When it comes to the Miami HEAT, fanalysts hate what they can't understand, fear what they can't conquer. I guess it's just the theory of man.
There were 1,230 wins produced by NBA players last season. An estimated 486 of those wins were moved around the league by free agency, trades and waivers. The wins produced by NBA players this season will be affected by those transactions, the ascension of younger players, descension of older players, new lineups and chemistry, coaching changes and health.
Most players will perform as expected this season, but the outliers that exceed expectations in those categories will battle those who sustain excellence for fame and awards while the outliers that fail to meet expectations will battle those who consistently mediocre for criticism and slander.
The goal of all the important NBA player moves are the same: secure the league's crown jewels now or in the future. Let's analyze who the Miami HEAT's competition will be in the Eastern and Western Conferences this season.
1. Miami HEAT (66-16 last season)
The HEAT took a step back with their offseason moves (e.g. amnesty of Mike Miller's contract, signing Michael Beasley). Those transactions cost the team an estimated 4 wins from last season. Throw in the age of the rotation and it's easy to see why outsiders think the HEAT will fall off this season. Here's what they don't understand: the HEAT racked up a league-best 66 wins and set the record for most consecutive victories after taking OFF half of last season. LeBron spent the 1st half of last season resting to recover from the Olympics, Dwyane Wade spent it recovering from knee surgery and Chris Bosh spent it rebuilding his strength after an abdominal tear. The league is so weak right now they COASTED to the best record in the league by a 6-game margin. That's why the team with the longest winning streak in the modern era didn't break the Bulls' record for most wins in a season. The HEAT turned it on when they wanted last season and that's reflected in their historic performance during the last 5 minutes of games.
The HEAT have plenty in reserve to battle the teams that improved this season, even if Wade won't be fully recovered from Ossatron shock therapy until January. They have a smaller margin of error without Mike Miller on the roster, but as long as they stay relatively healthy the HEAT should make their 4th straight trip to the NBA Finals. All that bullshit about it being an impossible physical feat is nonsense. Michael Jordan's Bulls teams would've made 4 straight trips to the Finals if he didn't retire to play baseball after the death of his father. LeBron James is this era's Michael Jordan and his father ain't around. He ain't going nowhere except back to the Finals as many times as he wants with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Jordan retired and all LeBron did was inherit his stress to make every title run tougher. You ain't a HEAT fan? Fuck ya. We should just let you live, right? Negative. It's alright.
2. Brooklyn Nets (49-33 last season)
This summer, no team acquired more estimated wins produced by players last season than the Nets. While every other team bitched up and acted afraid of the new luxury tax or the difficulty of competing with the HEAT, Prokhorov told general manager Billy King to make shit happen and he did. The Nets acquired contracts for players that produced an estimated 19 extra wins than the players under contract last season. All that extra production puts the Nets in position to challenge the HEAT for best record in the East this season. The problem for the Nets in the playoffs will be that they don't have a superstar to compete with LeBron and Wade if they bring the Eastern Conference Finals to Brooklyn. Jason Kidd could win Coach of the Year if he pushes the zombie bodies of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to compete for the best record in the East instead of saving them for the playoffs.
3. Indiana Pacers (49-32 last season)
Larry Bird improved the Pacers bench by signing an extra 4 estimated wins produced last season, but that's chump change compered to what the Nets did and will probably cost them a spot in the conference finals. If the Pacers didn't have such a tight budget they would've made a big move in free agency and signed Andre Iguodala to help Paul George and Lance Stephenson compete with Wade and LeBron on the wing.
4. New York Knicks (54-28 last season)
The Knicks will lose the division to the Nets if Brooklyn's roster stays healthy and they'll drop in the standings as a result. That drop could result in a Knicks-HEAT playoff matchup in the Eastern Conference Semifinals as long as the HEAT hold onto the #1 seed. What fan wouldn't sing up for another round of LeBron vs. Melo?
5. Chicago Bulls (45-37 last season)
Derrick Rose is back but ain't shit changed. Tom Thibodeaux will still grind his team into dust during the regular season. As for the post-season, all that needs to be said is this - beat reporter K.C. Johnson said on NBA TV's The Beat the Bulls will be blown up in the offseason. If the front office doesn't consider this Bulls team a contender, there's no need for fans to take them seriously, either.
6. Atlanta Hawks (44-38 last season)
The Hawks were boring last season. They'll be even more boring trying to be like the Spurs.
7. Toronto Raptors (34-48 last season)
Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri had the 5th-best summer by adding an estimated 9 extra wins produced last season to the Raptors roster. Subtracting Andrea Bargnani while adding Steve Novak and Tyler Hansbrough to the bench should be enough to get them out of the lottery. Will Jonas Valanciunas have the kind of breakout season that can save Dwayne Casey's job?
8. Detroit Pistons (29-53)
The biggest change for the Pistons could be double the Drummond. If Andre Drummond can play twice as many minutes as he did last season, then he'll be in the running for Most Improved Player.
1. Los Angeles Clippers (56-26 last season)
The Clippers came out of the summer with a new coach and the most production from last season after picking up an extra 14 estimated wins produced from J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley and Darren Collison. If the Clippers end up with the best record in the league then Chris Paul could win his first MVP award.
2. Memphis Grizzlies (56-26 last season)
The Grizzlies picked up an extra 11 estimated wins produced from last season by trading for Kosta Koufos (the starting center from a 57-win Nuggets team) to backup Marc Gasol and signing much needed shooting from Mike Miller. With so many big men crashing the boards for 48 minutes, Miller should get plenty of open threes this season. He could definitely shoot his way into contention for 6th Man of the Year.
3. San Antonio Spurs (58-24 last season)
The Spurs swept the Clippers and Grizzlies out of the playoffs the last two seasons, but both made enough moves to surpass them in the West this season. And since the Spurs couldn't make the Finals in consecutive seasons while Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were in their primes, I don't expect them to do it now that both are close to retirement.
4. Houston Rockets (45-37 last season)
The Rockets made enough moves to get homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Congratulations. Aim high. Dwight Howard could win Defensive Player of the Year if he can improve the Rockets defense from 16th to top 10 this season. The Rockets will be entertaining because they are the team most likely to fight over a stripper named Sweet Pea this season and James Harden said he wants to guard the opponents' best player every night. There will be plenty laughs for everyone.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22 last season)
The Thunder's cheap ass ownership officially removed the team from title contention. No Harden and no Kevin Martin means Kevin Durant will be this generation's Reggie Miller. He'll retire with 0 MVP awards and 0 championship rings. Of course, they could probably get homecourt advantage in the first round if someone kneecaps Patrick Beverley. I'm just sayin'... I don't know what the fuck else Kendrick Perkins is good for anyway.
6. Golden State Warriors (47-35 last season)
Mark Jackson will need to pull off his best coaching job yet to get the Warriors to their goal of 50 wins this season with a depleted bench.
7. Denver Nuggets (57-25 last season)
The Nuggets chose a coach that wants to follow in Frank Vogel's footsteps instead of Phil Jackson's and a stupid starting center with poor lung capacity to play in Denver's high altitude. That's how a team falls from the 3rd seed to barely making the playoffs.
8. Dallas Mavericks (41-41 last season)
The Mavs made enough moves to get back into the playoffs. Nobody cares.
The spreadsheet below lists the estimated wins produced from last season that each team added or lost with their offseason and preseason transactions.