fame stuff but you just can't picture them in a Heat jersey. Gary Payton is supposed to be a Sonic. O'Neal is supposed to be a Laker. Mourning is supposed to be either Hornet or — for those with a more jaunty outlook on the league — a Knick with one of the Van Gundy brothers wrapped around his leg. 

A lot of these players seemed to be acquired by way of trade or free agency and built around Dwyane Wade. Much like the '97 Marlins and '01 Diamondbacks, there are too many wily veterans — and one Hall of Fame coach, Pat Riley — for this team not to win.

This is no lick on the Mavericks, though. They took down the defending national champion Spurs (who lost very little, if anything) and have perhaps the most versatile center (Dirk Nowitzki), the best coach (Avery Johnson), and best owner (Mark Cuban). Johnson is a proven winner, playing in 90 postseason games and winning a championship with the Spurs in '99.

The Mavericks roster are more than Dirk deep. Third year player Josh Howard has given his team 17 points per game as has teammate point guard Jason Terry who wasted many a three-point shot with the Hawks for so many years. Vagabond veterans Keith Van Horn, who looks more ill than Jeff Garcia during play, and Jerry Stackhouse also give the team the occasional trey.

And the most pressing question — who's gonna guard Shaq? — can be answered with two players: DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier, who average three blocks between them.

The series does have intrigue, don't get me wrong. But the Heat seem to have way more firepower in the frontcourt and backcourt.

And that's why I'm conflicted. The Mavericks have so much huggable personality. You just want to run on the court to rub Avery Johnson's head and give Mark Cuban a high-five. It's the team that pure unadulterated passion built.

Meanwhile, with the Heat you have several prickly personalities. Be honest — a team with Gary Payton, Jason Williams, Shaquille O'Neal, Antoine Walker, Alonzo Mourning, and Pat Riley appears to have as much affability as a garbage disposal, with just as much internal discord. Yet they get along so well that you just have to respect 'em.

It pains me to slam the Mavs like this, but it's shaping up to be a sweep. Heat in four.

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About Suss

  • http://secondvibe.blogspot.com Q Bit

    No way it’s going to be a sweep, no matter how badly I want Heat to win.

    But I should sleep – its 3 in the morning.

    Suss: Dirk’s position is forward, not versatile center :-)

    Ok. enough .. will rant tomorrow on this.

  • http://digitalbattle.com Armin Siljkovic

    I agree, on paper the Heat look impressive.

    But so did the USA Dream Team last olympics…

    And we all know how that ended…

  • ed

    this guys out of his mind

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    While accurate, that has no bearing on my prediction.

  • snaps

    Mavs in 6, why? Because, the Mavs are deeper and quicker than most teams in the association and certainly deeper and quicker than the Heat. All those first rounders are nice, but as you mentioned the NBA only has two rounds, and just look at the roster. Use a more specific method analysis. Gary Payton is no where close to the player he used to be. I would be surprised if gets any significant minutes next year if he stays on the Heat. The heat have shown big-time weakness against teams that can run(chicago- and buy the way I think if the suns played Miami, the suns also win in 6). The Heat will have no answer for Nerwetzi(he has had 1 bad night the entire playoffs). Shaq is not the Shaq of 3 yrs ago. Dampier is fully rested, after only playing in Game 1 last series. Avery Johnson can also run Diop at Shaq as mentioned above. Jason Williams of Game 6 vs. Detroit will not be present in more than 2 games this series. And Finally, Josh Howard will either shutdown Walker or limit D. Wade whoever he guards.

    Quite Frankly barring injury I can’t see how you can pick the Heat.

  • http://secondvibe.blogspot.com Q Bit

    Heat in 6/7

    I am also expecting Cuban will be find $ 2 million at some point of the series.

  • http://secondvibe.blogspot.com Q Bit

    Correction: find should be fined.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Him getting fined is like hilarious entertainment that I don’t have to pay for. I hope he pushes a ref this time.

  • NBA fan

    Honestly, I don’t know who will win. It’s too close to call.

    But I do hope it’s the Mavs. They really earn it with the way they played and adapted all season.

    Prediction, Mavs in 5/7 cause it’s being played in Dallas.

  • http://secondvibe.blogspot.com Q Bit

    If push comes to shove, I am willing to pay.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Mavs in 4…

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Ooh, the other sweep.

    This oughta be good.

  • michael kennedy

    Dallas is as soft as they ever were and can not handle a team as strong as miami in the paint. dirk wont get the open shots or looks he had in the previous series, everyone knows phonix is not a defensive team. To even mention dampier is a joke. I am tired of hearing how deep dallas is how much experience do they have compaired to miami.miami has a bench deep enough to counter anything that put on the floor. what happened in the regular season is out the window ask the detroit pistons or new jersey nets who are at home now after going trhee to one in the regular season on miami. miami has more to prove and they will come into the series with advingance to the previous blow out loss in dallas.

  • Sussman nemesis

    Heat in four? Are you insane?! There is no freakin way either team is going to sweep the other. The mavs just beat the heat 90-80 so I expect nothing less than repentance in dust and ashes for your egregiously poor confidence in the Mavs. ;)

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Heh… :)

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Move along, nothing to see here, folks. Pay no attention to the man behind the editor’s chair.

  • http://secondvibe.blogspot.com Q Bit

    For some, they don’t have a choice :-)

  • Sussman nemesis

    Nothing to see? You predicted that the Heat would sweep the Mavs, but last night the Mavs played mediocre while tha Heat did a lot of what they wanted to do, and the Mavs still beat the heat by ten. Howard and Dirk went a combined 7 for 28, and even Dirk did’nt think they could win if they shot like that. Some people are already calling sweep for the mavs, although I have my reservations. You make Q bit eat humble pie for questioning you, but when you make a ridiculous predictioin, you won’t come close to it. My hypocrisy radar is getting some really high readings.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Then turn off your hypcrosity radar and turn on your sarcasmometer.

  • Revci

    Just a nit-picking comment about your article. You mention that Dirk Nowitzki is a versatile center. Technically, he never was a center. He is a forward, but was sometimes used as the center last season. I do not recall any time this season seeing Dirk actually play center. And as for the assertation by Michael Kennedy that the Mavs are just as soft as ever, he obviously did not watch any of their games this season or the Spurs series. Having watched this season very closely, I just can’t see any way that the Heat can take this series. It seems to me there are still alot of people out there that think this is the same Dallas team of the last few years. It most definately is not. Anyone that has followed this season can see how obvious that is. The Mavs of the last few seasons could never have hung in that Spurs series when it got down and dirty. They would have folded in some of those close games, the shots would have stopped falling, and with no real rebounding they would undoubtedly have lost. It is all too apparent that this was not the case this season. The Mavs hang in games that they don’t even shoot well in (that was a deathnell for them in years past), because of so many factors. They are one of the top rebounding teams in the play-offs and have learned to play some very good D. They have quick, athletic players that cause turn-overs and do so much more, and most importantly…the players know and believe that they are a better team this season. I never saw that in the Mavs in the past. They feel this trophy is theirs to take and do not question their team or coach. The Heat are undoubtedly a good team, but it is my opinion that the Mavs have already dispatched the two teams capable of defeating them and are on the road to their first title.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    In retrospect I should have used “versatile 7-footer.”

  • clay

    wow. you were definitely wrong, buddy. maybe next time a little more research would pay off, because the mavs are up 2-0. but hey, everyone makes mistakes.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Mavs up, 2-0…Shaq fined five-figures for refusing to talk to reporters after his pathetic effort in Game Two…five points…1 of 7 shooting from the free throw line…weak!

  • DJ WHO

    WOW… I hope Miami Takes games 3 and 4 … I have 5 strippers booked for game 7!!! I really hope that everyone on this page is wrong!

    I say Dallas in game 7!!!!

  • QBall

    I guess it’s easy to say now, but Sussman’s analysis was rather shallow and kinda strange. (No disrespect intended, just sayin’ … )

    Miami’s bench is full of 1st rounders therefore they are a better bench and will win in 4?? Ok, by the same logic, Sam Bowie was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan therefore he was better than Jordan.

    If anything, the Mavericks have a more talented roster and more firepower than Miami overall. In addition, they are an extremely well coached versatile team that can play both the slow grind-it-out and up-tempo game. Their performance against the Spurs and the Suns demonstrated that.

    Meanwhile, the Pistons were just plain arrogant, lazy, and in disarray in the Easter conference finals.

    Gary Payton? He was great many years ago, don’t get me wrong. But … well … that was many years ago and and he should have retired about 3-4 years ago. He’s but a mere ghost of his former self will continue to be a non-factor.

    Sussman didn’t even know Dirk Nowitzki is a forward?? Tsk tsk shame shame … see, that’s what’s wrong with America … these darned kids don’t do their homework grumble grumble … ;)

    Dallas in 6 or 7. I think Miami will wake up, play much better at home, take a couple games, make the series interesting, and take it back to Dallas. But there’s no way they’re going to win it in Dallas.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Mavs up 2-1…