Skip to content

Does Miami’s championship prove that any system can work with the best talent?

Sep 22, 2012, 5:00 PM EDT

Miami Heat player LeBron James hoists the championship trophy as team mate Dwyane Wade looks on stage at a rally in Miami, Florida Reuters

This is something I just kind of stumbled on this morning while reading a post from earlier this month about how Pat Riley said about how smallball is “who (the Heat) are, now.”

I, and others have written a lot about how the Heat’s lineup to finish the season, with Chris Bosh playing a combination 4/5 and LeBron James playing a combination 1/3/4/5 was indicative of how the league has developed more and more into a smallball league. And we’re seeing several teams this season playing faster and smaller. Boston was already playing Kevin Garnett at the 5 last year, Denver is talking about Danilo Gallinari at the 4, The Mavericks will likely have lineups with Dirk Nowitzki and Elton Brand as their 4-5 combo, and the Knicks have made noise about reserve lineups featuring Amar’e Stoudemire at the 5 and Carmelo Anthony at the 4.

Do the Heat represent some sort of illustration of how the league has shifted?

Maybe the better question is if Miami is a great example of how what matters is talent, and how that can make any system, even smallball, work.

The common joke response to “what did Miami do to make smallball work?” is “Have LeBron James” and while that can get annoying after a while, ignoring everything that Erik Spoelstra and company put into the structure of the offense, it does present a bigger part of the puzzle. James enables the Heat to be able to have success with his system. And while they may not have had success with the Triangle, or Princeton offense, or Seven Seconds or Less, they have made this one work, despite its limitations, because of the strength of their roster. Not every system would (or did) work for the Heat. See: 2011. But this one does.

And it opens up the idea that perhaps the secret to these super-teams lies in unconventional answers to traditional questions, even if they rely on some key cliches long-term. The Heat are still a defensive team first. The Nuggets brought in Iguodala to improve their defense. But the idea that speed can’t be successful when the playoffs come is being proven wrong with the caveat that you need to wreak havoc with stops and turnovers on defense first.

There’s not a great chance of success for teams who are not Miami to win with smallball. But in the long-term future of the NBA, it does show that if you get the right pieces, you can win it all with the kind of play that so often gets disregarded as “not playoff basketball.”

Latest Posts
  1. Anthony Davis excited to get running in Alvin Gentry’s offense

    Jul 29, 2015, 10:55 PM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Four Getty Images

    The Pelicans were one of the slowest paced teams in the NBA last season, that’s about to change.

  2. Chris Kaman has new reality show, to air on Mark Cuban’s network

    Jul 29, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    Philadelphia 76ers v Los Angeles Lakers Philadelphia 76ers v Los Angeles Lakers

    “I think someone who would watch this would think there is something wrong with me and something wrong with my friends.” — Chris Kaman

  3. Report: Veteran point guard Andre Miller reaches one-year deal with Timberwolves

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:47 PM EDT

    Shabazz Napier, Andre Miller Shabazz Napier, Andre Miller

    Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are about to be finishing alley-oops from the best lob passer in the game.

  4. Warriors promote Luke Walton to lead assistant coach

    Jul 29, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Kerr says Luke Walton is a future head coach in the NBA.

  5. Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey says expect more small ball from the Raptors this year

    Jul 29, 2015, 6:31 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards - Game Four Getty Images

    Toronto has shifted the roster to be more defensive, and be able to go smaller.

  6. Raptors hire Jerry Stackhouse as assistant coach

    Jul 29, 2015, 4:22 PM EDT

    Stackhouse drives against Carter Getty Images

    Rex Kalamian and Andy Greer also join Dwane Casey’s staff

  7. Jerry Colangelo: I think LeBron James wants to be part of Team USA

    Jul 29, 2015, 2:03 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwmxmdgxmdzhnmq1mwfkn2ewnwi0m2zkowvjzwnhmdmz AP

    Cavaliers star has avoided making a public decision

  8. Brazil’s automatic basketball bid for 2016 Olympics in jeopardy over money

    Jul 29, 2015, 1:04 PM EDT

    Tiago Splitter, Rudy Fernandez, Leandrinho Barbosa AP

    If Brazil qualifies through FIBA Americas Championship, that could close door for another North/South American team from qualifying

  9. Phil Jackson on Kobe Bryant: ‘I could feel his hatred’

    Jul 29, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Charlotte Bobcats Getty Images

    Lakers were in a bad place when Jackson first stepped away

  10. LeBron James Twitter Q&A: NFL career, Kobe Bryant’s best play, Ronda Rousey and more

    Jul 29, 2015, 10:13 AM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Lakers Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Lakers

    Cavaliers star also addresses his favorites – including place to play, rapper, and teammates

  11. Hornets sign Elliot Williams as 16th player

    Jul 29, 2015, 9:26 AM EDT

    Charlotte Hornets vs Philadelphia 76ers Getty Images

    He’ll likely compete with Aaron Harrison to make regular-season roster

  12. Who is still out there: Top 10 free agents still on the market

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:31 AM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four Getty Images

    Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith head the list.

  13. Donald Trump says he’s becoming a Mavericks fan after Mark Cuban’s comments

    Jul 29, 2015, 12:05 AM EDT

    Celebrities At Game 3 Of The Lakers/Suns Getty Images

    Cuban said presidential candidate is ‘probably the best thing to happen to politics in a long, long time’

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (2754)
  2. B. Haywood (2388)
  3. I. Thomas (2307)
  4. A. Randolph (1942)
  5. L. James (1820)