The Miami Heat have watched the balance of power in the Eastern Conference swing away from them over a three-year span following the departures of the big three. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in their line-up the Heat were the dominant force in the NBA, reaching the Finals four years in a row and winning the Championship in back-to-back seasons.
However, LeBron’s exit to the Cleveland Cavaliers sparked an immediate decline in their form as the club failed to reach the playoffs at all in the 2014-15 campaign, while the four-time MVP reached the Finals for a fifth year on the spin, only for the Cavs to be defeated by the Golden State Warriors.
Erik Spoelstra’s men hit top form last term as Bosh returned to fitness following a health scare in the previous campaign, while Wade continued to be effective despite his advancing years. The two men were instrumental in guiding the franchise to the Southeast Division title, and the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Heat overcame the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the post-season, but were dumped out in the Conference Semi-Finals by the Toronto Raptors in a 4-3 scoreline. Their conquerors were, in turn, defeated by the James-led Cavaliers on their charge to the Finals, and his former Miami team-mates were forced to watch as LeBron won the Championship for the third time in his illustrious career, guiding the Cavs back from a 3-1 deficit against the Warriors.
Changes came in the off-season for the Heat as Wade opted to end his 13-year career with the club to join the Chicago Bulls, while the franchise determined that Bosh’s health problems were too much to overcome for both team and player, effectively ending his career in Miami. The moves left Spoelstra’s men short on experience and quality for the new campaign, and that has been evident in the early stages of the season.
As a result, in the latest bet365 betting odds, the club are backed at 8/1 to win the Southeast Division, leaving them in a battle even to reach the playoffs. The problem Spoelstra’s side have faced is that it is more or less impossible to lose one of the best trio of players to have played the game and maintain a successful challenge for the NBA crown.
Hassan Whiteside has manfully stepped up at power forward this campaign, averaging 20 points per game after five matches, but his impact is meagre compared to LeBron’s impact on the court. It’s not a fair comparison for the center and his team-mates as there is no replacing the best player in the NBA, while Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson face the same problem at guard – filling the shoes of Wade.
The Heat may have to go through a period of transition like the Boston Celtics have experienced over the past three seasons. The Celtics traded away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, one campaign removed from their narrow defeat to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, acquiring Draft picks and players for the future.
Boston are now paying dividends for their gamble as they are looking a strong outfit in the Eastern Conference, and although the Heat have not been able to regain the capital the Celtics did with their trades, they will have to hope they can regain some star power through the Draft and free agency to help them back to the NBA summit.