We all know what happened with the original ‘Big 3′ in Miami. After four years, two championships and two MVP awards, James has returned to Cleveland in hopes of bringing his home state their first major title since 1964.
In James’ first year with the Miami Heat, the Heat went 58-24 and averaged over 102 points per game. That’s an 11 win difference and an almost six point increase from the previous season. With the Cavs winning only 33 games last year, a historic increase in team wins from one season to the next may be on its way.
With James coming back to Cleveland and forming a new ‘Big 3′ with Irving and Love, it’s only right to compare the roster of the 2010 Miami Heat to the 2014 Cleveland Cavaliers.
1. The Big Three
How do the ‘Big 3′ of the 2010 Heat compare to this year’s stellar trio in Cleveland?
One glaring difference between the two teams is Dwyane Wade. Flash was already a champion when LeBron landed in South Beach. At that point, James was not. While LBJ was the best player on the team from a physical and athletic standpoint, he had not yet mastered all of the mental aspects of being a championship-caliber player. It was an easy transition for LeBron because he was going into a situation where the foundation for winning basketball was already in place.
Now, James has the demeanor of being an NBA champion. He’s overcome the criticism of not being able to perform in the fourth quarter by being the unrivaled leader on a team that rode his back to four straight Finals appearances. However, while the Cavs have also added former champions Mike Miller, James Jones and soon to be Shawn Marion, the two other cogs of the new Big 3 wheel have yet to play one minute of playoff basketball.
With all that being said, Kyrie Irving will absolutely be the best pure point guard that LeBron has ever played with. While Irving’s shot attempts will probably take a dip next season playing next to James and Love, his assist total and field goal percent from long-range should both set new career highs. The underrated passer, who has been forced to take too many shots during his three years with the Cavaliers, will find more open lanes and wide open threes than he’s ever experienced at any point in his career.
Probably the two most similar players between the teams, besides LeBron and himself, are Kevin Love and Heat power forward Chris Bosh. They are both stretch fours that rebound well and can finish around the basket. Last season the Heat tried to establish Bosh as a three point threat, an attribute in which Kevin Love is already prolific. While Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor questioned Love’s defensive abilities after the trade, Chris Bosh has never necessarily been known as a defensive juggernaut either.
So where the Heat’s Big 3 get the edge in leadership and experience, the Cavaliers version has youth, athleticism and a pure shooting ability on their side.
2. The Bench
Of the 8,369 points that the Miami Heat scored in the 2010 season, 5,490 were scored by James, Wade and Bosh. The key bench players for that team were James Jones, Mario Chalmers, Joel Anthony and Eddie House. Mike Miller was on the team but only played in 41 games due to injury.
Because of the lucrative deals the Heat gave their Big 3 nucleus, there was little money available to round out a championship roster. Their bench lacked scoring, and it wasn’t uncommon for the Heat to have games where the Big 3 scored over 70% of Miami’s points.
In probably the most unlikely off-season in franchise history, the Cavaliers have added a plethora of players that have jolted Cleveland from eighth-seed hopefuls to odds on being the favorites. Outside of James and Love, the Cavs may have gone from worst to first in terms of bench production by adding veteran sharp shooters Mike Miller and James Jones. The deal is in place to sign veteran defensive specialist Shawn Marion as well.
With that much talent on one roster ,many analysts assumed that that the Big 3 of Miami would need time to gel. That was true to some degree. After starting the season 4-1, Miami endured a 5-7 stretch between November 5th and November 27th. They followed that with a three game win streak, finishing the month 9-8.
December was a little different. In that month the Heat enjoyed their two longest win streaks (12 and 9) of the season. They finished December ,15-1 and ended the regular season 58-24 — four games behind the Chicago Bulls.
Is it possible that Bron’s new team can duplicate that kind of early success Miami enjoyed during LBJ’s visit to South Beach? That remains to be seen. Kyrie has struggled as a leader and has not yet finished higher than tenth place in the East. Kevin Love’s leadership and defensive efforts have been called into question as well.
What isn’t arguable is that Irving and Love’s offensive game directly compares to that of Wade and Bosh. We simply cannot answer the question of ‘which Big 3 is better’ just yet because the Heat version has two rings, the Cavaliers do not.
At least not yet, that is.