Miami Heat NBA Predictions: Will Big Three Play Defense?
by Trevor Whenham - 8/5/2010
The NBA season is still a long way off, but I obviously can’t help but be intrigued by the same thing everyone else is - the bizarre collection of star power that has gathered in Miami. What makes sports betting so challenging and satisfying is that you are constantly presented with new problems and situations - puzzles really - that you haven’t seen before and have to try to decode. The big three in Miami equates to one of the bigger and most intriguing puzzles we have seen in a long, long time. There has been lots of talk about how they are going to be able to work together, whether they are going to be able to share the ball enough to make it work, and how much the players will score. I’m personally less interested in that - regardless of how it happens exactly we know that this team is going to score and score fairly easily.
What I find far more intriguing, though, is the team defensively. Miami won a respectable 47 games last year, and they did it largely on the strength of their defensive discipline. The 94.2 points per game that they allowed was the second best in the entire league, and they were top five in several key defensive categories. That combined with an offensive that rarely scared anyone meant that the Heat were a reliable ‘under’ team for those making NBA predictions on the season - they went ‘under’ 45 times in 80 games to generate a healthy profit. This year the public is obviously going to be all over this team, ad they are going to expect big offense from them. That is going to mean that the ‘over’ should see much more action than it has recently. The offense is, as I already said, going to be good, and perhaps very good. If the defense is good, though, then the totals - which the books will have to inflate to compensate for the action - will be vulnerable on the ‘under’. If the defense isn’t strong, though, then the team may be able to regularly go ‘over’ the number regardless of where it is set. That’s the big puzzle here, then - how is this team going to perform defensively? It’s hard to know for sure until we see them, but here are six arguments to consider as you attempt to solve the puzzle for yourself:
They will struggle defensively because:
Interior defense is scary - Chris Bosh can block shots well, but beyond that his defensive skills are a liability. It seems strange that a guy that shows as much body control and creativity with the ball as he does can be so inept without it, but he certainly is. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is great at blocking and boarding like Bosh, but is incredibly vulnerable to inside speed. Juwan Howard is a major defensive liability at this point, and one that opposing teams will try to exploit whenever possible. Joel Anthony is a better defender, but he’s still far too likely to give up a foul when he is challenged. Jamaal Magloire is 32 going on 52, and won’t be able to contribute serious minutes. Overall, this team has some real issues inside, and little flexibility to do anything about it.
Defense is about chemistry - There are six players on the roster right now that played with the team last season. That means there will be nine new faces on the team, including two more basically max free agents, and several veterans who are set in their ways. Teams that play very good defense are ones that work together, share a vision, and do everything they can to connect personally and build trust. That’s why Charlotte was able to overachieve on defense last year - and Miami too, for that matter. When your team is made up of superstars, aging veterans out for one last shot at glory, and raw youngsters the chances of strong team chemistry don’t seem to be particularly high.
Defense requires selflessness - Good defensive players are those that will sacrifice everything to do what needs to be done at the moment. I’m not at all sure that I see that happening here.
They will survive and even thrive defensively because:
Spoelstra will demand defense - Eric Spoelstra may not be a big name, but he has big game when it comes to coaching defense. His teams play with defensive commitment and tenacity, and they are relentless. He’s not at all likely to let that go entirely just because he has been handed the keys to the most loaded team in history. Of course, the one problem with that line of thinking is that he could very easily find himself unemployed and replaced by Pat Riley f the team falters even slightly at any point.
LeBron and Wade have chops - Wade is one of the best all-round defenders in the league, and that’s not going to change. He plays his best offensively when he is in the game defensively, so his style of play will keep him playing strong defense. James is not quite as good, though, he is a very strong, well rounded defender in his own right. His biggest weakness is that speedy players can take advantage of him more than they should, but for the most part he’s very strong - certainly far above average. Wade and James are going to be on the court most of the time in most games, so the team has two elite defenders swallowing massive minutes.
There is room to breathe - Next to a relentless commitment to defense, the most important aspect is a relaxed approach to it. Teams that are tense and worried about making every play and avoiding every possible mistake are going to make mistakes that damage their confidence. The offense for this team is going to be so reliable that players can relax on defense and know that any one mistake won’t be fatal. That will be a problem if players relax too much, but as long as Spoelstra keeps them focused then that calmness can be their biggest asset.
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