Scorching the market
We’ll kick off the What’s Left on The Floor season previews with the NBA Champion Miami Heat.
Right now, the Heat are standing on a pedestal that other teams can only hope to get to. They have the Larry O’Brien trophy in South Beach, and from the looks of things, it could be there for a while.
Miami had one of the most successful offseasons in the NBA to date. Of any past champions, I’d say its one of the most successful offseasons in recent memory. The Heat managed to do something that many champions cannot–retain the players that won it all for them.
Outside of the big three, Miami didn’t have a lot of decision to make. The majority of their key role players were already locked up. Mike Miller signed a five year deal when the Big Three was first created in 2010 and isn’t due to expire until 2015. Shane Battier had just been signed to his deal in the previous offseason, Mario Chalmers was extended in December right after the lockout was over, and Udonis Haslem returned at the same time that Mike Miller came for a deal of the same length.
The only worry that the Miami Heat went into the offseason with was whether or not they could retain the very rarely used James Jones’ services. He ended up returning after being offered a one year deal with a player option worth $1.5 million in the 2013-14 season.
To add on to the money-slinging jamboree that the Miami Heat have been hosting over the past two seasons, they ended up acquiring the services of the greatest three point shooter of all time in Ray Allen who shot 46% from three point range last season, and got a lost soul trying to find its way in Rashard Lewis as well. They’re hoping to gain at least a little bit of what the former All-Star tandem out of Seattle has to offer.
Not to mention that they could spend a maximum of only $9 million over the next two seasons. The Miami Heat now have an embarrassment of riches in shooting–something that was essential to the make-up of the Miami Heat last season. When losing the championship in 2011, the Heat realized that they needed more shooting to compliment the penetrating talents of James and Wade. They were 24th in three point shooting in the 2010-2011 season and they saw that jump to 10th in the 2011-2012 championship year after adding a key player in Shane Battier and a getting a more consistent and healthier Mike Miller.
They’ll more than likely see that percentage increase once more with the additions of Allen and Lewis who have been known shooters throughout their respective careers.
Blazing the path to success
The Miami Heat are a very unorthodox team that took a very unorthodox path to the championship this season. Their two best players have virtually mirrored each other in production and efficiency for their whole careers. They have a very similar style of play and operate using the same floor space more often than not. To have them operating on the floor at the same time was a challenge, but I think that Erik Spoelstra has figured out the pattern to this honestly baffling roster.
I once wrote a post about how the NBA is evolving into a small ball game. The Miami Heat have orchestrated this movement into something that can really work with the talent that they have. They’re forcing teams to go up and down the floor with them and to try to contain their speed in the half court. Doing this, they’ll play LeBron James at the power forward position and Chris Bosh at the center position.
This flowering of the game, if you will, is actually eliminating positional boundaries in the NBA. While rather obscure to the casual NBA fan, the basketball junkie will understand what I’m getting at.
There are multiple examples of what I’m talking about on the Miami Heat’s roster. Mario Chalmers isn’t a point guard on the Heat’s roster, no matter what he says. Though he may be listed as a point guard, he’s not playing that position–its more like filling a space. Instead, what the Heat focus on are filling roles.
Erik Spoelstra said it himself when speaking on Ray Allen. They’d like to be a team that is positionless. Here is his exact quote, via realgm.com.
“We want to get to a point where we are positionless,” Spoelstra said when asked to specify Ray Allen’s role with the Heat. “He’s a great complement to the champions we have.
What Chalmers, Allen, and Lewis would be listed as are shooters if this were a perfect world. Shane Battier and Mike Miller fall into that same role. They’re just shooters for the Miami Heat; they get on the floor at many multiple positions and that’s what they do. They don’t really worry about defending because James and Wade take care of that largely.
Bosh has also seen his role change from a stretch 4 to a combo big. He’ll play the center position for a lot of next season and take away whoever is defender the paint. That opens up so many lanes for James and Wade, who are the shot creators and penetrators. The offense is largely based off of what they can do off of dribble penetration and touches inside of the paint from the post position.
Its like a sped up variation, or combination, of a Princeton offense with James and Wade attacking from the high post and a high screen and roll offense. That’s how they managed to dismantle the Oklahoma City Thunder the way they did. The Thunder tried to conform to the Heat’s new way of playing and couldn’t do it. There was no way for Kevin Durant to play with LeBron James in the post. Serge Ibaka was taken away from the rim because of Chris Bosh’s ability to stretch the floor. James and Wade would cut off of each others attacking angles and have clear paths to the basket while also being able to kick the ball out to a multitude of shooters because the Thunder eventually brought the double team.
Their unorthodox style of play makes for something that is very hard to stop with a traditional NBA offense or defense. I think that now we’ll see more than our fair share of NBA teams transitioning to this style of play. A few examples would be the Boston Celtics, the New York Knicks, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Clippers, and maybe a few other teams. We’ll delve more into the small ball topic as I go through each individual team.
The Miami Heat’s roster will be filled with tweeners, as previously mentioned in the post. The allocation of their minutes will be a crucial matter for the team–especially since Spoelstra only likes to go about 7 to 9 deep. He’ll go 10 on a good day and there are very rarely good days in this league. With that being said, here’s how I am projecting the Heat’s minutes to be allocated along with their starters.
Mario Chalmers- 25.6 Mpg
Dwyane Wade- 32.1 Mpg
Shane Battier- 24.4 Mpg
LeBron James- 36.7 Mpg
Chris Bosh- 34.1 Mpg
Ray Allen- 22.3 Mpg
Rashard Lewis- 21.8 Mpg
Joel Anthony- 15.1 Mpg
Mike Miller- 20.3 Mpg
James Jones- 15.2 Mpg
Norris Cole – 21.8 Mpg
Dexter Pittman- 12.7 Mpg
I don’t see the variation in the minutes of the big three changing too much. There were a few drop offs for each player but there was nothing significant. There were just a few more minutes spread around to the new comers in Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen.
One thing that I had to battle with myself over was the addition of Ray Allen and not having him in the starting line-up. Instead, I have Shane Battier starting at the small forward position for the Heat. Battier definitely brings more defensive tenacity than Allen does at this point in their careers–really for all of their careers. I would imagine that this would factor into Battier keeping a starting role.
Of course, we should see line-ups with both of them in at the same time. They are both excellent at shooting the corner three ball. That is probably the most efficient shot outside of rim range in the NBA. It is the same length as a long two, but it would bring in three points for your team. With both of them manning both corners at one time, it could do some serious damage and would spread the floor tremendously. Imagine a double horns set with LeBron or Wade as your handler taking high screens from Allen and Battier. After popping they could receive a pick leading them to the corner all day for an open look. (For the record I just drew this play up in my head. Please, excuse me).
Other than that, I don’t think there were any other surprises in the minute allocations that I came up with.
The Miami Heat are setting themselves up for dominance in the NBA for years to come with their new roster. I think that it will take them a long way for the next few seasons–not just the upcoming one.
Stay tuned for the preview of the Oklahoma City Thunder tomorrow on WLOTF.