Star players all across the league open up opportunities for their scoring counterparts, but rarely are these benefactor relationships as pronounced as that between LeBron James and Ray Allen.
The best player in the league has a game that naturally benefits all of those around him, and now he has a teammate uniquely capable of thriving without the ball.
The Low Post as a Point of Connection
There's hardly a better way to set up perimeter shooters than working directly out of the low post, meaning that all of LeBron's improvement in that aspect of his game should greatly enhance his on-court relationship with Allen.
As James turns his back to the basket and begins to back down his man, he invites additional pressure and, at the least, the entire defense's attention. Opponents keep their eyes on James at all times, and as their gaze remains on the reigning MVP, Allen should be able to get the jump he needs on his assigned defender.
Few understand when and how to properly use the otherwise taboo cross-court pass as well as James, and his kicks to the weak-side corner should find Allen relatively often. Otherwise, one can expect Allen to run around his usual series of screens in his efforts to create space, and equally expect James to set up Allen with perfect timing once the perfect moment arises.
Through the intersection of James' skills, opponents have no choice but to respect the threat of his presence on the block while willingly falling into the trap of overcompensating. They shouldn't double. They shouldn't trap.
But what else is one to do when such a skilled player is able to spin around his bigger opponents and overpower the smaller ones? James puts opponents in impossible situations, and Allen allows the Heat to maximize on that defensive quandary with great efficiency.
Beneficiaries of the Two-Man Game
The same relationship exists on the perimeter, as well, where James is one of the best dribble penetrators in the game. The initial elements of the offense may not be as simple or direct as an entry pass to the low post, but when James has the ball in his hands at the top of the key, he holds a similar capacity to occupy and engage the entire team defense.
This is particularly true in pick-and-roll situations, which are misleadingly labeled as a two-man game. In truth, though only two offensive players are directly involved with such plays, four or five defenders are typically a part of the resulting coverage. Hedging, rotations and switches require an attentive defensive unit, and James nudges opponents into these sequences all too easily.
From the moment he steps around a screen, one of his teammates is typically open. Sometimes it's Dwyane Wade, who may or may not be in position to score. Sometimes it's Chris Bosh, beginning his roll to the rim. And sometimes it's Allen (or Shane Battier, or Mike Miller, or Mario Chalmers...) lying in wait for a spot-up three-point attempt.
Dribble penetration pulls defenders off of the perimeter all too easily, and as James looks to create for himself and the Heat off the bounce, the open shots will manufacture themselves.