The Evolution of the NBA

Yesterday, I was riding in my car listening to sports radio. ESPN 980, the D.C based radio station for ESPN, to be exact. They were discussing the Washington Redskins and then somehow began to talk about the Heat signing Rashard Lewis.

Of course, Lewis hasn’t left the best impression with D.C sports media and Washington Wizards fans, such as my self, but he’s a pretty good pick up for the Heat. That’s not what intrigued me about conversation though. What was really intriguing was the comments that Erik Spoelstra made.

They played a quote where the roles of Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen were being discussed. Take a look at it yourself. I grabbed this via Real GM.

“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.

“There are only a handful of players in this league that absolutely strike fear into their opponent. And Ray is one of those players. Hopefully, we can play faster.”

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The key word here is “positionless”. I’ve done plenty of work on the Miami Heat’s special offense and their personnel, and I’ve done work on tweeners as well. This is a different story, though. The Heat, and a few other teams, are beginning a revolution.

The Miami Heat are the perfect example of the small ball revolution that the NBA is coming to. They’ve set the blueprint for it because they’ve won a championship with it. They’ve put LeBron James at the power forward position and Chris Bosh at the center position. These things have been tried before, but now they’ve become successful with it. They’ve found a way to space the floor as much as possible while not losing anything on the defensive end.

Their perimeter defending is nothing to scoff at; they’ve got one of the best defensive perimeter units of all time with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade patrolling the wings. On offense, they take advantage of cross-matches by swinging LeBron into the post and playing Bosh at the five. This creates the ultimate floor space for James to work with and for the rest of the team to slash through the paint.

Its really a genius concept, when you think about it. There have been plenty of attempts to succeed at this before, but none have accomplished what this Heat team have. They’re playing with no positions and creating mismatches on each side of the floor because of the tweeners that they feature on their squad. LeBron is the ultimate tweener because he can play the point all the way through to both forward positions–sometimes he even gives good minutes at center.

Chris Bosh can play the four or the five, and Dwyane Wade can run the point or play the two. He can even play the three in an extremely small line-up where LeBron is featured at center. Ray Allen is no longer a shooting guard, he’s just a shooter. Rashard Lewis will have the same role as well.

Tweeners are sometimes feared because of the uncertainty of what their position is. Erik Spoelstra, being the basketball genius that he is, has found a way to implement a roster filled with tweeners and shooters and get them all to play on the same page. That’s what won the Heat a championship–that’s also how they managed to defeat Indiana even though Chris Bosh was injured.

The versatility of this team is so astounding. It prevented them from skipping a beat even when losing one of their key players.

They aren’t the only team that features line-ups like this. We’ve seen Kevin Garnett playing the five position for a large portion of last season. It enabled the Celtics to keep up their defensive intensity while increasing their offensive output (even if it was still atrocious). The Oklahoma City Thunder, who were the Finals runner ups, have some of the same features on their team. Russell Westbrook is able to play the two backcourt positions, James Harden is able to play one through three offensively, and Kevin Durant can play two through four well also.

The center position is becoming a dying breed in the NBA. As teams begin to stretch the floor, they’ll need better perimeter defending big men. That’s why Anthony Davis is such a value coming into the league right now as the number one pick. New Orleans has been blessed with a guy that can guard both big positions and hold his own for a few seconds on the perimeter with some guards.

His perimeter offensive skills will need to increase in order to increase floor spacing, but that’s something that he can develop over time.

The NBA is beginning to change right before our very eyes. I, for one, am very excited for this new style of basketball. You should be too.

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2 Thoughts to “The Evolution of the NBA”

  1. […] 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 […]

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