Playoffs: Surprise heroes in East

Asik, Amundson and Novak could help topple Miami's title hopes

Updated: April 25, 2012, 5:11 PM ET
By Bradford Doolittle | Basketball Prospectus
Omer AsikSteve Mitchell/US PresswireOmer Asik's defense could be the key to the Bulls beating the Heat in a playoff matchup.

Landing the top seed in the NBA playoffs assures you of home-court advantage all the way through your conference bracket. It does not, however, automatically mark you as the favorite to make the finals.

In the East, Miami appears to have topped Chicago as the most popular choice. The Bulls ultimately finished with the conference's best record and point differential, as they did last season. Nevertheless, not much has changed since the preseason. Miami is the consensus pick to repeat as Eastern Conference champion. With that in mind and with the help of the NBA Stats Cube, let's look at one player from each of Miami's three potential playoff opponents who could demolish the sandcastles on South Beach.

Omer Asik, Chicago Bulls
The Bulls will need a little something from everyone in their frontcourt to beat Miami. They need Joakim Noah's energy on the offensive glass and ability to run the floor. They need Carlos Boozer to be a presence in the post and to be consistent with his face-up jumper. They need Taj Gibson's energy and defensive versatility. But perhaps more than any of these things, Chicago needs Asik to play well enough offensively to stay on the court for 20 minutes or so per game. If he does that, the Heat's offensive efficiency will be in serious trouble.