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With Haslem out, will LeBron see more time at the four?

Nov 22, 2010, 7:45 PM EDT

LeBron Post

Udonis Haslem going down with a torn foot ligament is very bad for the Miami Heat means that the Miami Heat are going to have to make some tough calls regarding their rotation in the coming weeks. Allow me to offer this thought: instead of giving Haslem’s minutes to Juwan Howard, Jamaal Magloire, or increasing Joel Anthony’s minutes, why not use more lineups that use James Jones at the three, feature a backcourt of Wade and Arroyo/Chalmers, play Anthony or Ilgauskas at center, and use LeBron at the four spot?

After all, LeBron is bigger than most power forwards, and there isn’t a power forward in the league who can keep James in front of them. The Heat have been using LeBron as their de facto point guard a lot of the time, which takes full advantage of LeBron’s passing ability. That’s all well and good, but LeBron isn’t the best passer in NBA history. However, he might be the most frightening combination of size and speed the NBA has seen since Wilt Chamberlain. The closer LeBron is to the basket, the more chances he has to use that athleticism.

LeBron’s footwork in the post is one of the worst parts of his offensive game, but putting him on the block will force defenses to bring double teams, give James more opportunities to finish plays at the basket, and infuse some athleticism into a Heat offense that has relied heavily on pick-and-pop basketball in the opening parts of the season. And if LeBron does use this opportunity to commit himself to working on his footwork and developing a scorer’s mentality in the post, the rest of the league is going to have problems. Even if the Heat go “four-up” with LeBron at the four like ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh predicts they will, the Heat are going to be tough to defend because of how well they can spread the floor.

Here’s some of what Haberstroh had to say about the possibility of James seeing extended minutes at the four:

LeBron at the 4 sounds nice. And it often is. But there’s more to it.

The Cleveland Cavaliers found success deploying LeBron at the power forward, but only while he was paired with a mobile, defensively-focused big man like Anderson Varejao. The effect was lost when LeBron tagged alongside slumbering 5s like Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Evidently, the Cavaliers excelled with the duo of James and Varejao, beating opponents by about 28 points every 100 possessions. But that’s not the case with Shaq and Ilguaskas, with the Cavs getting outscored on a per possession basis. (Side note: the Cavs had 12 more offensive possessions than defensive possessions, explaining the negative efficiency differential for Iglauskas’ line).

While it’s insightful to look at how Cleveland fared with LeBron at the 4, the situation in Miami is substantially different. The Heat don’t have a player like Varejao who can run the floor, finish in transition and sufficiently defend opposing bigs without fouling them every time down the court.

The Heat will look for Bosh to fill that role at the center position even though he’s been vocal about it not being his favorite one.

Possible Heat acquisition Erik Dampier isn’t a speedster by any stretch of the imagination, but he is a good deal more mobile than the glacial pair of O’Neal and Ilgauskas. Joel Anthony isn’t as smart of a defender as Varejao, but he’s nearly as quick, stronger, and a better shot-blocker.

It might be beneficial for the Heat to give LeBron some minutes at the four now, because injured Heat 6th man Mike Miller is probably a natural small forward — a Miller/James frontcourt combination could be a great way to keep the pressure on teams when Bosh sits, or they could even go crazy and play Miller/James/Bosh for some stretches. The Heat will probably end up playing LeBron on the perimeter as much as they can, and LeBron himself doesn’t seem that excited about playing the four, but LeBron embracing his size and athleticism in Miami instead of insisting on being the world’s largest lead guard could ease the blow of the Haslem injury.

  1. 8dollarbeer - Nov 22, 2010 at 10:03 PM

    Go ahead and play the four, your team still wont rebound or play defense. I wanna see LeBron post up more, those are some quality low post moves. ;)

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