October 22, 2010
SI.com's NBA Enemy Lines
Miami Heat
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Heat

I have a feeling they won't make it all the way through the playoffs. Their undoing is probably going to come down to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade being unable to get out of each other's way. Who's going to take the shot and who's going to have ball at the most important times of the game?

It's going to be difficult for them to figure it all out. Ever since the Stan Van Gundy/Pat Riley championship year, Wade has had the ball as the point guard in most half-court sets. LeBron has been used to the same role, too. He's not a post-up player, so what do you do with him if you're not putting the ball in his hands? How do you set him up to be a scorer off the ball? And the same thing with Wade: Is he going to be a spot-up shooter?

Neither Wade nor LeBron has ever run an offense with continuity, where they have the ball, give it up and get it passed back again. Each has pounded the ball a lot. It's going to be a struggle figuring out how to take turns.

When LeBron puts his mind to it, he can play the point. And his 6-foot-8, 250-pound frame make it all the more amazing to see him handle the ball and make pinpoint passes. On a fast break, people get out of his way. You can't try to foul him because you'll get hurt. He gets so many opportunities in the open floor because of his defensive prowess. He gambles away from his man a lot, and that creates some highlights with a breakaway dunk. His anticipation is off the charts in getting into the passing lane and creating steals.

I'm like a lot of guys in the league when it comes to all the stuff that went on this year with him. Everybody says if you can back it up, then go ahead and say it; well, if you can back it up, why do you have to say it? It just seems like I hear him talking so much about his talents, but why does he have to keep telling us he's so talented? A big difference between LeBron and Kevin Durant is one talks about how great he is and the other is humble.

LeBron makes hard shots, but he also makes some shots look hard. What holds him back is that he doesn't make his free throws, and that's a big flaw in a player who has so much going for him.

He is always in the running for the championship, and he's capable of carrying a team. But I never picked Cleveland to win the championship while he was there, and it was because I just didn't believe in him. For a number of years he has insisted on making the play instead of letting the play be made, and that's been to his detriment. Then he got exposed in that Boston series last year.

Wade is incredible. He makes big shots all the time, and I have more faith that he'd make the right play. I've seen him do it more often than LeBron, and Wade has done it in the biggest games.

Defending both Wade and LeBron will be very difficult. One of the hardest things to do is to come from the help position and close out on a guy who's a driver. If you're sucked into helping on one side of the floor far away, and Miami makes that extra pass to force you to have to go back and close out on the ball against LeBron or Wade, you're in trouble. If you're closing out on either one of those guys, you don't have much of a chance. So the defense is going to have to keep the ball from changing sides, to try to force them to stay on one side of the floor so it doesn't have to recover so far.

I used to hear what a good guy Chris Bosh was in Toronto, but that's not the story anymore. I wonder if it's sour grapes or if the Raptors were covering for him all of those years. The same thing happened to LeBron in Cleveland, where the owner said he'd covered for him, though Dan Gilbert wouldn't have said those tough things now had LeBron stayed.

When Bosh gets enough shots, he's pretty darn good. But he obviously can't lead a team; he had that opportunity in Toronto. It will be interesting to see how he does on nights he's thrown scraps. He's never been a deep post player. He's more of an elbow, face-up jump shooter who can drive a little bit. This team is lacking post-up players -- Bosh, LeBron, Wade, Udonis Haslem and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are not post-up guys.

Bosh will be dynamite in the pick-and-pop with Wade handling the ball. When Bosh is running the pick-and-roll with LeBron, you might see more switches, and if you had a choice you'd prefer LeBron take jump shots rather than go to the basket to finish or drop it off. In a perfect world, you'd like to have everybody covered and have him shoot challenged jump shots, but that's going to be a hard thing for defenses to manage.

This team needs someone do a lot of dirty work, and Haslem is a great guy for the job. With Bosh at the 4, Haslem may have to play a lot of minutes as an undersized center. And he'll give all he has and do well unless he's playing against long opponents. He defends on the ball, he keeps the defensive scheme going and he communicates well. He also rebounds and makes open 15- to 17-foot shots.

Expectations are high that Joel Anthony will bring energy to the center position. It could work if they don't ask much more of him than to defend, challenge shots and rebound. But I also think they're going to go with smaller lineups a lot.

The recent thumb injury to Mike Miller is a tough one for them because he was going to get a lot of open jump shots as a spot-up shooter. Is James Jones going to be able to fill that gap while Miller is out? I think so, because he's the same kind of guy -- a player who is pretty good overall and decent in the catch-and-shoot. But James has had some trouble staying on the court himself ?- he only played 36 games last year ?- and they're now down one important body among their group of shooters. If they don't have spot-up shooting, then everybody is going to be sitting in the lane to stop LeBron and Wade from driving to the basket. They're a pick-and-roll team that needs to have guys spotting up and spreading the floor.

Mario Chalmers is a decent role player, and he'll find a niche here as a defender. He'll be listed as the point guard, but he won't have to handle the ball and run sets a lot, so that will work in his favor. He's a guy you'll leave open because you'd much rather have him prove he can be the one who beats you. Carlos Arroyo will find minutes, though you won't see him and Chalmers on the floor much together.

Eddie House is another guy who will make shots without having to bring the ball up as a backup point guard -- a great situation for him.

Jones is a stand-still shooter and it's worth repeating: Can he stay healthy? Jones, Eddie, Ilgauskas and Haslem are going to take turns standing out there while they spread the floor and run pick-and-roll, and that will open the lane for a dunkfest for LeBron and Wade.

The Heat will win a lot of games, but what's going to matter is how many players they can develop going into the playoffs. How many guys will be reliable in the big moments? Right now it's the three stars and Haslem and Miller ?- if he can come back healthy this season. But the other guys are either unproven or in decline. This is one team that won't have proved much until it wins in the playoffs.

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