Why Miami Heat's Pacing and Spacing Should Have Rest of NBA Frightened

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Why Miami Heat's Pacing and Spacing Should Have Rest of NBA Frightened
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Erik Spoelstra is that hippie teacher who lectures outside (in nature), lets you grade yourself and doesn't keep the class in "boxes" known as "positions." Spo explained his ethos to Tom Haberstroh of ESPN:

When we try to think conventionally and put guys in certain boxes or positions, it really hamstrings us. Not only in terms of our flow but mentally, too. We developed that term [position-less] just for guys to understand our versatility and how we need to play.

Yeah, man. Enough with this conventionality, it's harshing the flow. If you get too caught up in positions, you'll lose your versatility. 

Kidding aside, this open-mindedness is dangerous for the rest of the league. Spoelstra's commitment to imaginative basketball will create situations that defenses won't want to deal with. Just look at how difficult it is to defend a team with five three-point shooters on the floor:

Obviously, the play is helped along by the point forward (sorry, I forgot about the "no positions" rule) beating a guy off the dribble. But look how easy it is for James to find space.

With the floor spread so thin, all LeBron needs is a step. That step causes a collapse, leading to an open Ray Allen three-pointer. 

This shot is essentially a 50/50 proposition for Allen, and probably more so off the catch, in rhythm. A coin flip is a fantastic situation when the shot counts for three points. 

Many teams carry five shooters, but the Heat are different in that they can defend while flaunting such lineups. Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Shane Battier are all huge reasons for why this is possible. 

Let's start with LeBron. He has a point guard's ball skills, elite speed and Karl Malone's body. This is, shall we say, defensively useful. LeBron can switch onto any player on the court without Miami losing anything.

The only conceivable mismatch could be against giant centers; even then, look at how James bodies up Pau Gasol:

Battier is a bit like LeBron in that he can guard multiple positions. Battier won't be able to mark nearly all centers—and some power forwards—but he can guard wing spots expertly and shift over to point guards if needed. When Battier and LeBron are on the floor, it's difficult to get Miami in any kind of mismatch.

Finally, Bosh is crucial. He's bulked up some over the summer, but the tall, nimble big man was able to guard centers before this season. Bosh can mark either frontcourt spot, which is quite a luxury given his ability to shoot.

Miami is just adjusting to the rules as they are. The NBA announcers and pundits who fret over the Heat's lack of size should know that size isn't the asset it once was. While it is always good to be tall, post play is a dying art for a reason.

With zone defense legalized, big men can no longer pound the rock slowly as they build towards a drop step. These bigs will get swarmed, or fronted before the catch. With all defense legal, it is incumbent on teams to create a space and shoot from distance.

Spoelstra has embraced the new ways, and it paid off handsomely in the NBA Finals. With Ray Allen creating more even space on account of how much opposing teams fear his shooting, Miami looks poised to have the league's top offense. 

On defense, they have the team speed and principles to play anyone. So long as Bosh stays healthy, Miami's pacing and spacing should make this team the favorite to win another NBA championship. 

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