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Heat have flaws, but will they be fatal?
Now that the respective fires of celebration and of disdain have both simmered down, it’s time to take a hard look at the Heat’s new look.
• The incredible physical talents of LeBron James. He can get to the hoop with an irresistible combination of quickness, power and size, and his drive-and-dish passes are usually on target. He can also play above-average defense against opponents who lack warp speed. LBJ will be the team’s designated go-to scorer.
LeBron and D-Wade on the same team? With Bosh? Very interesting.
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• Dwyane Wade is a proven winner who has one of the quickest and longest last steps in the NBA. He can also hunker down and play pesky defense. His projected role is to do a lot of everything.
• Chris Bosh is an excellent mid-range and turn-around jump shooter. He can block shots coming to the ball from the weakside and snatch his share of finesse rebounds. He’s the frontcourt slasher.
• Udonis Haslem’s springers are deadly from 15-17 feet. He’s also one of the best defenders at the power forward spot. Haslem is the designated frontcourt defender.
• Mike Miller is a great one-on-none shooter, and can also pull up going left or right to get his shots off. His job is to shoot, shoot some more, and keep shooting.
• Joel Anthony can block shots and play with great intensity without the ball. He shouldn’t even attempt to do anything else.
• Zydrunas Ilguaskas can shoot like a little man. His other task will be to utilize his size and length to put back at least one missed shot per game.
• Juwan Howard is a nice guy whose role is to ensure a peaceful locker room.
• Mario Chalmers is an adequate backup point guard.
• James Jones is a streak shooter with admirable range.
• Jamaal Magloire can bang around in the paint for 3-5 minutes at a time.
This team is built to run. Both LBJ and D-Wade are potent finishers in a broken field. And with Miller trailing and sliding into open spaces, kick-out passes will trigger a storm of 3-pointers. Their half-court offense is armed to the teeth, and will make opponents pay dearly if they decide to double-team any one of the Big Three. Miami should also lead the NBA in free throws attempted. Its firepower is supreme.
• LeBron’s defensive stance is a bit too top-heavy so he can get torched by speedsters. He’s only interested in attempting assist passes.
• Despite his ability to block shots, Bosh is a weakling on defense.
• Miller can’t guard his own shadow.
• Big Z habitually misses shots in the endgame, and gets humiliated on defense when an opponent can turn-face-and-go.
• Anthony can’t score with a pencil and — at an undersized 6-9 — can’t defend without fouling.
• Howard’s poor defense will always be attacked whenever he steps on the court.
• Haslem can be overpowered and worn down when he’s matched up against bigger opponents.
• Jones is another chump on defense.
• Magloire is a terrific fourth-string center.
• Carlos Arroyo holds the ball too much and his defense is terrible. The Heat are still in need of a pass-first point guard who can bury treys. If Wade has to play too much time at the point, he’ll be worn to a frazzle by the All-Star game. Plus, Wade isn’t a terrific facilitator.
• Neither James, nor Wade, nor Chalmers are reliable perimeter shooters.
• Wade and Haslem are the only prime-time defenders on the team.
Miami’s overall defense is full of holes — especially in the middle. Ilgauskas, Magloire and Anthony add up to 21 feet of nothing. If Haslem is forced to play too many minutes at center, he’ll be ground down to guard-size by the playoffs.
Jones and Miller are the only reliable long-distance bombers, but it’s hard to imagine they’ll be on the court together except in dire emergencies. That means opponents will be able to tag one or the other and clog the middle against the penetrations of James and Wade.
The Heat have no post-up scorers and will have to totally depend on Bosh’s fadeaways to put pressure on the other teams’ big men.
Teams that want to run have three prerequisites: They must control their defensive glass, play tough-enough defense so that the bad guys take bad shots, and force turnovers.
Without these basics, there’s a considerable possibility that the Heat will resemble the halcyon seasons of the Suns: The only way to win consistently is to average at least 115 points — which Miami is certainly capable of doing.
Which teams can give the Heat the most trouble?
Outfits with extra-large frontlines (the Lakers), or with dangerous post-up scorers (Orlando, Houston with Yao Ming, San Antonio, Chicago, Utah). Also teams that can play patient offense and effectively slow the pace (Houston, Boston, San Antonio, LAL, Utah, Chicago). At the same time, running teams usually don’t like to run hard in transitional defense, so up-tempo clubs will also present the Heat with unique challenges (Phoenix, Portland, Oklahoma City, Dallas). And opponents who focus on the battle of the boards will be troublesome (Lakers, Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City).
The balance sheet ultimately shows that Miami’s many strengths are offset by several dire weaknesses. While the Heat should win at least 60 games during the regular season solely on the basis of their overwhelming talent, there’s absolutely no guarantee that they’ll still be hooping come next June.
If you have a question or comment for Charley Rosen, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and he may respond in a future column.
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