The Heat are off to a strong start, better than some of us (I'll admit to being a post-LeBron Heat pessimist) expected. What's going right for you guys so far? Obviously Chris Bosh has been great, but is there anyone who's stepped up unexpectedly?
After a 3-0 start, the Heat dropped the next two games (to Houston and Charlotte) but things are still going well overall. I'm not sure that this exceeds expectations for Heat fans but I will admit it's hard to gauge this team as they transition from the "Big 3" era.
You're right that Bosh has been great; he's the centerpiece for this team and deservedly so. It's easy to dismiss what he's capable of based on the last four years but there's a reason why the coaches referred to him often as the team's most important player.
Miami's also making an effort to get everyone involved and that's worked, so far. Norris Cole had a career-high of 23 points in the season opener, Dwyane Wade is still an excellent scorer, and the team's getting contributions from guys like Shawne Williams and Mario Chalmers, who's thriving in a new, sixth-man role.
Most of the Heat's success over the last few years is attributed to LeBron's presence, and obviously having the greatest player in the league is an enormous advantage. But it often seemed the talent on the team made it tough to evaluate Erik Spoelstra's talents as a coach. Do you think this year will be an opportunity for Spo to prove that he didn't just luck into on-court talent?
Absolutely. He came into the limelight in 2010 when LeBron and Bosh joined the team, but he coached a Miami squad with Wade and not much else into the playoffs during his first two years as a head coach. His tireless determination and attention to detail is perfect for this transitioning team and he's become a much more acute judge of what each player can do on a game-to-game basis. He didn't just "luck" into this position, he's earned it and that workman-like approach is exactly the kind of example this team needs to prove they are still a legitimate threat.
Shabazz Napier was expected to do well, but he's been quite good playing real minutes in a position the Heat seemed pretty weak at last year. That seems like a lot to ask of a rookie! Do you think he'll be able to keep up his performance?
I'll have to disagree with you here. Many fans didn't expect Napier to play much of a role for two reasons: he was seen as an attempt to placate LeBron (who publicly praised Napier) and his summer league shooting was disastrous.
But something seemed to click in the preseason and suddenly he seemed more comfortable running the offense, staying moves ahead of everyone else and adapting more quickly than expected. He's part of a multi-guard rotation at the point that starts Cole and uses Napier off the bench but, of course, Chalmers can fill that position as well (although he's mostly been playing off-guard). And he's handling it very well, earning minutes from Spoelstra, who doesn't typically go that deep into his bench.
I think he'll keep this up and improve into a very skilled player. His shooting has been the only weakness in his game and although his size isn't "ideal," he's doing everything a traditional point guard is expected to do.
The Mavericks have been playing killer offense this year, but their defense is even worse than it was last year. How do you see them matching up with this year's Heat?
I've waffled on how Miami will adjust and, given how key players are out or still working their way into the lineup (mostly Josh McRoberts, Chris Andersen and Danny Granger) it's tough to foresee how the two teams match up. It starts with Bosh and how he'll take Tyson Chandler away from his comfort zone; Bosh's shooting is a dangerous asset and has to be respected. Wade is generally considered a player in decline but he can still drop 20+ on any given night. Can Monta Ellis handle him? Dirk will be Dirk and the Williams/McRoberts duo won't be enough to offset his production.
Luol Deng taking on Chandler Parsons is the battle I'm most looking forward to seeing. Deng isn't a great shooter over the course of his career but he's due for a breakout game. If Parsons has to slide over to guard Bosh on the perimeter, expect Deng to quickly attack the rim.
Jameer Nelson has also been a problem for Miami over his career - lots of experience as a member of the Magic. He seems to go next-level when facing the Heat. If Cole can limit his shooting and contribute offensively, Miami might be able to pull out a victory. Either way, Dallas is definitely a dangerous team and Miami has to be prepared or things could get very ugly very quickly.
Thanks, David! Visit Hot Hot Hoops for more Mavericks vs. Heat coverage.