By CLIFF BRUNT
The NBA season just ended.
No, not the 2011-12 season.
Next season. Miami just ended it during free agency.
By acquiring both Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen, the Heat just eliminated their concerns about depth and gave themselves a scary amount of flexibility. Unless a mega-deal gets struck and a team of superstars gets comfortable together very quickly, everybody else is playing for second place.
Lewis is a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who creates mismatches because he can score inside and outside. Imagine when Chris Bosh went down with his injury in the second round against Indiana the option of moving Lewis into the lineup.
Or what happens when Dwyane Wade gets into another one of those horrific shooting slumps or disappears for a half.
Just play Allen in his place. Problem solved.
When Mario Chalmers is being inconsistent again or gunning too much while trying to prove he belongs on this team, what do you do? Bench him, move Wade to point guard and play Allen at the 2.
Lewis isn’t what he was in his prime and he has been injury prone, but in the last season in which he played at least 70 games, 2009-10, he averaged 14.1 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range. He’s still dangerous.
Imagine this lineup:
Point guard “ Dwyane Wade
Shooting guard “ Ray Allen
Small forward “ LeBron James
Power forward “ Rashard Lewis
Center “ Chris Bosh
Yes, Wade at the 1. If I was the Heat, I’d consider moving him to the point to get Allen on the floor more often. Allen isn’t worried about minutes, but a hot Ray Allen is better than a hot Mario Chalmers.
Keep Chalmers “ he’s cheap and talented. He’s better than people think. But Wade as a point, with those options? He might be as good a point guard as Boston’s Rajon Rondo or Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers if he buys into it.
Then, there’s LeBron James. With Lewis on the team, there’s no telling what position James could be playing. In some scenarios, depending on the matchup, LeBron could play power forward and Lewis could be a very large shooting guard. LeBron also could play the point at times with Allen at the 2, Lewis and Bosh at the forward spots and Joel Anthony at the 5.
Because LeBron has another legitimate forward on the team, he will be more rested. There will be less talk about fatigue.
It’s not fair.
The only thing that makes next season anything other than a foregone conclusion is injuries. Wade is skipping the Olympics because of an injured left knee. Again, Lewis is injury prone. Bosh missed a big chunk of the playoffs with an abdominal strain. James will deal with nicks and bruises simply because he draws and creates so much contact.
But Miami is so deep that it should win, even without James. Take James off this team completely, and it might still get to the NBA Finals.
Brooklyn needed Dwight Howard and now won’t get him. Chicago could challenge if Derrick Rose gets healthy. Indiana needs to add a player committed to attacking the hoop and/or for Paul George to reach his potential to compete.
In the West, Steve Nash is a nice addition to the Lakers, but he’s old. The Spurs are old. Oklahoma City needs a scorer down low, and I’m not sure the Thunder can get one. They also need a spot-shooting 3-point threat like a Kyle Korver.
There are contenders, but right now, the Heat look not only like the next champion, but like the best team since Jordan’s Bulls.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffbrunt_isl.