The NBA odds say the Miami Heat will be back in 2014-15. But is this the end of the Big Three as we know it? Judging by Dwyane Wade’s Finals performance, maybe we’re already one year late on that one.
Jason’s final record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14:
112-99-3 ATS (–1.51 units vig)
26-23-1 Totals (–0.21 units vig)
3-1 Series (+2.0 units)
Profit: 4.09 units
Something has to change. It seems unlikely that LeBron James will leave the Miami Heat despite their NBA Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Aside from the cramps that he suffered in Game 1, James was the best player on either team. Unfortunately for him, the supporting cast wasn’t up to snuff. As pointed out by Deadspin’s Kyle Wagner, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for an 18.5 Game Score during these Finals. That’s not much better than the 17.5 Game Score posted by Drew Gooden, and Daniel Gibson for LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 Finals – also won handily by the Spurs.
Even if James, Wade and Bosh all return for 2014-15, it might be time to draw the curtain on the Big Three. In fact, that time may have already passed – Miami only had all three of its star players together for 48 of the team’s 82 regular-season games. And if James has his way, that number could drop even further next year.
Wade into Oblivion
One of the things that goes unnoticed by casual NBA betting fans is how much mileage these players have logged over the years – especially Wade. Although all three of the Big Three were taken in the Top 5 of the 2003 NBA Draft, James came in directly from high school, while Bosh played one season with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Wade put in two years with the Marquette Golden Eagles; he’s 32 now, three years older than LeBron, and with a history of knee, hamstring and shoulder injuries.
Miami did the smart thing this year and limited Wade to 54 regular-season games, and he responded with a 22.0 PER, second only to James Harden (23.5 PER) among NBA shooting guards. But that’s still down from 26.3 PER in 2011-12 and 24.0 PER in 2012-13, when the Heat won the title. It’ll take some premium deer antler spray to keep those numbers from dropping even further next year.
Throw in all those deep runs into the postseason, and as ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh reminds us, Miami’s Big Three have played a combined 10,230 minutes more than San Antonio’s Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili since 2010-11. James is well aware of this, and he reportedly wants to get his share of maintenance days in 2014-15. He deserves them. Why should he tax himself during the regular season if it’s all about winning championships?
The Big Four
Bosh (19.0 PER) has been excellent in each of his four seasons in Miami, and as a stretch-4 who’s getting stretchier every year, Bosh hasn’t endured as much punishment as Wade. There’s no reason to slag him for his performance in these Finals, either – how about giving credit to the Spurs instead? Bosh has plenty to offer the Heat next year, should he decide to return. But he’s 30 years old now, and it’s senseless to ride him too hard during the regular season.
This means that Miami is going to need some fresh talent to soak up those minutes. Michael Beasley (16.8 PER) did a very good job of that during the first half of the season before he mysteriously fell out of the rotation. Will Carmelo Anthony take his place in 2014-15? That’s the rumor that stole the spotlight during the Finals. It’ll take some contract restructuring from the Big Three, but that’s old hat – all three signed at a discount in order to play together in Miami.
Did somebody say “old hat?” Let’s not forget that Anthony just turned 30, and is also from the same draft class as James and Co. But one would suspect he’d like to escape the New York Knicks and compete for a title. All the Heat would need to do then is sign Darko Milicic and complete their 2003 collection.