Last night the Three Kings of South Beach, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, debuted against the Detroit Pistons, for all of three minutes. Early in the first quarter, after hitting an open jumper, Dwayne Wade's hamstrung tightened up chasing Richard Hamilton around a screen. Wade would not return, and if the injury is serious, will likely miss the remainder of the preseason.
Though their talent is undeniable, with a starting lineup that features three of the best players in the NBA, the Miami Heat are not very deep off the bench. Wade has missed games and large portions of seasons due to injury in the past and some will contend that if Wade can't stay healthy, the Heat will have no shot at achieving their title aspirations.
How Wade's Absence Hurts Miami's Offense
These critics, however, have missed the mark. In watching the Heat without Wade, it became clear that that Miami can still challenge the league's top teams offensively. Lebron took over the rest of the first quarter, scoring 12 points and dropping two dimes. In the late second and early third quarter, Bosh took over, scoring 14 points in the paint and on jumpshots. These two are more than capable of handling the scoring load in Wade's absence.
Lebron James has carried mediocre teams to 60-win seasons because of his ability to score and facilitate scoring for less than All-Star caliber teammates. The loss of Wade will allow opponents to double James on the perimeter, but remember, he has never had as consistent a second option as Chris Bosh.
If those two are on the same page, the Heat will have the best two-man, pick'n'roll game in the league. Also, Bosh's ability to hit perimeter jumpshots is key. Lebron attacks the paint and will kick the ball outside to Bosh who will consistently hit the mid-range shot. He also has a solid spot up shooter in Mike Miller. Even without Wade, Lebron and Bosh's presence make the Heat a matchup nightmare.
The Pistons may not be the stiffest competition, but it's clear that this tandem (Lebron-Bosh) will be a force, even if Wade has nagging injury problems.
How Wade's Absence Will Impact Miami's Defense
Though they will still be able to score points, the loss of Wade would be a severe blow to Miami's ability to shut down opponents. Bosh is not a dominant interior defender and opposing teams will look to exploit that weakness. Orlando, Los Angeles, and Boston to a lesser extent, will all have a serious interior advantage.
With Wade on the floor, however, this advantage is mitigated. Both Lebron and Wade were members of the NBA's All-Defense team last year (Wade was second team), and their ability to apply perimeter pressure and disrupt passing lanes will relieve some of the pressure on Bosh and Udonis Haslem down low. Without Wade, teams will have an easier time throwing entry passes into the post and exposing weak interior defenders.
Additionally, with Wade, Lebron and Bosh will be forced to expend less energy on the offensive side of the floor. In turn, this will translate to tougher, more aggressive defense. If Bosh and Lebron are tired from playing offense, expect their defense to falter.
Bad Omen or No Big Deal?
At this point, I think the injury is no big deal. If Wade is indeed absent for an extended period, the Heat will still struggle defensively but they will still win a lot of games. Only teams with effective post-scoring will be able to take advantage of Heat's defense.
Offensively, Lebron and Bosh make Miami dynamic. In all likelihood, this injury is not incredibly serious. If Wade's injury is serious, a protracted absence may hurt the Heat, but expect them to be positioned to make a run when he returns.
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