With the loss of All-Star power forward Chris Bosh to an abdominal strain in Game 1, Miami Heat coach Eric Spoelstra had to maneuver his starting lineup in order to help soften this tremendous blow to their title chances.
In turn, the young coach has decided to grant LeBron James, a traditional swingman, a surplus of minutes at the power forward position.
While not exactly foreign to the arguably greatest basketball player in the world (the Heat's lack of depth has caused many different lineups), LeBron James has never been subject to a plethora of playing time at a big man position.
Instead of possessing the luxury of open space on the perimeter, the newly-crowned MVP will have to battle for hard-fought rebounds, set sturdy picks and guard larger opponents.
“It’s a lot more taxing being in there with bigger guys,” James said. Defensively “is the biggest difference. When you’re on the perimeter, there’s more space. The interior is more cramped and physical. … But I’m ready for the challenge.”
LeBron James shouldn't be just ready for the upcoming adversity. He should embrace the difficulty of this change, as the 27-year-old has a fantastic chance to thrive at the 4-spot in the immediate and distant future.
The Indiana Pacers, a team that boasts a deep bench, don't have a big man capable of guarding the perennial All-Star in the post. He is too quick for players like Roy Hibbert and David West, and too strong for Pacers like Granger.
As a slashing small forward on the outside, swingmen Danny Granger and Paul George are competent-enough athletes to keep up with this physically-gifted star. Sure, they can't stop him, but they can absolutely slow James down.
The other side of the court, however, it's a different story. LBJ will be seriously outsized in many of his defensive assignments, including against Pacers star David West. Nonetheless, James' ironman qualities and 6'9", 250-pound frame will most likely allow him to keep up with the bruising physicality that occurs at the position.
The most intriguing aspect of this switch is his newfound ability to utilize his knack for being a beast on the boards, which would allow him to jump-start more transition opportunities. And if there is one thing we have learned in James' tenure in the NBA, it is the simple fact he excels on the break.
As viewers, we shouldn't be completely caught up with the immediate gains in James' statistics—this valuable time at power forward will prove beneficial for James in the long term.
Once James' all-world athleticism starts to fail him in advanced age, the power forward position may become home for the All-NBA talent. Much like former Heat player Lamar Odom made the switch from the exterior to the interior, James may actually become a more dominant player with the change.
Will this switch be difficult to acclimate to? Absolutely. But, James at the power forward is just glistening with potential to be remarkable.
James, though, has bigger issues to tackle on his plate, as his inability to produce in the clutch is beginning to fester in his legacy.