5 Strategic Changes the Miami Heat Need to Make in 2012-13
Despite last year's grand success, one could potentially make the argument that the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder, not the Miami Heat, were the most consistent team in the entire Association. These franchises may not have come home with the Larry O'Brien Trophy, but both rosters failed to crumble, or even falter, for numerous stretches.
The Heat, simply put, cannot say the same thing.
There is no question that Miami is the best assembled team in the league right now, but there were a few points last year where it seemed the Heat were going to see their title hopes fade away.
For instance, the Heat lost six out of the 11 games that took place starting at the end of March to the middle of April. Miami, also, couldn't annihilate the elder Boston Celtics, an outcome everybody predicted likely, and instead saw their Eastern Conference Finals be drawn out to seven games.
Nonetheless, the Heat still achieved a championship in quite convincing fashion, a feat that should not be taken for granted.
Next season, though, will be a completely different story. With the veteran Boston Celtics, bumbling, yet talented, New York Knicks, gritty Indiana Pacers and resurgent Brooklyn Nets in the conference, Miami's road to a repeat isn't going to be an ordinary walk in the park.
And, that's not even including the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that has the potential to go toe-to-toe talent-wise against the champs.
There are adjustments, though, that could be made by Erik Spoelstra and the coaching staff that would make the Heat a lock to complete the back-to-back title honor.
Start Chris Bosh at Center for the Majority of the Season
Chris Bosh is leaps and bounds the Miami Heat's best post player. Not only is the 6'11" big man a seven-time All-Star, but the former Georgia Tech star is a nightly 20 points and 10 boards threat.
Even though Bosh, who only averaged 18 points and eight rebounds per contest last season, isn't producing the eye-popping statistics like in his Toronto days, mostly due to the presence of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, opposing squads still consider him one of the more necessary options in their offense.
While his defense has always been labeled lackluster, Bosh's silky smooth offensive game, featuring refined post-up moves and a quality mid-range jumper, coupled with his lanky, yet athletic, build make him a difficult power forward to guard.
However, Spoelstra needs to move Bosh to the center position in the starting lineup. Sure, this isn't Bosh's natural position, and he does get bullied down-low by larger opponents, but it is of dire necessity. The Heat can't keep trying to utilize mediocre center options to fill their need in the middle.
A rotation of Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman won't get the job done.
Miami's coach absolutely supports the move:
"Chris embracing the center position really took our team to another level," Spoelstra said. "Because of his speed, his skill set, he could defend multiple positions. But as a center, he became one of the tougher (centers to) cover in the league."
With Bosh at the 5, Miami's versatility will be fully unleashed.
Against larger big-man tandems, the Heat could pair Udonis Haslem, a blue-collar NBA player, with Bosh in the starting lineup. The veteran Haslem is a solid rebounder, who won't back down from larger post players.
On the other hand, Rashard Lewis would be a great power forward against the undersized squads in the league, like the Houston Rockets. Lewis' three-point shooting and penetration abilities will make him a nightmare for opposite power forwards to guard.
The Chris Bosh move to center also frees up the lane for the driving James and Wade. Gone would be the days that these two superstars have to worry about running into the oversized Dexter Pittman while trying to finish at the rim.
Against the likes of Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard, however, the team may want to roll with a more traditional center to combat the size of these two behemoths.
Mario Chalmers Is Allowed to Be a True Point Guard
In a normal NBA offense, the point guard primarily controls the ball, but the Miami Heat possess no ordinary NBA offense. Due to having arguably the two greatest current players in the world, Wade and James are utilized as the main facilitators.
So, what role does traditional point guard Mario Chalmers play? Well, the former Kansas star is mostly needed for his knockdown three-point shooting ability. After all, Chalmers nailed nearly 40 percent of his attempts from downtown.
This trend, however, needs to stop.
There's no denying Chalmers is a fantastic shooter, but his game is much more diverse compared to his minor role. Back in his collegiate days, Chalmers ran the Jayhawks offense with precision and efficiency. Now, the guard has been relegated to being a pure sharpshooter.
In nearly 30 minutes of action, Chalmers averaged only a shade over three assists per night.
If Chalmers' role is expanded, though, look for the point guard to burst onto the Most Improved Player of the Year scene.
Additionally, his increased role in the offense would help rest the legs of James and Wade, keeping them fresh for the postseason.
Norris Cole Finds a Consistent Role
Staying on the topic of point guards, Norris Cole, a rookie who showed real promise last season, never received a consistent role throughout last season, culminating in minor playing time in the playoffs.
Erik Spoelstra can't allow Cole to ride the pine much longer.
Not only is the former Cleveland State star Miami's most promising prospect, but he fills the need of a backup point guard perfectly.
The Heat don't need a consistent, yet unremarkable, player coming off the bench to run the point. After all, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are perfectly capable of running the show.
Instead, Cole provides instant offense with his blazing speed and solid jumper. Along with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, this bench is going to arguably be the most dangerous reserve group offensively.
Limit Dwyane Wade's Minutes
Dwyane Wade, since entering the league in 2004, has never been considered the healthiest shooting guard in the NBA. In fact, the 30-year-old has battled a multitude of injuries throughout his career, and just recently had surgery on his ailing left knee.
While Wade expects to be fully healthy by the time the season rolls around, coach Spoelstra should be reluctant to play the superstar too often. After all, one more major injury and Wade may decide to hang up the jersey.
Due to his reckless style of play, Wade is quite prone to physical ailments. The more time you leave him on the floor, the more time he has a chance to hurt himself.
I also bet Heat nation would rather see Wade in a degraded role for the rest of his career, if it means a prolonged career for the perennial All-Star.
Plus, the Miami Heat finally have depth on the wings. Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Mike Miller and Shane Battier can all play the shooting guard position effectively, meaning Wade may be able to play a few less minutes per game than he normally would.
LeBron James Should See More Time at the Power Forward Slot
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article pleading for the Miami Heat to utilize LeBron James at the power forward position.
Not only does it make since in the present, but also for his future.
The Heat lack quality big men. There is no way to mask it, and Miami has come to embrace this sad realization.
However, Miami, whose only legitimate rotation big men are Rashard Lewis, Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh, has found ways to get around this deficiency. One of these said tools is to move LeBron James to the power forward slot.
Despite being a traditional small forward, James thrives in the post. Not only does he possess a solid post-up game, but his strength combined with his quickness makes him nearly impossible to cover.
Additionally, James, who is only 27 years old, will someday lose his incredible athleticism, which will not make him as dominant of a perimeter player. Inside, though, he won't have to rely on his speed or jumping ability, and can thrive off of savvy hooks and layups. This will be his position of choice down the road.
Last but not least, James saw a surplus of time at the power forward position in London during Team USA's gold-medal run. Obviously, he has become used to the rigors of playing a new position, making a possible transition this year run much more smoothly.
James should embrace this change, and it seems like he already has:
“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.”