If you had to construct a team to take down the defending-champion Miami Heat this season, what would it look like?
That was the question posed to me via email last week after discussing the Los Angeles Lakers and how they're shaping up to be Heat kryptonite. There's no shortage of weapons: Dwight Howard anchoring the paint; Steve Nash in the driver's seat; Kobe Bryant lurking on the wing; Pau Gasol flexing his almost unrivaled big-man skills; and Metta World Peace doing Metta World Peace things.
But the Lakers certainly have their flaws. Their projected starting lineup has an average age of 32.4 and exhibits a serious lack of outside shooting beyond Nash. And then you deal with a supporting cast that, thus far in the preseason, has been steamrolled. To paint you a picture, Antawn Jamison is sporting a minus-50 (plus-minus) so far in exhibition play.
So what would a beat-the-Heat squad look like?
Of course, assembling a murderers' row of All-Stars would be obvious, but that would cost a fortune, not to mention be totally lame. So in an effort to add at least a bit of real-world constraint, we attempted to build a roster under the salary cap -- $58 million to spend and 12 spots to fill.
Here's our take on a potential Heat-beating roster that falls under the cap, followed by an analysis of how that squad would do, according to Basketball Prospectus.
Sure, he posted the second-highest player efficiency rating (PER) last season at 27.2 behind the reigning league MVP, but when the going got tough, Paul got going. In clutch situations (game within five points in the final five minutes), Paul took his efficiency to a whole new level, recording a hair-raising 33.2 PER in crunch time, according to the NBA.com stats tool. That, along with his solid shooting stroke and general mastery of the pick-and-roll make him a perfect fit with a certain center (see below). Simply put, supernatural things happen when you surround Paul with sharpshooters and a devastating pick-and-roll partner.