Some oddsmakers envision that the Miami Heat will win a title this upcoming NBA season, despite a compressed 66-game regular-season schedule and playoff games being played with fewer days off, according to reports.
Coming off a finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks last season, the Heat are looking to go one step further this time and win the title many more have envisioned thanks to the Big Three and company. MGM Mirage race and sports director Jay Rood told the Los Angeles Times that the Heat are his 2-to-1 favorite, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls at 9-to-2 and the Oklahoma City Thunder at 5-to-1. USA Today reports that Jay Kornegay, director of the Las Vegas Hilton Race and Sports Book, also has the Heat as 2-to-1 favorites, followed by the Lakers and Bulls at 6-to-1 and the Thunder and Dallas Mavericks at 7-to-1.
The consensus here is that the title race will come down to the Heat, Lakers, Bulls, Thunder and Mavericks. However, similar to how Kornegay told the L.A. Times that the Lakers are getting collectively older and don't have a true point guard, the Heat have some issues of their own.
Ironically enough, Miami is also lacking a true point guard to take the load off LeBron James and Dwayne Wade facilitating much of the offense -- and defense as well. Mario Chalmers has acted more like a complementary piece than anything. Consider that last season, James and Wade were one-two on the Heat in points, steals and assists per game. Chalmers was fourth in assists per game (2.5) and third in steals per game (1.09). And, in the past three seasons, his numbers have declined in points, steals and assist per game.
Miami is also lacking a shot-blocking, finishing center, someone they haven't had since Shaquille O'Neal departed in 2008 to the Phoenix Suns. Yahoo Sports reports that free agent Samuel Dalembert would like to join the Heat, though he might have to sign the mid-level exception at $5 million to keep the Heat from going over the salary cap. Dalembert, standing at 6-fot-11 is taller than current Heat center Joel Anthony at 6-foot-9. Plus, he averaged 8.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.45 blocks last season for the Sacramento Kings, while Anthony averaged 2.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.24 blocks.
It seems as though a big man is more of a pressing need for the Heat, and, if the team can sign a young, talented one like Dalembert, Nene or Tyson Chandler without going over the cap, then the Heat are better, clear-cut favorites. The Lakers still have Kobe Bryant. The Bulls still have Derrick Rose. The Thunder still has Kevin Durant. And, the Mavericks still have Dirk Nowitzki. Each of those teams has the superstar and the pieces surrounding him to at least contend with the Heat. The Mavericks were the prime example of that type of team, but with the most pieces that worked well together.
Taking age, star power and complementary pieces into account, the Bulls seem like the true favorites at closer odds to win the NBA title. Unlike the Heat, who is two players away, they are just one all-around player away from catapulting themselves ahead. The Bulls were number one in the Eastern Conference last season and went toe-to-toe with the Heat in the conference finals, despite losing 4-1. They have the defensive mindset and many shot makers already.
The Heat might be the odds-on favorite, but the Bulls might just want to get even.