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Down one, LeBron James brings the ball up the court with just under twenty seconds remaining.
Spotting up in the right corner is sharp-shooter Mike Miller. To James’ left is Dwyane Wade, one of the best pure scorers in the league. On the far left baseline is Chris Bosh, who has range out to eighteen feet and on the block is Udonis Haslem, an outstanding mid-range shooter.
This could easily be the crunch time lineup for the 2010 Miami Heat. What can the defense possibly do to deter them from scoring?
Option 1: Double LeBron
They might throw a double team at LeBron as he approaches the arc. Who is the second defender? It absolutely cannot be Miller’s man. His dominant shooting will allow him to pulverize a defense if left open.
It can’t come from Haslem’s defender because he is the closest man to the basket. So that leaves Wade or Bosh. Leave either open and they will bury you more times than not. This scenario is a no-win, and Miami will make the defense pay if they decide to double James, or anyone else, for that matter.
Option 2: Zone
With James and Wade both possessing the ability to get into the paint at will, the defense might opt to go zone in an attempt to shut down the middle of the floor. The issue with the zone is it’s not going to work with a shooter like Miller on the prowl.
If you remember last year’s playoff matchup with the Boston, Miami went zone in spurts and did well, until Ray Allen came back on the court. A shooter is the best way to neutralize a zone defense and the Heat have at least three in Miller, James Jones and Eddie House.
Option 3: Play straight up man
The most likely scenario will be a typical NBA man defense. If the perimeter defenders get beat, which is going to happen frequently, it’s a post defender’s job to step up and help, leaving his man open near the basket for the easy jam. LeBron is going to average double digit assists this year.
Option 4: Get creative
In all likeliness, the above three options will fail. Never before have the two most dominant perimeter scorers in the league lined up on the same team. With that kind of firepower, the defense is going to have to come up with an unconventional strategy.
Will we see some sort of hybrid man-zone? Sure. Don’t tell me that Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers, and Stan Van Gundy, coaches of the Heat’s main competition in the Lakers, Celtics, and Magic, respectively, haven’t sat down and pondered ways of slowing down Miami’s offense.
If I’m coaching against the Heat this season, my go-to defense is this: Throw an extra man out onto the court and pray the referees either don’t notice or ignore it out of pity.
We still have never seen this team play and aren’t sure what to expect. There is a reason they still have to play the game, and until then, nobody knows for sure how good they will be. When you jump into an unprecedented world, as Miami has, it’s easy to sit back and pick a team’s individual players apart as you evaluate how good they will be as a group. However, basketball is still a team sport, and chemistry is a critical component to a team’s success.
I love lobster, as most do. I also happen to enjoy smoothies. It doesn’t mean I’m going to make a lobster smoothie anytime soon, although after recently graduating from Penn State with a minor in partying, no sight will ever surprise my victimized eyes ever again. While two ingredients might be superb on their own, there is a level of uncertainty as to how they mix.
As a bench mark, the 1995 Chicago Bulls, who hold the record for wins in a season at 72, statistically were the best team in NBA history. They lost just three games in the playoffs en route to the NBA title. They led the league in scoring after averaging 105.2 points, while giving up just 92.3 points. That makes a scoring differential of just under 13 points a game, a true measure of a team’s dominance. They also had the best basketball player in the history of the earth in Michael Jordan.
They finished first in the league in points per 100 possessions and points allowed per 100 possessions. Both are measures of efficiency and unlike points-per-game, take a team’s pace into account. Sometimes, the best offensive teams aren’t the ones that scored the most points, just ones that play at the fastest pace. If you play at a faster pace, you’re naturally going to get more shots up, which in turn boosts scoring for both teams on the court.
Chicago had a core of Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman. Jordan and Pippen were elite on both ends of the court, while Rodman will go down as one of the most feared rebounder/defenders in league history. Miami has a chance to be offensively better than that team. Only three Bulls in Jordan, Pippen, and Tony Kukoc averaged double figures.
Miami is probably going to have at least five in Wade, James, Bosh, Miller, and Haslem. In fact, the Wade, James, and Bosh trio in combination will likely approach the absurd collective average of 70-plus points a night. Defensively, I don’t see another team coming close to that Bulls team. They had three players who were arguably the best defenders at their respective positions. Miami doesn’t have to dominate on the defensive end and has a higher margin for error on that end because of how special their offense can be.
As far-fetched as it seems, everyone could be underestimating their potential. They could go undefeated for all we know and Wade and James could go down as the best one-two punch since chocolate and peanut-butter or ice cream and warm apple pie, non-American of course.
Taste buds aside, there is a level of intrigue to this potentially dynastic squad, especially on the offensive end. The ingredients for success are there. Everything is in place for the Heat to go down as the most powerful yet efficient offense in the history of the NBA. All that’s left is about seven months of play with 82 games plus a few playoff series.