It took nearly two years, but the Miami Heat finally figured out the best way to utilize their Big Three. Let LeBron James orchestrate the offense, move Dwyane Wade off the ball and slide Chris Bosh over to center.
In short, play small and push the pace.
With Erik Spoelstra's tweaks in place, the Heat ran all the way back to the NBA Finals, where they scurried past the speedy Oklahoma City Thunder on the way to hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
As important as James' ascension to top dog and Wade's reassignment to sidekick were to Miami's success, the team's transformation into a revolutionary (and championship-caliber) outfit wouldn't have been complete without Bosh's move into the middle.
To be sure, center is not Bosh's natural position. He prefers to operate as a face-up forward, doesn't spend much time on the low block, has never been a particularly prolific rebounder and, while an underrated defender, would hardly be considered All-NBA in that regard.
But with the way they play, the Heat don't need a traditional center. If anything, employing a big man whose role consists of defending and rebounding might actually be a hindrance to Miami's unorthodox style of play.
Unless, of course, that big man happens to be an athletic freak like, say, Dwight Howard.
Which, as you might imagine, Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman aren't. Rather, both are plodding players who are best suited to the half-court game, wherein they can use their size and strength to set up in the middle and crash the boards.
Bosh, on the other hand, is anything but a stone-footed frontcourt filler. He's long been lauded—and, at times, mocked—for his long, lean frame, which, when coupled with his speed and athleticism, lends itself well to getting up and down the floor.
That ability fits perfectly alongside LeBron and D-Wade, two of the most lethal transition players in the league today. Bosh can guard his opponents on the perimeter and, when possession changes hands, sprint up the floor to fill the lane on the break.
Unlike Miami's other bigs, who'd need several more precious seconds to scoot from one end to the other.
The numbers bear out just how effective Bosh was in this role. According to Basketball Value, every lineup wherein Bosh played the "5" alongside LeBron and Wade in the 2012 playoffs yielded strong one-year adjusted and unadjusted plus-minus numbers. Likewise, four of Miami's most frequently used (and most effective) five-man units from its postseason run featured LeBron at power forward and/or Chris Bosh at center.
No surprise. Bosh is lighter, quicker and more agile than Miami's other bigs. With Bosh in the middle, the Heat can get all five players to push the pace, which makes their initial break that much more lethal and opens up secondary opportunities should the first ones be stifled.
Center may not be Bosh's position of choice, but playing it is something with which he's already made peace, if not embraced.
And if Bosh continues to perform that role as well as he did during Miami's stretch run into and through the Finals last season, he'll have another ring to show for it.
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