These first 10 games have seen it all. From the physical and memorable opening night versus the Boston Celtics, to the Ray Allen 4 point play versus Denver, to Lebron’s masterpiece in Houston. It has been an eventful 10 games, while maintaining an undefeated mark at home, and concluding what will be a successful road trip out west. Lebron James has taken more than a shared control of the team. It is his team now. He’s the leader, and it shows in the huddles. Chris Bosh has played some of his best basketball since he has been a Miami Heat, and has grown into his new role as the Heat’s starting center. What is not talked about as much is how well he has played defensively. Mario Chalmers’ uneven play seems to be finding it’s footing from his injury riddled preseason, but he has taken very well to a self created distributor roll. His shooting will come around eventually, and make him a much more complete point guard.
Dwyane Wade has battled some injuries, but he is still his same efficient self. What is interesting is the trouble he has had in melding with Chris Bosh in the pick and roll game. It is indeed strange that Lebron James can create a strong Pick and Roll game with Chris Bosh, but Dwyane Wade can’t. Wade has been best as the top option in several lineups when Lebron rests. The Bench has been fluid, but if anything has been clear so far, it’s that they can score, and compliment the team’s stars very well. Ray Allen has been great, and Rashard Lewis has been a very capable offensive player. Udonis Haslem has played very good team defense, and Mike Miller is a pretty reliable performer. Going forward, as the team’s disposition shifts to a more defensive oriented one, I would expect to see much more of Joel Anthony and less of Rashard Lewis. The Team is in a very good place right now. Not particularly humming on all cylinders, but successful nonetheless.
A concerted effort was made very early on to play at much faster pace, and a lot was lost in the process. On the bright side, you improved the entertainment factor, but you made yourself susceptible to the basketball equivalent of a counter punch. Allowing early offense to your opponent because you are pushing the ball, doesn’t allow for you to set your defense. While incorporating new pieces and new lineups, setting your defense makes sense, if you plan to play defense as well as you have before. So I would say that an examination of the offensive philosophy is in order. Although they have had great success with it so far, there is a serious cause and effect side to be considered. In the last Denver Nuggets game, a very distinct return to the Miami Heat’s famed corner sets, seemed to announce an intention to revert to the offense that saw success in the playoffs last year. This was not born of any gameplan, since they had played the Nuggets before and played with a much different style.
The Miami Heat has put on full display the versatility that they can employ on the offensive end, and you have seen for the very first time in the big three era, some three guard lineups. The offense has a much more structured look in lineups with Lebron James, and a more free flowing, Isolation driven disposition with Dwyane Wade at the helm. A very interesting aspect to the Heat’s offense has been the variety of combination they have used in the Pick and Roll. The Miami Heat’s commitment to spacing through their player acquisitions have really paid off.
The Miami Heat’s defense has been rather poor to start this year, and the reasons why are not clear. Some of it can be attributed to playing at a faster Pace. Most of it has to do with new lineups lacking communication. Most of it has to do with keeping two of their best defenders (Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem) on the bench. A lack of playing time for two of the Heat’s most important defenders from last year, is certainly contributing. Replacing Mike Miller in the rotation with a non-rebounding big in Rashard Lewis is also a contributor. In certain games, such as the early matchup with the New York Knicks, you had an overall breakdown of the team’s defensive system, and a complete lack of effort. In the Boston, Houston, and LA Clipper games they played brief stretches of very good half court defense, and by dictating the pace, they unintentionally allowed their opponents some early offense opportunities, of which they all took advantage of. I do not share the concern that some have about the Heat’s defense. It is mostly philosophy driven and an easy fix. The Miami Heat has also employed a variety of strategies to guarding the pick and roll, and have switched from a switching defense, to matchup man to man, sometimes 4 or 5 times during a game. What we have not seen, is much, if any zone.
The Offseason Acquisitions
Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis have been very good offensively thus far. Both are shooting above 50% from the Three Point line, and playing efficiently within the offense. Defensively however, it has been a mixed bag. Ray Allen has played fine within the Heat’s defense, averaging over a steal per game, but Rashard Lewis has been another story. Lewis is a poor post defender, and has been rather slow to pick up the Heat’s help defense concepts. The only value he could add defensively, is his size on the boards, but he has always been a subpar rebounder. I think he is at the point where he needs to play in lineups that are defensively oriented, and with Lebron James, so he is not as big a liability as he has been so far. The way he was used in the Denver Nuggets game, seems like the way forward. Ray Allen on the other hand, has enough versatility to play with a lot of combinations and has cemented himself as a chief cog in the rotation.