Breaking down who would win between Heat Big 3 and peak Warriors

The Golden State Warriors are the best team of the 2010s, winning three championships in the decade.

But the Warriors would have some competition against the Miami Heat, a team that peaked just a few years before they took off.

Heat legend Dwyane Wade hopped on Instagram Live with Steph Curry on Friday night, and he asked Curry which team would win: the Heat’s Big 3 or the Warriors at their peak?

Curry said the two could settle everything out on NBA 2K, but Wade laughed and said he isn’t good at the game. Still, with the two team’s peaks only around four years apart, it’s a hypothetical matchup that could have been relatively feasible if the Heat had a longer run.

Offense: Warriors 

The Warriors have revolutionized offense, with Curry and Klay Thompson being the sharpshooters for a team that heavily utilizes off-ball actions and misdirection.

At their peak, the Warriors screened teams into oblivion, and with Kevin Durant in the picture, they were basically impossible to guard.

Though they boast great shooters, the Warriors have never relied on shooting from deep — that’s why their best teams had the most productive offenses in league history. They were unpredictable, while still having the threat of elite shooting.

When they won the title in 2017, the Warriors ranked fifth that regular season in 3-point attempts per game (31.2). When they won a second straight championship in 2018, the Warriors ranked 17th in 3-point attempts (28.9).

Golden State’s motion offense has been filled with position-less lineups, but what’s interesting is that the Miami Heat’s offense was the predecessor for the Warriors’ success.

The Heat were pioneers when it came to showing how small-ball lineups could work in certain situations. That was when LeBron James began playing more power forward, working in the post against smaller defenders.

James had multiple shooters to pass out to if necessary, with Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen being viable options.

Like the Warriors, the Heat were also good at controlling pace. James and Wade were crucial for that, with Wade’s slashing and scoring ability being the perfect complement to James’ passing skills.

The Heat’s offense was effective, but the Warriors get the edge here. No team in NBA history has put on an offensive clinic quite like Golden State has.

Defense: Even

The Heat’s defense was smothering at its peak, and their blitzing would be the main reason they could hang with the Warriors.

The only chance any team had against the Durant-era Warriors was to apply pressure on the perimeter, while also having enough rim protection to cover any backside options.

The Heat had both during their run, with players like Wade, Battier, James and Norris Cole helping suffocate the perimeter.

Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen anchored the defense in the interior, with the big men being No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in blocks per game during the team’s 2013 title season.

Miami’s ability to go small would be crucial as well. Teams need to be able to switch on the perimeter to guard Golden State, and the Heat’s athleticism and quickness would allow them to defend the pick-and-roll and keep the Warriors in front of them.

Though the Heat’s defense was elite, the Warriors boasted just as good a defense at the height of their powers.

Much like the Heat, the Warriors regularly had the perimeter on lockdown, with Thompson and Andre Iguodala leading the top of the defense. The Warriors ranked first in steals per game (9.6) during their 2017 title season.

Draymond Green has always been an important fixture of the offense, with his quality facilitating and screen setting being his best attributes. But he is also a significant presence for the Warriors’ defense, and his ability to play center has helped unlocked their positionless lineups.

The 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, Green is one of the best help defenders of all time, as his basketball IQ helps him be in the right place at the right time.

He can guard any position, and the Warriors would be able to contain the dynamic duo of Wade and James.

Prediction: Warriors would win, but the series would go the distance

With both defenses being great, it’s hard to put one over the other. That end of the floor would be tightly contested, and whether Miami could score enough points would be the difference.

During their 2013 title season, the Heat averaged 102.9 points per game and shot 39.6% from deep. During their 2017 championship season, the Warriors averaged 115.9 points per game and shot 38.3% from the 3-point line.

It’s difficult to see the Heat being better offensively than Golden State, though.

With a Hall of Fame-level offense, the Warriors would win, but it would be a close series because of the Heat’s stifling defense.

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