MIAMI – The Golden State Warriors have redefined the term “super team” and it is working out pretty good, so far.
The Warriors one upped the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer, adding a fourth All-Star to their roster in Kevin Durant and it has shown this postseason. With two easy victories over the Cavs in the Finals, the Warriors not only are two wins away from their second title in three years, but if they sweep the series, they will complete a 16-0 postseason, becoming the first team in NBA history to sweep four postseason series.
The Warriors and Cavaliers, who were 12-1 during the playoffs before running into Golden State in the Finals, have raised the bar and 28 other teams now are on the chase, including the Miami Heat. Heat captain Udonis Haslem knows the feeling of being on a super team when he played alongside LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade for four years, a period in which the Heat qualified for four Finals and won back-to-back titles in 2012 and ‘13.
The 14-year veteran, though, does not believe it will take the stars aligning just right to make a run at a title. Haslem says a good team with the right attitude can compete with anybody.
“You don’t have to have a super team,” Haslem said Saturday from the Mountain Dew NBA 3-on-3 fan experience at Bayfront Park. “The problem is the majority of the league doesn’t play hard. You’ve got 20 percent of the NBA that does play hard. So when you take a super talented team that actually plays hard and plays the game the right way you get a team like Golden State.
“They’ll be other talented teams. The question is will they play hard like Golden State? Will they play together like Golden State? That’s what separates them from other talented teams. It’s the way they approach the game.”
Forward Justise Winslow is not sure about a super team – “I don’t know how you define it,” he said – but he is sure about one thing. …
“You have to have a great team to get to the Finals,” he said. “I don’t know about a super team, I don’t know how you define it. I don’t know what players have to average or what kind of star they have to be.”
So how far away are the Heat from being mentioned with the Warriors of Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, or even the Cavaliers – the team Miami would have to go through in the Eastern Conference – with James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love?
Miami should have about $38 million to spend in free agency next month. But president Pat Riley and GM Andy Elisburg would have to believe there is one player – one major piece of a super team – worth spending a majority of that money on. Perhaps Clippers power forward Blake Griffin or Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward.
Although he has yet to be an All-Star, the Heat could have the first piece in center Hassan Whiteside, who at least is paid like one with a max deal that is paying him $98 million over four years. In the last two years Whiteside has led the NBA in blocks (2015-16) and rebounding (2016-17). And Whiteside believes Miami is not that far away with players like Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters (if he re-signs) emerging during the second half of the season.
That trio was the foundation to a team that went 30-11 in the second half of last season, which was second-best in the NBA behind Golden State, and missed the playoffs by one game.
Another key piece to that turnaround: forward James Johnson, who, like Waiters, will be a free agent July 1.
“You don’t know what a guy like Dion is going to bring and Goran,” Whiteside said. “Those guys can become superstars themselves. So you might not even have to go get anybody else. It might be enough.
“I think we got a chance next year. I feel like if we would have got into the playoffs (this year), we could have made a lot of noise in there.”