Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Heat Have Wrong Big Three

In 2007 when the Boston Celtics assembled the new look Big Three of Paul PierceKevin Garnett, and Ray Allen they knew it was the right mix. Each member of the trio has a specific skill set that complements the other and this is why it worked so well. Think of the Big Three as a land, air, and sea approach to assaulting other teams. Paul Pierce is the ground attack as he muscles his way into the paint drawing fouls, and slashing to the basket for easy scores. Ray Allen is the air attack spreading the floor with his three point barrages and excellent mid range shooting. Kevin Garnett is the sea with his all engulfing/anchoring presence on defense, swallowing up anything that comes near the basket. All that made (and makes) the Celtic Big Three balanced and great is the opposite of the South Beach Trio.

By far the biggest story of the NBA offseason was "The Decision" by LeBron James and the acquisitions made by the Miami Heat. In what seems as an attempt to recreate the magic of the 07' Celtics, the Heat put together a star studded trio of their own (hoping for the same championship results). Dwayne Wade has been joined by two time league MVP LeBron James, and five time All Star Chris Bosh. With the arrival of James and Bosh the Heat are unquestionably a better team than a year ago, but they are not a championship caliber team. 

The members of the Miami Big Three do not complement each other very well and they have no real interior defense to match up with the Lakers or the Celtics. LeBron and Dwayne are virtually the same player with their ability to put up huge numbers in points, rebounds, assists, steals and can occasionally block shots. A stronger case for their silimairties is the fact that they both need the ball  to control the game and be most effective. By having both of these players on your team you inherently make them less effective because of their identical styles on the court. LeBron is more physically imposing than Wade, but outside of that they are the same type of player.  

The Heat are an upper eschelon team in the Eastern Conference because of the sheer talent of James, Wade, and Bosh, along with the fact that these players are surrounded by good shooters. James Jones, Eddie House, and (when he returns) Mike Miller are all great three point shooters. LeBron and Wade are very similar players, but when you surround them with shooters to spread the floor they become more dangerous. When the defense is spread out to cover perimeter shooting there is more open room on the court for LBJ and D-Wade to drive to the basket. They are a dangerous team because they can win any one contest. They are able to do this based on the fact that James or Wade can take over a game on any given night.

While the Heat may be good enough to win any one game, they are not good enough to win a playoff series against the Celtics, Magic, Bulls, Mavericks, Spurs, or Lakers. They have no interior defense in and around the basket because they simply don't have the players to do so. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is somewhat of a presence inside at 7'3 260, but he only plays limited minutes at age 35 with twelve seasons under his belt. Bosh made it known that he does not want to guard the center position anymore, serving now only as a power forward. Bosh is an excellent offensive player, but on defense he doesn't bring the defensive intensity of a Kevin Garnett or even a Glen Davis. There are some other aged veterans on the team and an untested rookie in Dexter Pittman, but not much interior defense to speak of.

The Celtics and Lakers are brimming with depth and defensive talent at the power forward and center positions, allowing them to rebound and defend at a high level. Last year the Celtics simply didn't have the defensive presence and size (with Perkins out) to defeat the Lakers, as they were out rebounded down the stretch of Game 7. Boston spent the offseason retooling their front line by adding Shaquille and Jermaine O'neal. This was done in hopes to bolster their defense and give them the size they would need in a rematch with L.A. Miami on the other hand spent their offseason crunching salary numbers to find a way to amass three maximum contract players; in what is now the Heat's Big Three. Instead of building a well balanced team that can defend and rebound across the roster, they are stuck with a team of three All Stars, a few shooters, and a group of old big men.

As good as LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are at the end of the day they play Small Forward and Shooting guard. The same applies to the Boston Celtics of 2007 and today, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce could not win without Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett defending. The Heat are a top three or four team in the Eastern Conference, but should not be thought of as a viable contender for the NBA Title. The Bulls, Magic, and Celtics are all more well built for the postseason than the Heat. Miami would have to surpass at least one of these teams on their way to an Eastern Conference Title. Perhaps LeBron's first ring will be attained with the Heat, but they have the wrong Big Three and it won't be this season.

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1 comment:

Peter said...

well written. do any other teams have big threes?