The Thunder beating the Miami Heat sent the Heat into another bad loss against the Indiana Pacers, and the questions regarding their ability to win the NBA title is put into question once again. Having LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh put the Heat immediately in contender territory for the second straight year. Having Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden? Took some time, but they’re finally there.
So which big three is better to have? It’s arguable even what might be the best duo in the NBA. There are plenty who’ll take Durant & Westbrook over LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It’ll be stupid to ignore the existence of other guys on each teams, which make or break their chances to win a title. In terms of depth, especially in the paint, the Thunder have the advantage. Their defense in fourth quarters has been extremely crucial as well.
What do the numbers say. Well, James averaged 26.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. Bosh is averaging 18.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Dwyane Wade is at 22.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists. Many say that Wade, at 30, in his ninth NBA season, has begun to decline.
For the Thunder? Durant is averaging 27.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Westbrook is at 24 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. James Harden is averaging 17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists while playing 32 minutes off the bench.
Well, the big advantage for the Thunder is that one of their best players is the point guard of the team. His judgement may be questionable at times, but Westbrook runs a team very well, and when he’s not completely focused on outscoring Durant bu thinking pass first while drawing defenders on him through penetration, the Thunder benefit.
LeBron James and Wade share play making duties for the Heat, but in general, this isn’t a team built for half court offense. It’s all about defense, thriving off turnovers and fast pace. Sometimes, it seems like Chris Bosh gets lost somewhere in all of that, and would benefit more from having more set offense and actual plays drawn up. Whether Erik Spoelstra actually has or believes in any of those is still to be seen, funny as that sounds.
Harden seems to thrive in the system he’s in. A microwave kind of player, Harden simply scores, and plays great defense when he’s on the court. His scoring ability makes it possible for the Thunder to completely rely offensively on their big three. That’s not the case for the Heat, who usually need another guy (Chalmers, Haslem, Battier) to get hot in order to dominate.
It might be easier to say that the Thunder have the better team, or better talent spread around key positions. Having Ibaka and Perkins in the lineup certainly makes them able to contend defensively with any front court duo in the league most of the times. It’s what makes them such a great team. The Thunder’s big three have an easier time because there’s more to rely on.
For Miami, it’s all about LeBron, when it comes down to it. The defense thrives on his energy and reads. Without James this team forward, not only in points, the Heat aren’t championship material. The problem is there’s not always someone to fill in the gaps when James isn’t at his best. Bosh can rarely carry a team alone, although it has happened. Wade – Something’s off this season. Hard to put my finger on it.
I’m pretty sure the current Heat problems are temporary. They’ve looked great most of this season, but sometimes mentally it’s nearly impossible to be on top of your game all the time. Even a 66 game season has more than one up and down period. The Thunder look like the better team right now, but I’m not sure we’ll be saying the same thing in a month or two.