Do the Heat only have a 'Big Two'?
5-on-5 roundtable: Agree or disagree with Shaquille O'Neal's NBA prognostications?
It took just one appearance for the newest, and perhaps the biggest, NBA analyst to make his mark. In his first on-screen interview for Turner Sports, Shaquille O'Neal stirred up some trouble by saying that the Miami Heat have only a "Big Two," an apparent dig at the team's third All-Star amigo, Chris Bosh. But the "Big Analytical" didn't stop there. O'Neal went on to predict an "MVP year" for LeBron James and suggested that an "underdog" will win the NBA title, among other things. Now, our five-man team gives their takes on some of Shaq's early prognostications.
1. Agree or disagree: The Heat only have a "Big Two."
It took just one appearance for the newest, and perhaps the biggest, NBA analyst to make his mark.
In his first on-screen interview for Turner Sports, Shaquille O'Neal stirred up some trouble by saying that the Miami Heat have only a "Big Two," an apparent dig at the team's third All-Star amigo, Chris Bosh.
But the "Big Analytical" didn't stop there. O'Neal went on to predict an "MVP year" for LeBron James and suggested that an "underdog" will win the NBA title, among other things.
Now, our five-man team gives their takes on some of Shaq's early prognostications.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, HoopSpeak: Disagree. I'm sure it's fun to deride Miami's gawkiest member, but Bosh (age 27) could very well become more productive than the ever-crashing Flash (age 29). Expect the lesser, taller player to age better.
Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: Agree. This may seem foolish, but if you go by the numbers, I wouldn't put Bosh on the same platform as LeBron and Wade. He's not a great rebounder. His defense is lackluster. Miami will rise and fall when it counts based on the big two, not on Bosh.
John Krolik, Cavs: The Blog: Disagree, but it's semantics. Bosh clearly isn't as good as James or Wade, but he's still one of the five best power forwards in the league. He's versatile enough to play with James and Wade, his defense has improved dramatically, and he averaged 23 points per game on 60 percent shooting in the Chicago series.
Tom Haberstroh, Heat Index: Disagree. It really depends on where you draw the line in the sand, doesn't it? You can group MVP candidates together, like Shaq has. Or you can draw the line at players in their prime with at least six All-Star selections to their name. Only the Heat can claim three of those players. That's why they've earned a nickname.
Ryan DeGama, Celtics Hub: Disagree. Mocking Chris Bosh is so December 2010. Bosh gets unfairly ripped for his candor and fairly ripped for a few vanishing acts, but he made huge adjustments, to both the way he contributes on the court and to the intensity of media and fan expectations. Give it another year, then make the call on this.
2. Agree or disagree: LeBron will win the MVP next season.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, HoopSpeak: Disagree. Should I pick a largely disliked guy, coming off a bad Finals performance? No thanks. It's best to take the field when discussing LeBron's possible individual accolades.
Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: Disagree. It's hard to win MVP when you're not the best player on your team. When you combine that with his disappearance in the latter stages of the NBA Finals, it should push his scrutiny level to an all-time high next season. I don't like his chances under that microscope against a challenging field around the league.
John Krolik, Cavs: The Blog: Agree. In spite of everything, LeBron is still the best player in the league. His late-game struggles were all that kept him from winning a third consecutive MVP award last season, and I don't think those will return next season -- he's traditionally been one of the best regular-season closers in the league.
Tom Haberstroh, Heat Index: Agree. I suspect that with time, the hard feelings for LeBron James among voters will thaw. Unless we see another media darling like Kevin Durant or Blake Griffin take their teams to the top of the standings as Derrick Rose did in 2010-11, I say this is LeBron's award to lose.
Ryan DeGama, Celtics Hub: Disagree. He'll probably deserve it. But fewer MVP votes are part of the price he pays for last summer. It strikes me as punitive and probably fleeting. Once LeBron wins a championship, he'll be lionized the next regular season. Unless Wade gets the Finals MVP. In which case this might be a life sentence.
3. Agree or disagree: Miami will make back-to-back NBA Finals.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, HoopSpeak: Agree. Aside from the Bulls, I don't see much competition in the East. The Celtics can cite Rajon Rondo's injury as why they should have done better, but the Celtics point guard was an average player for much of the season -- which concerns me for Boston's future. Next season is Miami's to squander.
Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: Disagree. They will be back many times, but next season may be one of the few in which they face multiple formidable challenges in the East. A hungry Chicago team looking for revenge and a veteran Celtics squad together for one final stand? Miami may be the favorite, but I'll take my chances on the field.
John Krolik, Cavs: The Blog: Agree. I think the Heat will have an incredibly tough road, because the Boston and Chicago series were much, much tougher than a typical five-game series, but I believe they'll be better next season than they were this past one.
Tom Haberstroh, Heat Index: Agree. It's awfully early to say since we haven't even started free agency. But that said, I think it's the favorite to get there. Can the Bulls find a half-decent scorer at the 2? Can the Celtics delay the aging process again? Those are bigger questions than what the Heat will face heading into next season.
Ryan DeGama, Celtics Hub: Disagree. Even if Miami attracts a quality batch of ring chasers and buyouts, the Heat's margin of error is thin and Wade's health makes me more nervous every year. Miami's the best bet of any East team, but the smart money is still on the field.
4. Agree or disagree: There's no clear-cut favorite in the NBA.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, HoopSpeak: Disagree. The favorite is Miami, according to Vegas. Of course, the Heat haven't won a title. Would it have been foolish to call the Lakers a "favorite" after they lost in the 2008 NBA Finals?
Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: Agree. Miami may be the only team with a case, but it's tough to put that label on the Heat when it's unclear how much they will improve their roster this offseason. Plus, with so many loaded teams around the NBA reaping the benefits of continuity (Oklahoma City, Chicago, etc.), I don't see a clear-cut favorite.
John Krolik, Cavs: The Blog: Agree. The Mavericks could do it again. The Lakers are still scary. The Bulls didn't lose anybody. The Celtics have one more run left in them. The Heat are the Heat. The Thunder are right there. There are a lot of teams that could take the title home.
Tom Haberstroh, Heat Index: Agree. We'll have a fascinating mix of old mainstays (Celtics, Mavericks, Lakers, Spurs and Magic) and new blood (Bulls, Thunder, Grizzlies and Heat). Las Vegas has the Heat as the favorites in 2011-12, and I nod my head in agreement, although it's certainly not clear-cut.
Ryan DeGama, Celtics Hub: Agree. The bounty of flawed rosters around the league sets up a fascinating subplot for 2011-12: Which GMs will best navigate the new labor landscape and turn their contending teams into powerhouses? Decent (if rather obvious) predictions: Sam Presti (Thunder), Pat Riley (Heat), Danny Ainge (Celtics), Mitch Kupchak (Lakers).
5. Agree or disagree: An underdog will win it all in 2011-12.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, HoopSpeak: Disagree. Even when an underdog like Dallas wins, a careful analysis usually shows that the "underdog" was merely underrated.
Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: Disagree. There's a short list of teams that are considered championship material each season. Going by that logic, and with a strong possibility of a shortened season, talent and experience will be more important than ever. The favorites should hold the most in both departments, and I see one of those teams winning it all.
John Krolik, Cavs: The Blog: Disagree. I think one of the teams I mentioned above will end up winning it all, and I wouldn't consider any of them underdogs at this point. That said, the NBA can always surprise you.
Tom Haberstroh, Heat Index: Disagree. If there's no favorite, can there be an underdog? It's rare that a team sneaks up on us like the Mavs did, so I'm banking on two superpowers meeting for the Larry O'Brien Trophy in June. Heat-Lakers anybody?
Ryan DeGama, Celtics Hub: Disagree. If it's going to happen, 2011-12, with its funky new CBA and perhaps a shortened schedule, would provide the perfect backdrop. But when I think underdog, I think Memphis and Portland and Atlanta and their ilk. And I can't imagine any of them winning four rounds in the playoffs.
MORE NBA HEADLINES
- Thunder fire back to rout Lakers in rematch
- Dunleavy, Noah carry Bulls past Rockets
- McHale: Noah is Defensive Player of Year
- Woodson: Jackson would only help Knicks
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
5-on-5: Five Questions on Five Hot NBA Topics
5-ON-5: NBA ROUNDTABLES