How the Miami Heat Can Improve for the Playoffs
The Miami Heat are the most scrutinized team in the NBA. The WWE-style entrance of the Big Three only magnified the pressure on them.
LeBron James once said at that infamous gathering, "Not five! Not six! Not seven!" Everyone thought he was referring to the number of championships the Heat will win together.
What James was really referring to was the inches his hairline was away from his forehead.
Yes. Pundits are saying the Heat's chances of winning a championship are as fading as LeBron's hairline. Their flaws were exposed in a very winnable game against the Chicago Bulls.
A great win against the Knicks yesterday only masked those flaws. I will briefly run down these flaws to give a context as to my solutions.
Problem No. 1: Lack of interior size
The lack of size along Miami's front line is a glaring weakness. Ronny Turiaf and Joel Anthony are both undersized centers who must rebound and defend to stay out there. Udonis Haslem often plays out of position at center in crunch time.
With this lack of size becoming a major problem, how do you solve the Heat's interior woes?
Solution No. 1: Go to a Small Lineup and Speed up the Tempo
At first glance, you would think I need to be checked in to an insane asylum. However, if you think about it, the Heat going small might make them virtually unbeatable.
Imagine the "Seven Seconds or Less" system with the two most athletic wings in the game along with mobile post players and shooters galore.
I am not advocating for the Heat to fire Erik Spolestra in favor of Mike D'Antoni. D'Antoni's system would not necessarily fit the Heat's personnel because it predicates spreading the floor with three-point shooters.
LeBron and Wade have made a point not to take three-pointers this season.
Instead, the Heat should just constantly attack the rim in transition. Run off makes, misses, turnovers, and even off timeouts.
Chris Bosh is the ideal stretch center, which will force opposing centers to go out to the perimeter. Moving Bosh to the 5 will give LeBron James and Dwyane Wade more room to post up.
With sharpshooter Mike Miller and Bosh pulling the big men away from the paint, LeBron and Wade will have plenty of driving lanes to draw fouls and to make easy baskets.
This forces opposing teams to go small to counter the Heat. No team in basketball can outrun the Heat in transition. No player can guard LeBron or Wade at full speed.
Defensively, the Heat can swarm the ball while denying passing lanes. Forcing turnovers is an absolute must with a smaller lineup.
Chris Bosh will often be over-matched in the low post. Rebounding will be an issue with Bosh at the 5.
Nevertheless, Miami's swarming defense will disrupt passing lanes. It might make sense for Bosh to front the post while the Heat are heavily pressuring the ball.
The Heat must collectively rebound the basketball to set up fast breaks. LeBron and Wade will have to increase their rebound total to compensate for the lack of a true center.
With the Heat thriving in transition, it surprises me why they revert to playing in the half-court so often.
Problem No. 2: Stagnation in the half-court offense
It is no secret that the Heat have reverted back to the ways which plagued them last year. From watching that Bulls game on Thursday, it appeared that LeBron or Wade would set up an isolation while the other four guys would just stand there.
This is not a problem when the Heat are constantly on the break. But they will have to play in the half-court at some point during the playoffs.
What is the biggest problem with the Heat?
How do the Heat manage to become more efficient offensively while reducing the burden of Wade and LeBron?
Solution No. 2: Implement a motion offense
Since the Heat under my solution would have essentially five perimeter players, moving without the ball is a must to generate offense.
The motion offense is the most reliable offense to properly distribute total shots. This will prevent stagnant isolation plays often seen in the fourth quarter.
The offense can be designed to get Wade and LeBron in the post. Three players in Chalmers, Wade, and LeBron can bring the ball up to achieve optimal results.
Chris Bosh can force the big man guarding him to come out to the perimeter. Bosh can knock down mid-range shots in the event his man comes down to double team Wade or LeBron.
Backdoor cuts would also be a major component to my proposed offense. Requiring help defenders to move is only going to free up driving lanes for the Heat. A backdoor cut can garner a score or two in the course of a game.
Setting more off the ball screens will give the Heat more opportunities to get easier shots. Easier shots will reduce the burden LeBron and Wade have to endure each night.
Ball movement and player movement will help the Heat not only score more points in the half-court but also wears out opposing defenses.
I am not saying the Heat should go to small ball for 48 minutes. I realize small ball gives teams severe disadvantages with defense and rebounding.
The Heat's problems are not as easily fixable as I portrayed. The two problems I just outlined were on-the-court problems which I presented a solution for.
Their biggest problem is something that must be fixed internally. That problem is the complacency the Heat tend to have when they are playing well. It cost them against the Mavericks.
But if the Heat speed the tempo of the game and implement a motion offense, a ring might be in their future.
Yes. An actual NBA championship.
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