This morning, ESPN's Tom Haberstroh published a piece about the evolution of the Miami Heat, and it looks like this year's Heat team is not only going to be a frightening opponent for the rest of the NBA, but also incredibly fun to watch. Why? Because the team has finally embraced its versatility and eschewed the idea of traditional positions. From ESPN:
Spoelstra no longer uses positions to designate his players. Instead, he uses initials of players' names on his diagrams and assigns players to five spots on the floor for his go-to sets: a single man in the post, two in the corners and two in the wings.
In practice this preseason, the Heat will run their sets over and over before Spoelstra shouts "switch up" and the players play their own version of musical chairs, rotating from spot to spot. Wade replaces Bosh in the post, and Bosh goes to the top of the key, where he can take opposing centers off the dribble. Battier heads to the corner while Allen goes to the wing.
Switch up again. James goes to the block and Wade heads to the corner, where he cuts to the rim. Bosh heads to the corner, where he has developed a sharper 3-point shot. Again and again.
Ball handlers. Post guys. Screeners. Perimeter shooters. Cutters. All parts are interchangeable.
This is fantastic news. Abandoning conventional positions is something that's been talked about by NBA writers for years now, but no team has ever had the collection of players necessary to fully commit to such a free-wheeling philosophy. The Heat, however, have LeBron James. It's because of his ability to play every spot on the floor at an elite level that other guys can be freed up to play in unconventional ways.
What this means is that we will see a lot fewer Heat lineups featuring the plodding Joel Anthony or half-competent Mario Chalmers, and a lot more that feature the team's five best players on the court at the same time, running free and playing without limits. Though we can't help noticing that the switches in ESPN's theoretical breakdown didn't include Ray Allen operating down on the block or Udonis Haslem spotting up for a three. Still, we should expect to see a variety of roles within the lineup.
Now, try to imagine Chris Bosh standing at the high post and feeding a posted-up LeBron James, who immediately dishes the ball to a cutting Dwyane Wade, who kicks it out to a wide open Ray Allen, without getting a little giddy.