LeBron James was the Miami Heat’s identity over the past four seasons. The inverted offense and hyper-aggressive defense that became the team’s calling-card were certainly bigger than one player, but would still not have been implemented without the singular force Erik Spoelstra frequently called “1-through-5.” It made sense, then, to expect wholesale schematic changes for Miami in 2014-2015 given James’ departure, but apparently Spoelstra and company will stay true to the systems going forward that helped the Heat to so much recent success.
News of strategic familiarity for Miami this season is courtesy of the Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman. And according to Winderman, that approach will be one born from necessity as much as anything else.
If Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts are your starting power players, and with Pat Riley already talking about Granger getting time in the power rotation, [small-ball] again appears to be the direction.
And it’s not as if there is much of a Plan B, with Chris Andersen at an age where limited minutes are the preferred approach, and with Udonis Haslem having been marginalized in recent seasons.
Upon James’ announcement and the re-signing of Bosh, we assumed the Heat would go a different direction stylistically than they did with The King wearing red and black. With Bosh primed for a far bigger scoring burden and offensive role in general, our thinking was that Miami would want to ease his labors on the other end by playing him at his more natural position of power forward alongside a traditional center. And of course, that would also mean a seismic shift in approach of both sides of the ball.
But the Heat never signed a behemoth this summer, barely wading into the shallow pool of free agent centers, either. And as Winderman notes, considering the age and decline of Andersen and Haslem, Miami also doesn’t have incumbent answers to its supreme lack of a starting-caliber center.
So the status quo and some notable tweaks it will be. Offensively, the Heat should be fine. Assuming Bosh is ready to shoulder more of the scoring load and Dwyane Wade is a reasonable and consistent facsimile of the player who fleetingly took the court last regular season, Miami has enough talent and creative direction from Spoelstra to yield an above-average attack.
It’s the defensive end of the floor that adhering to James-led principles could doom the Heat. They couldn’t maintain their 2011-2012 defensive pace in either of the last two seasons, and more offensive responsibility for Bosh and Wade surely means a negative influence on their impact as defenders. The rest of the this re-shuffled roster is due some slippage, too: Like Andersen and Haslem, Granger is aching and aging; the trade-off that applies to Bosh and Wade also does Mario Chalmers; and Miami has no viable replacements for the versatility provided by James and the retired Shane Battier.
Spoelstra will definitely tweak his system to accommodate personnel, something he began doing last season by having Bosh, Andersen, and company hedge less aggressively or drop altogether on pick-and-rolls. Expect that variation and more this season.
But no matter Spoelstra’s small-scale schematic adjustments, his team is inevitably due major ones this season without James. And by sticking to the identity ushered in by a player no longer on the roster, the Heat’s will likely be even bigger than they had to be.
What do you think?
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