From Salsa to a Waltz

The Miami Heat have always exuded a certain speed when being on the court; they are notorious for being a team that will destroy any opponent by making use of the full court. Transition buckets are like an easy, fast pace two-step to them. They are the kings of the Salsa in the NBA. With Erik Spoelstra’s new implementation of his Space and Pace offense Miami has been, now more than ever, the best at scoring a high-octane transition bucket.

We all know about the Salsa dance. If you don’t just watch a New York Giants football game. It’s a fast pace dance that isn’t really difficult to do. You have to be quick on your feet and you must have flow in your movement to stay in balance. One wrong step and you will be stepping all over your partner’s toes(if you have a partner, of course).
When put together the right way, however, this dance is very entertaining and can be used very effectively on any dance floor.

The same goes for the Miami Heat’s space and pace offense. It’s not a hard thing to do, but you must execute it properly. If you don’t execute it properly it will result in an iso ball or a turnover. That’s not what you want out of this offense; it has to maintain constant movement. It puts the slashing capabilities of Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, when on the floor together, to good use.

The goal of this offense is to get to the bucket quickly not only in transition, but also in the half court. It uses screens very well and it also uses post ups very well; either type of play is effective in this case because it creates lanes for slashers to cut by their defenders and get an easy lane to the bucket. When used effectively it looks a little something like this(via NBA Playbook):

Take note of the constant movement that was used to get Lebron that driving lane. Shane Battier, who inbounded the ball, came all the way over almost to the other sideline to help set a double screen with Chris Bosh. That screen, in turn, got Lebron’s man a step or two behind him which enabled Dwyane Wade to make a nice pass to the slashing James who gets to the rim and get fouled. Notice the spacing on that play; Chalmers was available in the left corner the whole time.

There were multiple options for Dwyane Wade and Lebron James to work with. Had Chris Paul gave a hard show to Lebron cutting to the rim James could’ve kicked it out to Mario for an open three. This is an effective offense with multiple options just as the Salsa has multiple step patterns; you can go back and forth or left to right. It all depends on the feel you get from the song you are dancing to.

A caveat that the offense has, as I said before, is it can lead to a lot of iso ball and turnovers. This results from the lack of shooters that are available on the floor when Lebron James and Dwyane Wade are in the game. They only have one available option for a shooter in Mario Chalmers; depending on the line-up that you would implement at the time at most there are 2 shooters on the floor usually. Via 82games, the five man unit with the most minutes allocated to it so far for Miami has been Chalmers, Wade, James, Bosh and Anthony; one shooter as I said before. Usually, Spoe take’s Anthony out of the game and you can the plug-in another shooter because of the versatility of Lebron James.

The lack of shooting, however, will cause teams to bludgeon the paint sometimes and it will stymie the Miami offense. Now, has it happened often this season? Not really. In the 4 losses with Dwyane Wade, it seems that that’s how teams have won. When the lone shooter isn’t hitting on the floor then it causes a problem for the space part of the offense. As we know, there is no way for an offense to work without space in the NBA; or for that matter basketball period.

This is why when Dwyane Wade has been out of game, and Lebron James for one game also, it has created more shooting opportunities at a slower pace. This is where the Waltz comes in. The Waltz is a slower pace dance that is more pinpoint than the Salsa. Once again, if you take the wrong step you’ll be all over your partners feet, but unlike the Salsa this takes more time to accomplish and get the steps down. When put together the right way, this dance is graceful and elegant. This is the Miami Heat offense with shooters available to one of the big three. It moves at a slower pace, way slower. According to Tom Haberstroh of ESPN, Miami’s offense went from 99 possessions per game to a mere 94 possessions per game without Wade. Their offensive rating, however, went from 104 to 111 in the games without Wade.
This shows just how effective a few shooters and a lot of spacing can be. Haberstroh calls this the Pace OR Space offense. This is because there are more shooting options available for Lebron and Bosh to choose from when running a two-man game. Heck, even Lebron has found his touch from beyong the arch in the past few outings.

If you click on the 82 games link I posted above, the next best line up with the most minutes allocated to them is Chalmers, Jones, James, Bosh, and Anthony. The Heat are 4-1 when using this lineup and have an offensive rating of 1.30. That’s more effective than the previous starting line-up with Wade involved in it. It isn’t a thing about the Heat being better with no Wade in the line-up, its more about James being more involved without Wade in the line-up.

Lebron,as we all know, has been putting up monster numbers thus far into the young NBA season. Without Wade, he has been like the former MVP of the Cleveland Cavaliers. James doesn’t have to worry about Wade getting his, he just needs to be out there at the controls of the team. Aside from losing to the Milwaukee Bucks, James did that. He’s played well and looked more like the leagues best player than ever.

I’m not saying that the Heat should leave Dwyane Wade out of the equation. I just think that their offense is more efficient with no Wade involved. Shooters and space make offense more effective in the NBA. With no Wade there is more Lebron. I don’t know if that’s really a good thing for the Heat, but it sure isn’t a bad one. The numbers speak for themselves.


3 responses to “From Salsa to a Waltz

  1. WOW, very good post and great info and insight. Very intresting! Its always wierd to see how teams would do without certian players or with others, like the Knicks and Nuggets right now.

    good work Mikey, they are no doubt a differant team with and without Wade.

  2. Pingback: The Evolution of the NBA « Where's Your Mind At?·

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