Miami Heat's Backup Plan If Big 3 Struggle with Injuries

Eric EdelmanCorrespondent IAugust 22, 2013

If LeBron James misses considerable time, should Miami still be worried?
If LeBron James misses considerable time, should Miami still be worried?Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

No one wishes injuries on anybody, but they are an unfortunate reality in sports.

Keeping this in mind, how would the Miami Heat adapt in the face of a sudden freak injury to one or more of their vaunted "Big Three"?

Surely, there's no way they could overcome the loss of a member of one of the NBA's most fashionable trio's, right?

Well, if you hold that mindset, think again.

Even if Chris Bosh, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade end up wearing seersucker suits and dress shoes for an extended period, Miami will adapt and overcome.

Still not convinced by empty declarations? Well, here's why you should be.

What If LeBron James Goes Down?

Put it this way, it's not going to happen, and even if it did, he'd probably bounce back immediately.

LeBron James just doesn't miss games, and he's yet to have a debilitating injury at any point in his career.

LBJ only missed six games last season, and the only time he played in less than 75 games, it was a lockout season.

In some instances, when he didn't play, most notably when Erik Spoelstra benched Wade and LeBron on the road in San Antonio, it wasn't done for injury purposes necessarily.

Yes, Mr. Wade and Mr. James were a little banged up, but guess what? 

Everybody come spring is banged up—everybody.

Injuries are inevitable, but LeBron seems immune to them, and when it matters most, you can count on him suiting up.

Sure, he might miss a few meaningless games here and there, but in the grand scheme of things, don't expect LeBron to miss time.

Let's play the role of devil's advocate, though: Let's say LeBron does get injured.

In the event LeBron goes down, Miami would only have to slightly adjust how they play.

Wade would probably shift back to his traditional role as the Heat's primary distributor prior to LeBron's arrival, and it would be a role he'd welcome.

Bosh would definitely get a lot more touches, and no LeBron means Spoelstra has a lot of options as far as how he deals with the void at the 3 spot.

He could go small at the position and have Ray Allen step up as small forward, but Allen's lack of size and athleticism could be a major hole against stronger more athletic forwards.

Allen as your forward is definitely a look you could sparingly throw at opposing teams, but more than likely, Spoelstra wouldn't overthink such a dilemma. 

Coach still has Shane Battier, a player whose 6'8", 225-pound frame is suitable to deal with any opposing forwards, and he's a competent shooter who would spread the floor.

The offense would look a little different, but at the end of the day, it's basic "drive and kick" basketball.

People forget that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are capable of being the best player on most squads in the league, so losing LeBron would, by no means, be a death knell for Miami's championship hopes.

They will certainly miss his presence on both sides of the floor, but Miami would still be a dangerous squad with the perimeter firepower to make up for the lack of the reigning MVP. 

What If Dwyane Wade Goes Down?

Injuries are an unfortunate part of Dwyane Wade's history in the NBA.

While recent news of working with Tim Grover and shock treatments on his knees should be encouraging, courtesy of the Miami Herald, it doesn't mean Wade has finally exorcised all of his injury demons. 

It's very possible another injury could rear its ugly head, but more than likely, it will be the compounding, chronic injuries piling up that gives him trouble rather than just one bad one.

There's no question his speed and athleticism are declining when you watch him play, but it, by no means, signals he's done playing.

With this train of thought in mind, if the Heat were to lose Wade, it wouldn't mean they'd be done for as a team, either.

No Wade simply means Ray Allen gets plugged in as a starter, and as we examined in our first example, it would just mean more drive and kick basketball for Miami.

We saw some of these looks during the NBA Finals.

The previous video, albeit brief, would give a brief preview as far as a Wade-less lineup. 

The clogged lanes LeBron had seen for most of the series finally opened up, and it meant if someone slid by to rotate on LeBron, there would be an open man somewhere on the perimeter.

Also, if the defender doesn't rotate to help LeBron's man, it just means 'Bron has an easier one-on-one look as far as finishing the play.

Anybody who can stroke the three-ball would be productive in Wade's place, and that means Battier and Allen would get first dibs on the opportunity.

You would still have a competent scorer in Bosh, and although LeBron will miss his running mate on the open floor, Miami can still demolish teams without Wade.

They would still have arguably the greatest player on the planet orchestrating the offense with Beethoven-like brilliance, and they'd still have a contingent of veteran shooters who would be willing to fill in at the shooting guard position. 

What If Chris Bosh Goes Down?

Chris Bosh is just like the electric company.

When the power is on, you often forget and take their existence for granted, but when the power goes out, everyone realizes just how valuable they are.

Bosh's skill and talent is constantly overlooked when he's on the floor, but when he's missing, Miami realizes just how much he means to their success.

No other big on Miami can score like he can, and to be honest, that's an understatement.

After Bosh, Miami has mostly glue guys in their frontcourt—Greg "Glass Knee" Oden, Chris "Birdman" Andersen, Rashard Lewis, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony and Jarvis Varnado.

Rashard Lewis might be in consideration for getting the bulk of Bosh's minutes, but Spoelstra will probably aim to keep a "traditional" frontcourt that features two guys who do work in the paint.

None of them, aside from Haslem and Lewis have a competent jumper, and none of them have any semblance of a post game, aside from Oden, although most of his production came off his size and position on the offensive boards.

Luckily for Miami, they do have a lot of guys to work with, but the question remains: Who gets to play the bulk of the minutes?

Assuming Greg Oden's knee(s) doesn't/don't implode after coming down from grabbing a rebound, he can easily keep the frontcourt flowing alongside whomever Miami decides to plug in at Bosh's spot.

An Oden-Haslem frontcourt would own the offensive boards, and it would be highly respectable on defense.

An Oden-Lewis frontcourt would feature a brutal inside-outside attack that would force Rashard's man to follow him out to the perimeter, leaving Oden with a one-on-one matchup in the paint.

Spoelstra could do a lot with it, but he'd have to play it by ear.

No matter who's at that spot, the biggest change would certainly be on the offensive end.

LeBron and Wade would have to pick up the slack, considering they can't rely on Oden or Haslem catching the ball and scoring individually.

Expect a lot more pick-and-rolls and less pick-and-pops—the latter of which you could run with Bosh, thanks to his jumper.

Then again, Miami could run that play with Haslem or Lewis, but don't expect them to force Oden or any other of the bigs to make that play consistently.

Varnado and Anthony don't have the hands to make that play, and Andersen tends to be all or nothing with his offense at times.

Sans Bosh, Miami still has arguably the best perimeter tandem in the league, a wealth of big men and shooters on deck, so while this might've been a critical injury in the past, the influx of depth in their frontcourt means this void would be far less catastrophic long-term.

No matter which player in the Big Three goes down, Miami has the depth to overcome whatever they face as far as injuries are concerned, and there's no question they'll likely be primed to three-peat for the first time in the franchise's history. 


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