Commentary

Better dynasty shot, Heat or Thunder?

Debating which team is better equipped to win multiple NBA titles, becoming a dynasty

Originally Published: June 15, 2011
By Chris Broussard and Ric Bucher | ESPN The Magazine
Getty ImagesThe Heat need only a little help, but perhaps the Thunder need only to get older and wiser.

The only thing Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard like to do more than report on the NBA is argue about the NBA. So we decided to combine those two skills for Insider's weekly One-on-One series, in which they'll debate the hottest topics in the association.

Question: Which NBA team has the best current shot to become an NBA dynasty, winning multiple titles?

BROUSSARD: Even though the Heat lost the Finals this year, I believe they have the beginnings of a dynasty. The only thing that will be able to stop them is themselves; getting complacent, resting on their laurels, hanging out at South Beach. That's all that can stop this juggernaut, even after losing to Dallas.


BUCHER: Whoa. Take a breath there, CB. I'm as impressed as anyone how the Heat came together, peaking at just the right time, to beat Boston, Chicago and make it to the Finals. And I give you credit for saying right from the start they could do it. But now we're saying they're a dynasty? I don't see a Heat team exactly built to endure that kind of grind or with the financial flexibility to refresh itself. LeBron James is in his prime and Chris Bosh, balky knee and all, is, too. I'll even say Dwyane Wade will play at or near this level for three more years, even though he's approaching 30 and the way he throws his body around has prevented him from ever playing all 82 games. But after that, the price of bringing in, or retaining, the ancillary parts that have been big in this playoff run comes to bear.

Can Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller hold it together physically for four more years, playing 100-plus games a season with the accompanying shortened offseason? They must, because that's how long their contracts run. Do the Heat have any chance of re-signing Mario Chalmers? Only if he gives them a discount. The hard truth is that the Heat have $65 million-plus committed to six players over the next four years -- Wade, LeBron, Bosh, Haslem, Miller and Joel Anthony. The rules of the next CBA will determine the ease with which teams can reinvent or refresh themselves, but as is, the Heat are going to be exactly who and what they are for the next few years. If Wade, LeBron and Bosh can carry the load they carried this year in consecutive years, much less the number of years a dynasty would entail, it would be phenomenal.


CB: I don't see any reason to think they can't become a dynasty. Their Big Three are all in their prime, their chemistry should be much better next season as well, with LeBron and D-Wade improving in terms of moving without the ball. As far as the supporting cast, when you have three stars (two superstars) in their prime, your supporting cast doesn't have to be awesome. They weren't the reason the Heat didn't win the title.

Also, guess what low-priced but potentially high-impact free agent they've got their eye on? Greg Oden. They can win it without Oden, of course, but if they get him and he can stay healthy and give them something like eight points and eight boards a game, it's a wrap. Bottom line is that there is absolutely no reason to say this team -- with arguably the two best players in the world in their primes -- can't win several rings. Honestly, unless another super merger creates another Big Three or Gigantic Two (Dwight Howard, Chris Paul), the only team that can stop the Heat is the Heat.


RB: The Heat did indeed overcome their deficiencies at point guard and center by making it to the Finals, but they did it by riding their Big Three as if there is no tomorrow. LeBron James averaged 44 minutes a game in this playoff run! Is he going to do that every year for the next two or three? If he's not, who is picking up the slack? They also made it to the Finals by playing a style of defense that is more physically draining than what the Bulls or Lakers utilized in their dynastic runs.

I'm a little shocked by how much stock you're putting in, (a) the Heat getting Oden to sign a minimum contract and, (b) his ability to actually play 100-plus games in a season considering he's played a grand total of 88 over three years. And even if Oden does somehow decide he's willing to play for peanuts and can stay healthy, the Heat would have to scrap the defense that was at the heart of their run to the Finals. What makes their trapping defense so effective is that in Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh they have bigs who can rotate and cover ground almost as well as their perimeter guys. Oden would change all that and, while I'd argue he'd be better (if healthy) than Erick Dampier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Jamaal Magloire, there's a reason none of those guys have even been in the rotation the last two rounds: The Heat's defense, which is why it was sniffing at a title, isn't nearly as effective.

I've been slow to offer a team that I believe has a better chance to be a dynasty because I believe the new collective bargaining agreement is going to create the kind of parity we've come to expect in the hard-capped NFL and the current NHL. Since the NHL's lockout in '05, we've had five different champions and we're assured of having a sixth this year, and the NBA's proposed new model is a carbon copy of the NHL's pact. So I see NBA three-peats being a thing of the past if the owners get what they want. But if I have to pick a team that has dynasty potential, I'd go with the Oklahoma City Thunder because of what they already have -- a pool of incredibly young talent that was a step away from playing in this year's Finals, and a pool, by and large, that will be forced to sign contracts under the parameters of the new CBA rather than, as in the case of the Heat, the old one.

Ric Bucher

NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer