The Vacancy of Miami's Supplementary Creators
At the risk of oversimplifying the dynamics and direction of the Miami Heat offense, it was always safe to assume that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade would control the ball and create the bulk of Miami's opportunities. Whether by shot, pass or sheer gravity, James and Wade are the most effective weapons the Heat have, and thus, every possession that doesn't somehow bank on their game or influence is, in some ways, a possession squandered.
Yet due to the realities of the game, even such outstanding players can't be the offensive foci on every trip down the floor. Both James and Wade will often be met with crowds of defenders if not entire teams geared to limit their efforts, and in those situations—not to mention the moments when both stars are on the bench—the Heat have turned to their supplementary playmakers.
That's where things get a bit dicey.
The dinged up Mike Miller was once an incredibly versatile player capable of creating offense, but has condensed his game to the point where, as ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh noted on Twitter, three of Miller's four half-court attempts to handle the ball in Game 2 resulted in turnovers. Mario Chalmers makes for one of Miami's better ball-handlers and perimeter shooters, but he fails to ignite off the dribble in a way that would demand any kind of defensive attention. The speedy Norris Cole may not face that same logistical problem, but he conversely has yet to demonstrate an offensive ability capable even of distracting an opposing defense.
These are the Miami Heat's supplementary shot creators. James Jones and Shane Battier wait in the corners, Udonis Haslem, Ronny Turiaf and Joel Anthony wander in their respective zones of semi-effectiveness and Miller, Chalmers and Cole are essentially asked to fill in the offensive gaps whenever James or Wade find themselves unable or fatigued. These are the three who have—and will continue to—see their workloads increase in the absence of Chris Bosh, for the simple reason that they're the only Heat players even remotely capable of such a burden.
Bosh may never be what his critics demand, but he held incredible value for his ability to bear the weight that is now being placed on this frustrating trio. Bosh wasn't exactly asked to create for himself and the Heat offense on the whole all that much, but the threat of his presence both around the basket and from mid-range created openings for Miller, Chalmers and Cole to ply their respective trades.
All three of those role players have felt the effects of Bosh's absence thus far, and though Miami can always manage a win by way of James and Wade playing at a transcendent level or as anchored by oppressive defense, the lack of supplementary creation wipes out much of the margin for error. That doesn't make the Heat likely to drop their current series against the Pacers, mind you, but it certainly makes their endeavor all the more risky.
Spoelstra can make strategic shifts and tweak his lineups, but aside from his team shackling the Pacers with defense or overwhelming them with James and Wade's raw power, these three role players will have to find ways to better navigate offensive possessions. Merely spotting up affords defenses the opportunity for an easy collapse; the Pacers are too good a defensive team to be allowed to operate against so many unthreatening players, and thus, Spoelstra and his stars—in whatever ways possible—must prop up these three supplementary creators as something more than empty scorers.
How exactly they can muster that bit of strategic smoke and mirrors is a bit of a mystery.
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