NBA 

The End of the Road: Where the Miami Heat go from here

Well, this has been a wonderful, thrilling NBA season. One of the best that we’ve seen in years, many would say. This season had everything from historical context to new, innovative schemes on both ends of the floor and newly-birthed All-Stars that could become legendary.

The NBA Finals eloquently put a cap on what was already a great season. Even though it was marred by injury initially, it turned out to be amazing nonetheless. It’s sad to see it all come to an end, but as they say, all good things must.

When talking about the champion Miami Heat, you can’t help but talk about the glaring weaknesses they showcased this postseason. It makes you think that there is a possible chance that changes are right around the corner for them.

Tone Down the Heat?

The Miami Heat face plenty of questions schematically and personnel wise, unusual for a team who just repeated as champion. The first question that comes to mind–and probably the most important–is whether or not they should break up the big three. This has become a mainstay of the public over the last year and especially in these last few months. With Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh playing under their normal averages in the postseason, the question has come up more now than ever.

With James (28-years-old), Bosh (29) and Wade (31), they have all entered their prime years in the NBA. Wade is the furthest in between the three despite coming in the league in the same draft as his teammates. He had a sub-par playoff showing after having a stellar NBA regular season. Playing with a bone bruise in his knee for a majority of the postseason factored into that. He averaged 15.9 points on 14.3 shots–a wildly inefficient total.

Wade wasn’t exactly a negative presence until the Spurs figured how to neutralize him, along with James, by playing so far off of them. Wade’s jumpshot was broken throughout the playoffs. In the regular season, he shot 41% from 16-23 feet away from the basket, way above average. In the playoffs, it just was not there, with the knee problems likely having something to do with it.

Chris Bosh’s role has always been undervalued in terms of what he does. It doesn’t really show in the box score, but Bosh is one of the best defensive centers in the game now. He’s the most fluid, definitely, and there aren’t many centers that you’d like to have on your roster over Bosh defensively. The way that he moves from the three point line back into the paint is something that very few players can do, let alone centers.

For instance, take this play that Bosh makes in game 6. There are very few other centers in the league who could make this play:

Sticking with Tony Parker so well while so far away from the rim isn’t something that is common among NBA big men. Bosh is unique because he’s the best at it.

To add on, he offers the role of being an elite spot up shooter on the other end from the mid-range area. He is the only center in the league who can do that. Sure, you can trade Bosh away for a few pieces who can add up to be just as good, but none of them will bring exactly what he brings.

Trading him would likely be a mistake for the Miami Heat. He’s essential to their scheme, which we will get into shortly.

I think that the big three stand pat, even if they’re deep in the repeater tax. Maybe they drop a few deals that they have surrounding the big three and find some other cheap help. Surely there is a way to keep this group together at least one more year.

As far as a possible drop-off in production from Dwyane Wade, the Heat could easily increase the offensive touches that Chris Bosh gets. He doesn’t get many low-post touches to score, but if Wade’s offensive production drops off, that could be a result.

It’s doubtable that Wade will go into this offseason resting on his laurels. He should work to refine his jump shot and make teams pay for leaving him on the perimeter. He was already a dangerous cutter, but the explosiveness he lost during the playoffs was evident. He’ll need to work to assure that he can keep his knees healthy. A summer without the Olympics and little basketball work should help.

Changing the Scheme

Something that is more bothersome than the possibility of breaking up the big three is the need to change the defensive scheme of the Heat. Should the break up happen, this will follow for sure. But it probably needs to happen anyway.

The Miami Heat have featured a top-10 defense as far as points-per-100 goes in each of the years with the big three. Still, that doesn’t indicate perfection.

The Heat’s scheme is a very unique and attacking one. They have two wings with the athletic ability to crash the paint on a rolling big and then recover out to a shooter and they have a big man who is able to come up above the free throw line and then retreat to the paint in the blink of an eye.

Over the long haul however, this scheme may not be what the Heat want to play. It takes a toll on your players and there is a very small margin for error. The teams that they faced in the playoffs countered the scheme beautifully.

Whether it was the misdirection pick and roll attack from the Indiana Pacers, the hi-lo work of the Chicago Bulls or the corner three ball combined with side-to-side action from the San Antonio Spurs, things got murky for the Heat. They blew a lot of rotations that they normally will make and there were just too many lazy, uncommon errors.

In the Conference Finals and the Finals combined, the Heat gave up 103.9 points per 100 possessions. Against the Spurs, the Heat gave up 104.5 points per 100 possessions, a dangerous total to flirt with.

This could just be a fluke happening to an otherwise elite defense, possibly having broken down at the wrong time, but still, a coverage change should be implimented. Most of the elite defenses in the league run a softer coverage. Going down the list, there are teams like Memphis, Chicago, Indiana, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and even the Wizards who run a softer coverage.

None of these teams have the elite athletes that Miami has in the front court, nor do they have wings as good as them defensively, with the exception of Paul George. Switching to a softer coverage is much less taxing on the Heat and will be better for them in the long run, especially with Wade’s creaky knees.

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Overall, I expect this team to be right back where they were this season. They’re still great on both ends and they have the best player in the world. There should be some changes to the defensive scheme and there will likely be roster change as well. How much change will be the appropriate question here, but as long as they have their core of key players they should be fine.

LeBron James is now a two-time champion and he’s cementing his legacy as one of the best players the league has ever seen. Dwyane Wade is a three-time champion and should gain some more traction in the debates of who is the second best shooting guard of all time. Chris Bosh is still one of the most underrated bigs that I’ve ever seen, but he’s a two-time champion as well so I’m sure he’ll live with that.

We should stop the narratives about how bad this team is or how much this team is just LeBron James and nothing else. In no way are these the Cleveland Cavaliers and James isn’t the same James he was back then. This is a team that won 27 straight games and fought their way into the history books. James has become a player who can shoot 60% on a whim and has the best shot selection in the league.

Comparing this team to any Cleveland team that James played on is ridiculous and flat out wrong. This team will surely be a favorite to win the title next year. The Spurs are good enough to return to the Finals as well, but they’ll have to fight through a hungry Oklahoma City Thunder team, not to mention having to battle Dwight Howard and Chris Paul in some way if they return to the Western Conference.

Either way, this was a great Finals and a great season. I can’t wait until the next one, and I’m sure you can’t either.

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