You’re in your second semester of AP Basketball History, you love really good teams, and you love lists. With precious little drama left in the NBA’s 2015 offseason, why don’t we hit the barroom and/or barbershop, pour ourselves a frosty mug of Barbicide, and get to arguin’ over each franchise’s most formidable starting five-man lineup.
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Because we don’t like making tough decisions, the lineups will reflect the All-NBA line of thinking. There will be no differentiation between separate forward and guard positions, and the squads will be chosen after careful consideration of individual merits only – we don’t really care if your team’s top shooting guard and point guard don’t get along.
These rankings will roll out based on when each franchise began its NBA life. We continue with the Miami Heat, who like to go big.
C: Alonzo Mourning. Pat Riley – the man that played with Wilt Chamberlain before coaching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Patrick Ewing – got to Miami in 1995, saw Matt Geiger’s name in the starting lineup, and said “nah.” Riles quickly dealt for a previously-disgruntled Alonzo, making him the face of the Heat and ensuring he had yet another franchise center to work with, Injury, the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and a frightening kidney disease (and eventual transplant) prevented Mourning from leading the Heat to a title or putting up gargantuan stats, but he still made five All-Star teams with the club while averaging 16 points, eight rebounds, and 2.7 blocks in under 30 minutes a game. He probably should have won the MVP during the NBA’s lockout year in 1999.
F: LeBron James. For Miami fans (the ones that haven’t left the building with two minutes to go in an eight point game, at least), James’ stay in South Beach was too brief, and possibly unfulfilling. It’s hard to imagine that a team led by James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh could only cobble together two championships in four tries, but four consecutive Finals trips (once over a Bulls team that led the NBA in wins, alongside two Game 7 wins in the East finals) is no joke. LBJ averaged 26.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists and a combined 2.4 blocks/steals with the Heat, prior to moving back to Cleveland to work on that whole “legacy” thing.
F: Chris Bosh. It might seem like a stretch (no pun intended) just five years after he left Toronto for Miami, but it’s hard to ignore Bosh’s all-around play as both a borderline role player (with All-Star level talent, and All-Star berths to boot) and go-to scorer. Bosh had to not only take a back seat to James and Dwyane Wade in his time in Miami, but he also had to re-do his game and abandon the low post and screen and roll sets that constantly fed him in Toronto. Currently working with averages of 17.8 points and 7.3 boards as a member of the Heat.
G: Dwyane Wade. The greatest player in Heat history, thankfully, will remain with the team for at least the next few years. Drafted by the squad in 2003, Wade helped lead the team out of the deep lottery and into the playoffs in his first year, nearly to the NBA Finals in his second, and to a championship in his third year. He’s got three rings now, a litany of All-Star berths and career/Heat averages of 24.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.8 combined blocks/steals.
G: Tim Hardaway. An overweight Hardaway was a reclamation project when Riley traded for him at the 1996 trade deadline. He’d recently shown only sparks of the flash that made him such a devastating player prior to the ACL tear that cost him all of 1993-94, and was an expiring contract that Riley only gave up other expiring contracts for while Riles eyed Gary Payton’s impending free agency. Charged with leading the Heat after GP declined Riley’s overtures, Hardaway went on to lead the team to an Eastern final in his second season and finished his Heat career with averages 17.3 points, 7.8 assists and just 2.7 turnovers per game.
Pat Riley has run the team for 20 of its 27 seasons, and his method of building teams – shoot for the stars, surround with role players later – has made the Heat an odd roster curio over the years (it’s hard to argue with three rings, we insist). The team has featured a series of former great players, former All-Stars and future Hall of Famers, but none of them (from types like Rod Strickland, Rony Seikaly, Eddie Jones, Anthony Mason, Jamal Mashburn, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Kevin Willis and even Shaquille O’Neal) managed to stick around long enough to merit consideration.
If any two members of the franchise have a major beef, it would be Udonis Haslem and Glen Rice.
Rice never made an All-Star team with the Heat, but that tends to happen when you’re asked to carry an expansion team out of the muck. The Michigan product still managed a 19.3 points per game average before being traded for a package that brought Miami Mourning, leading the team to two playoff berths along the way.
Haslem, meanwhile, has acted as the team’s no-stats All-Star for years, playing expert help and screen and roll defense while working as the franchise’s all-time leading rebounder.
That’s our five. Who are you going with?
Previous entries: Golden State. Boston. New York. Detroit. Sacramento. Los Angeles Lakers. Atlanta. Philadelphia. Washington. Chicago. Houston. Seattle/Oklahoma City. Phoenix. Milwaukee. Los Angeles Clippers. Cleveland. Portland. Utah. Brooklyn. Indiana. San Antonio. Denver. Dallas. Charlotte.
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