Trying to predict the Miami Heat's playoff rotation is a hopeless endeavor. Keep that in mind while I build for you the rotation I would run with in the playoffs if I were coaching the Heat.
For my money, Erik Spoelstra is the toughest coach to predict when it comes to a night-to-night rotation. Miami has had 14 different players start a game this season.
Spoelstra has been tinkering with his rotations for a few games now. He's given Greg Oden and Udonis Haslem starts at center, sliding Chris Bosh over to power forward and benching Shane Battier in the process. Michael Beasley's minutes fluctuate more than gas prices and constant rest by Dwyane Wade doesn't help matters.
But don't read too much into it. Spoelstra said the ever-changing rotations help keep his team healthy, according to Josh Walfish of the Miami Herald.
"Spoelstra said with the ever-changing lineup Miami is playing in attempt to keep everyone fresh for the playoffs, the entire team needs to find ways to help the team win."
However, things should be a little more regular in the postseason. Wade won't be sitting out games due to rest, and the bench will shorten as it does in the playoffs.
The Heat are a versatile roster. They can play Bosh at center or at the 4 and can start and finish games big or small. I would guess that Spoelstra will tailor his rotations to meet his opponent. The biggest question is whether or not this true-center experiment will continue into the playoffs.
But again, rather than try to predict what will happen, I'll tell you what I would do.
I'll start with Mario Chalmers, Wade, LeBron James, Bosh and Haslem.
Haslem has been playing surprisingly well during his recent resurgence in the rotation. His defense against Roy Hibbert Wednesday night shows that he is a good, if not the best, option to slow down the Indiana Pacers' big man if the two teams meet in the Eastern Conference Finals.
I also don't want Battier starting. He is shooting 33.3 percent of his three-pointers this season and is not helping the Heat stretch the floor anymore. His role in the starting lineup, therefore, no longer exists.
Starting Haslem or Oden makes up for the lack of size. I'll take Haslem as the more consistent performer. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote that he, too, is concerned with Battier.
"What I might do is keep Udonis Haslem in the rotation even in the games that Greg Oden starts. I think Haslem's grit is built for the playoffs. I'm also not sure how much Shane Battier has left in his tank."
Sixth Man and First Group of Subs
Norris Cole, Wade, Allen, Bosh and Chris Andersen
Andersen is the sixth man and comes in at some point in the first quarter for Haslem.
To begin the second quarter, Spoelstra has been resting James and giving Wade some time alone in the lineup. I would continue "Wade Time" and throw Andersen and Allen in with him. Cole gets some time in for Chalmers, too.
That said, would it be a stretch to say that this lineup would perform better in the playoffs with a renewed focus on defense and a night's rest every game? I don't think so.
If things don't look good with this lineup, we can switch Allen for Battier and Cole for Douglas to get some better defenders on the floor.
Bench Mob Plus LeBron
Cole, Allen, Battier/Beasley, James, Andersen
This lineup has outscored opponents by about 20 points per 100 possessions this season. The "James Takeover" gives Wade and Bosh a chance to rest, while giving reserves some minutes and James time to play without worrying about getting the ball to his fellow superstars.
Cole, Allen, Battier and Beasley all help stretch the floor for James to work in the paint.
Small Ball/Stretch the Floor
Chalmers, Wade/Cole, Allen/Battier, James and Bosh
The familiar small-ball lineup of Chalmers, Wade, Battier, James and Bosh that started so much of the season still has a place, just not as the initial grouping.
Battier lost his starting job the last seven games, and Miami's small-ball approach has taken a backseat to a more classical approach.
Wade or Cole could be used as the 2-guard, depending on when we need to stretch the floor. The same goes for Allen and Battier. If I need more defense, I'll go with Battier. If I really need to stretch the defense, I'll put Allen in.
Chalmers, Wade, Allen, James and Bosh
Chalmers plays good defense and sets strong screens, Super Cuts should sponsor Wade for how well he times his cuts to the basket, Allen is a chess-board bishop who is more dangerous the further away you get from him, LeBron is LeBron and Bosh leaves more stretch marks on a defense than you can find on Jonah Hill's stomach.
This is Miami's best heavily used lineup, outscoring opponents by nearly 26 points per 100 possessions.
More importantly, this lineup plays with chemistry and moves the ball extremely well, assisting on 68.5 percent of baskets.
The crunch-time lineup is about comfort, and I'm comfortable with these players executing defensive rotations and taking good shots.
Based on my calculations, this is how the minutes will be allocated, give or take a few minutes based on the situation, of course.
All statistics via NBA.com/Stats and Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Stats accurate as of March 26, 2014.
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