The Heat are in Dallas to take on the Mavericks. Our 3-on-3 crew weighs in on the defending champs.
1. Better odds: LeBron winning MVP or Heat winning East's top seed.
Israel Gutierrez: Top seed. If you were to translate current voter MVP thinking into standings, Kevin Durant would have about a six-game lead on LeBron right now. And unlike the Pacers, Durant won't struggle through some scoring woes.
Tom Haberstroh: The latter. For the most part, the Heat can control their fate with regard to the No. 1 seed. However, no matter how well LeBron James plays here on out, I think the media has already engraved Kevin Durant's name on the MVP trophy. And with plenty of good reason.
Brian Windhorst: Heat getting top seed. Indiana has the friendlier schedule but the Heat have been steadily picking up their play and the Pacers have been inconsistent recently. LeBron isn't just fighting Durant for the MVP, he's fighting himself from past years and voter fatigue. That's a challenging hurdle. It's totally still within his grasp but Durant has the momentum and that could end up being a good thing for the Heat in the stretch run because it will drive LeBron.
2. Over/Under: Dwyane Wade will miss 9.5 more regular season games.
Gutierrez: Under. If you assume the Heat and Pacers will be battling down to the end for the top seed, then Wade won't be sitting out "meaningless" games down the stretch. So that would mean Wade would have to miss nearly a third of the Heat's remaining 31 games due to injury/rest. That's a high number.
Haberstroh: Over. I wouldn't be surprised if he misses a month ahead of the playoffs. It's not just about conserving gas in the tank; you also can't get in an accident if the car's sitting in the garage.
Windhorst: Over. Even if his knees continue to feel better, it makes even less sense to push it as the playoffs approach. The Heat sat him out of a playoff game last year. That could most certainly happen again this season. Wade has proven he will deliver when it really matters and without the ability to see the future, it's reasonable to believe he'll be able to do it again.
3. Fact or Fiction: Miami needs a roster move for the stretch run.
Gutierrez: Fiction. "Needs" is a strong word. A talent boost can help, of course, but more important to Miami is getting in tune with it's current group and finding out if Greg Oden and/or Michael Beasley will have regular roles. As Erik Spoelstra will tell you, the team has more than enough to win a title again. And don't underestimate the value of Udonis Haslem and James Jones to the chemistry on this team. Trading either one of them would be an unpopular choice in the locker room.
Haberstroh: Fact. They could add to their shooting guard depth, but it'll be tough in a trade. They already cashed in their chips getting Toney Douglas. They'll likely monitor the free agent bin once teams waive their dead-weight veterans. This is the Pat Riley specialty (see: Chris Andersen, Rashard Lewis, Mike Bibby, etc.).
Windhorst: Fiction. The Heat don't "need" anything besides health for their star players. This group has won two titles and a third is within their grasp. I do think they could use an extra wing defender who can help with the Lance Stephenson/Paul George/Kevin Durant/Russ Westbrook-type matchups for a few minutes a game to ease the load.