Miami Heat: Breaking Down Adjustments Coach Erik Spoelstra Still Needs to Make
We've learned two things about the Miami Heat so far during the 2012-13 season.
First we've learned that the Heat are going to struggle against teams with serious interior defense and over-sized frontcourts. Secondly, we've learned that the Heat will need to make some changes if they plan on hoisting the 2013 Larry O'Brien Championship trophy at the end of the season.
Erik Spoelstra doesn't need to go back to the drawing board, but he certainly needs to reevaluate how he's managing the resources he has at his disposal.
Ahead are changes that Spoelstra needs to make if he's going to lead the Heat to the promised land once again.
Allow LeBron to Control the Offense
Their offense is at it's best though, when LeBron James is controlling the pace and flow of the game.
No, LeBron doesn't need to be playing point guard for the Heat to win. But Erik Spoelstra needs to give the reigns of offense to LeBron because he not only is the most gifted player in the NBA, he's also one of the most intelligent.
Not only does he create open shots for his teammates, LeBron can also score at will. Even if he's missing his shots, the defensive focus he requires allows his teammates to find open space on the court.
LeBron taking over the offense happens almost 100 percent of the time at the end of close games. Sure, some will bash him for passing up shots in the clutch, but LeBron's ability to find the highest percentage shot nearly ever time down the court is second-to-none.
It's clear that Spoelstra doesn't have much impact on the fluidity of the Heat's offense and that's why he should just turn the reigns over to LeBron. Mario Chalmers' shoot-first mentality would work better at the shooting guard position either way.
Put Udonis Haslem or Joel Anthony Back into the Starting Lineup
If the Heat stick with their Chris Bosh at center and LeBron James at power forward lineup, they are going to continue to struggle against teams with legitimate frontcourts.
That's not going to help them be the top team in the NBA or the Eastern Conference, and that's why Spoelstra needs to revert to his old ways of putting Udonis Haslem or Joel Anthony in the starting lineup.
Anthony isn't the most offensively-gifted player in the world, but he brings a serious level of defensive tenacity to the court—which is something the Heat desperately need.
With LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and even Ray Allen, the Heat have more than enough offensive fire power to give up a roster spot to a defensively-minded player.
If Spoelstra is worried about offensive production in the paint there's a simple solution: bypass putting Anthony at the center position and give that spot to Udonis Haslem. At least he has the ability to step out of the paint and hit shots while also being a solid interior defender.
The Heat need to make some defensive changes, and the easiest way to do so is to take advantage of the talent they have on their roster, even if that means putting more offensive pressure on their big three.
Run More Plays to Get Shane Battier and Ray Allen Open Threes
One of the Heat's biggest assets is their perimeter shooting.
With Ray Allen and Shane Battier shooting for a combined 46.5 percent from the beyond-the-arc on 8.1 attempts per game, according to ESPN.com, the Heat have a skill that they sometimes don't utilize often enough.
Allen and Battiers' three-point opportunities usually come from a driving LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. While that suffices for now, Spoelstra needs to create more offensive sets that end with Battier or Allen coming off screens for open looks.
Being more intentional with the talent the Heat have on their roster is important for the Heat's development this season, with all the new talent they have on their team.
The more opportunities Battier and Allen get, the more defensive pressure will be sucked away from guys like LeBron and Wade. That means the paint will be more open for them, which result in an even higher level of efficiency.
Finding new ways to integrate every member of their team is important for the Heat this season. That is if their plans are truly to repeat as NBA champions.
Throw in the 1-3-1 Zone Defense
Running a 1-3-1 defense in the NBA is rather unheard of, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be tried out.
If the Heat stick with their lineup featuring LeBron James and Chris Bosh in the frontcourt, they have to switch things up on defense. Giving up the NBA's third-most points per game with an average of 101 points won't cut it for the reigning champs.
What's the one advantage the Heat have on the defensive side of the ball? Athleticism.
While size isn't something they can rely on, their agility and speed is, and that's exactly what they need to start focusing on. Running a 1-3-1 defense, with Mario Chalmers on top, Chris Bosh in the middle, Shane Battier and Dwyane Wade on the wings, and LeBron running the baseline, would be interesting to see.
It may not be a sure-fire fix, but it's at least worth trying out. There aren't any teams that run a 1-3-1 zone defense now, which means it would throw teams for a loop going up against one.
The Heat absolutely need to make a change to their woeful defense. If they don't, the bigger and stronger teams in the league are going to continue to push them around. Even LeBron won't be able to stop that.