LeBron James: 5 Reasons Why the Miami Heat Should Never Play LeBron at Center
We all know the legend of Magic Johnson's rookie season: playing in place of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in game six of the 1980 NBA Finals he managed to post a mind-blowing 42 points, 15 boards, seven assists and three steals en route to the championship.
Is LeBron James Magic Johnson? No, but many people like to compare them. Erik Spoelstra recently added fuel to the fire by experimenting with LeBron at the center position. Since that switch, the Internet forums and ESPN columnists have been clamoring for more frequent ventures by LeBron into the post.
The novelty of Spoelstra's recent switch is all fun and games during the regular season where the Heat face little struggle in securing a top seed in the East. But, in the playoffs, LeBron will face constant dangers if he were to continue in the post. And if it won't work in the postseason, why bother with it now?
But without getting caught up in the dream of a Magic Johnson impersonation, it's important to take a look at the reasons why putting LeBron at center doesn't make a whole lot of sense for the Miami Heat.
No. 1: Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce
The Heat are built around three players, albeit three great players, they are still just three players. Their disadvantage is that other teams are not three players, they are teams. No matter where you put LeBron on the defensive end, the Heat don’t have enough players to consistently guard other teams.
The Lakers have Kobe, Odom, Bynum, Gasol and Artest. The Celtics have Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. The Magic have Dwight Howard, Jason Richardson, Jameer Nelson, Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu. Three guys cannot cover four, or five guys.
So why would you put LeBron in the post when the real dangers are on the perimeter: Kobe, Pierce, Rondo, Nelson, Turkoglu. These players will all hurt you more in a seven-game series than Gasol, Bynum, Garnett and Howard will if they go unchecked.
No. 2: Foul Trouble
When was the last time you saw a play in the post result in anything short of a made basket or a foul call? Probably not since Ben Wallace’s help-side D has the block been a recurring element in basketball: players go to the foul line every possession.
Why would you put your best player in position to accrue needless fouls during the most important part of the season? LeBron on the bench is the same as LeBron out with an injury, and we have all seen how well the Heat play when one of their three pieces is missing (1-4).
No. 3: Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard
Even if Spoelstra decides to ignore the perimeter threats of Kobe and Paul Pierce and decides to put ‘Bron-‘Bron in the post, what makes people think he could guard the likes of Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, or even the crafty Tim Duncan even for sporadic possessions?
These players have spent their entire careers scoring on defenders trained to stop other big men. What gives people the idea that LeBron could step in and do what those players have yet to accomplish? Which brings me to my next point...
No. 4: No One on the Miami Heat to Train Against
What is the main reason people want LeBron to play center? Because they don’t have a real one. If LeBron is to play under the basket who is he going to get experience against in practice? Joel Anthony? It's very difficult to be given the responsibility of guarding players who specialize in drawing fouls without game-planning for it beforehand.
No. 5: LeBron James Does Not Have a Post Game
LeBron James will eventually be the best, or second best, basketball player in the history of the game; his skill set is just too advanced. That accolade will come in the future, it isn't here yet. There are still facets of James' game that have yet to be realized. His post game is one of those.
It's nothing to be ashamed about. It isn't a knock on the guy as a basketball player. It took Jordan many years before he began to operate in the post. Same with Kobe Bryant. But LeBron just isn't a back-to-the-basket type player yet. Without having mastered the ability to abuse players his own size in the post, how can Spoelstra imagine he would be able to succeed against Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, or Andrew Bynum?
If he were on Kobe's level, making a living in the low-post on a regular basis, then perhaps the decision would make more sense. But without a track record of success in the post, LeBron would be in bad shape against other top tier teams.
With the fear of foul trouble on the defensive end and a severe size disadvantage on the offensive end, it doesn't seem responsible of Erik Spoelstra to continue playing LeBron in the post once the postseason rolls around.