Breaking Down the New Wrinkles in Erik Spoelstra's Offensive Scheme
It is often said that you learn more from failure than from success. When you win, you don't question how to get better, how to improve. When you lose, you're forced to analyze your process, and really think about how to fix what ails you.
When the Heat were beaten by the Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals, they were bested by a different kind of team. The Mavs practiced a "four out" offense, where four shooters spread the floor and Dirk Nowitzki dominated the action. Since then, Miami has gone down a similar pathway. The Heat learned from the Mavs, and they're adding new tweaks along the way.
Bosh at the 5-Spot
The lean big man strikes people as more the power forward than a center. But there are advantages to moving him up to the center position.
For one, centers usually don't shoot, thus hindering an offense somewhat. Spreading the floor is important, as pulling the defense out of the paint opens up driving lanes for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Chris Bosh isn't the most proficient three-point shooter, but he is an effective marksman on long two-point shots. Bosh worked on his three, late in the playoffs, and his deep-range barrage in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals might have saved Miami:
LeBron at the 4-Spot
This is the natural shift that goes with moving Chris Bosh to center. LeBron James played power forward for much of the Finals, and continues to do so as this year moves along.
Spoelstra didn't really play LeBron much at power forward in 2011, but in 2012, it might as well be his new position. We're seeing someone with Karl Malone's body play Karl Malone's position—but with point guard skills.
The shift is a matchup nightmare for opponents, who sometimes lack depth at either the small forward or power forward position. When the floor is spread, and an opponent is forced to guard James with a sluggish power forward, it can get nasty:
Ray Allen to the Corner
If Ray Allen is alone in the corner against your team, may God have mercy on your soul. That's Ray's shot, and according to Ray, it's "curtains" (via ESPN) for the opposition if he's got it.
Miami seeks to force defenses into impossible choices. With the floor spread so thin, LeBron James can drive to the basket. If its a little thwarted, the defense collapses enough to allow for open shooters. When Ray Allen happens to be that guy, James is fine with making the extra pass.
The game-winning four-point play against Denver was a perfect example of this.
LeBron at Center
Erik Spoelstra is experimenting with lineups that use LeBron James at center and Udonis Haslem at power forward (or vice versa, depending on your perspective). This is usually done to give Chris Bosh a bench breather and I'm not altogether certain that such a lineup is effective defensively.
This unit tends to put LeBron James in a lot of pick-and-roll with Haslem, something that worked well for the pair in an intense Game 4 against the Indiana Pacers. The Heat were down 2-1 in the series, and some timely P-and-R plays between James and Haslem were crucial.
Super Small Ball
With Rashard Lewis now on the team, expect the Heat to go super small on occasion, playing Lewis at the 4-spot, and LeBron at the 5 when it suits Spoelstra.
Like Ray Allen, Rashard is a three-point marksman, especially in the corner. Unlike Ray Allen, Rashard has a history of guarding opposing power forwards.
Such "super small" units have to be employed carefully, and Spoelstra will pick his spots. They might not be stingy defensively, but they should be a lot of fun.