The Miami Heat’s power move of acquiring Chris Bosh and LeBron James to flank their own star in Dwyane Wade was THE story last year. There were those who liked the move, those who hated it, and those who wished nothing but failure upon the Heat. There isn’t a grey area, you either love or despise what Miami did in their attempt to win an NBA Championship. We all know how last season ended, the Heat got beat 4-2 in the NBA Finals by the Dallas Mavericks. There were many who declared the first year of the “Big 3” a failure; how can one deem a team with brand new pieces making the finals a failure? The media attention has withered after that Finals loss, this is year two for the “Big 3” and what they’re doing is being ignored my many. The Heat are in first place in the Eastern Conference, the record pales in comparison to chemistry that has developed in just 1 year. Let’s take a look at what the “Big 3” has been up to this season!
LeBron James is up to his usual antics, putting up MVP type numbers this season. Bron has finally started to attack full time this season; seldom settling for three pointers, he is attacking the rim and showing off his mid-range game. By taking less three point attempts, Bron has bumped his three point percentage up to 39.3%. The biggest change in LeBron’s game this year may have taken place off the court; he’s fully accepted the facilitator role mentally. He’s initiating the offense more, rather than stopping the ball in the half court. If LeBron wasn’t 6’8, he’d be considered one of the better point guards in the league. Now that he’s accepted the distributor role on this team, the offense has taken off. One of the wrinkles in this year’s Miami offense is the added focus on taking advantage of post up opportunities with both Bron and Wade. James has done a great job establishing position in the post, even showing off a decent jump hook. Sticking with EFFICIENCY as today’s theme, Bron has taken less shots this year and has made great use of them. He’s shooting 54.8% from the floor, roughly hitting 10 of his 18 attempts per game. Per Synergy Sports; Bron is ranked 14th in the league in converting post up opportunities, 7th converting off cuts, and 8th as a ball handler in Pick & Roll situations. His stat line per night this season: 27.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 1.71 steals. There are many who think that LeBron can’t win an MVP as long as Bosh & Wade are his teammates; just remember numbers don’t lie, he’ll definitely be in the running!
Chris Bosh is the forgotten member of this band, often criticized for things that have nothing to do with his actual BASKETBALL SKILLS. Bosh is one of the most talented powerforwards in the league, many forget that he is playing out of position for this team. Bosh has finally found his role on this team, he’s playing more center this year and has done a good job defensively. It’s going to be extremely hard for him to average a double-double with the glass eaters on his team; Udonis Haslem, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron James. Bosh has been pretty efficient this year as well, he puts up roughly 14 shots a game and connects on 7 or so. He’s shooting 48.8% from the floor this season, what has knocked his percentage down this season is he’s taking more three point attempts. This is a unique team, the reason Spoelstra asked him to do so is to further stretch out the opposing defense. He’s only hitting 26.9 % from deep, but every big man isn’t Kevin Love so it’s respectable. On the season Bosh is averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds a game. Bosh is a unique big man, he doesn’t get that many post up opportunities. Bosh does however get the opportunity from the high post to go one on one with his defender. In iso situations Bosh is ranked 23rd in the entire league; using his ability to put the ball on the floor as well as being a deadly midrange jump shooter, Bosh presents problems to opposing teams. Quietly, Bosh is one of the best roll men in P& R situations. In those situations, Bosh is connecting at a 61.7% clip which is good enough for 10th in the league. This being the second year, the Heat seemed to have learned where to get Bosh the ball for him to be effective. He’s also seemed to accept his role and make the most of his offensive opportunities.
Last but not least, the original member of the Miami Heat’s “Big 3.” Dwyane Wade has fully given up his ball handling duties to LeBron James, which is a big indication as to how the Heat offense has been operating this season. It was said last year that this wouldn’t work because of both Wade & James propensity to handle the ball ALL OF THE TIME. The Heat fixed that this year as mentioned earlier, by giving the reigns of the offense to LeBron James. Wade has played almost exclusively OFF the ball this year, completely trusting his teammate LeBron James to run the show. Wade’s numbers have dipped some this year, his impact on games has not though. Playing off the ball allows him to wreak more havoc on the offensive end, you often see Wade cutting back door or crashing the glass. The Heat have also gotten the ball more to Wade in the post, he’s ranked 18th in the league converting those opportunities. Another advantage to Wade playing off the ball, he’s cutting to the basket much more than year’s past. It’s a small sample size in terms of how often he gets the ball when cutting (36), but he’s proven to be extremely efficient doing so. In those opportunities, Wade has connected at a clip of 70.4% ranking him 25th in the league. The Heat need to use Wade more in this fashion, but it’s still a work in progress. This is Wade’s first season truly playing OFF the ball; taking that into consideration one could do much worse than shoot 49.2 % from the field. Wade’s also shown improvement this year coming off of screens, this is something that is new for him. Wade is shooting 38.9% in those situations, again this is something new to both him and the Heat. That’s not a bad percentage at all, it has him ranked 30th in the league. Similar to LeBron’s accepting his role to facilitate the offense, Wade has embraced his role of playing off the ball. The more time that passes, the better he’ll get and the more efficient this offense will run. On the season Wade is averaging: 22 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. Wade is attempting roughly 16 shots a game, he like Bosh is nearly connecting on half at 8 a game.
The Heat are in the midst of a 6 game win streak and are starting to click. Now that the roles have finally been determined this is a different Heat team than last year, when all of that was still up in the air. They’ve hiding in plain sight as the media hasn’t paid them any mind, come playoff time they should be firing on all cylinders. I’m not crowning them or campaigning for them, rather just acknowledging the difference in play between year one and year two. They can only get better as time passes, don’t write them off yet!