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. Report: Kings sign former college star Marshall Henderson to training camp deal

    Aug 27, 2015, 11:59 PM EDT

    Marshall Henderson Marshall Henderson

    Henderson has played in Iraq and Qatar since going undrafted.

  2. Report: Russell Westbrook marrying longtime girlfriend this weekend

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT

    Russell Westbrook Russell Westbrook

    Westbrook and Nina Earl have been together since college.

  3. Stephanie Ready to become first full-time female local NBA game color analyst

    Aug 27, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT

    From twitter.com/StephanieReady From twitter.com/StephanieReady

    As an NBA League Pass junkie I’ll tell you why I’m happy — she’s good.

  4. Remembering Darryl Dawkins’ 20 greatest dunks (VIDEO)

    Aug 27, 2015, 5:51 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwqxntu4mwq2otc2otkyntezmgm0njfmyjexywywmtdk AP

    If you’re keeping score at home, there are two shattered backboards on the list.

  5. Legendary Sixer, backboard-shattering dunker Darryl Dawkins dies at 58

    Aug 27, 2015, 4:25 PM EDT

    NBA House - Moynihan Station 2015 Getty Images

    Chocolate Thunder remained an ambassador of the game.

  6. Report: Ryan Hollins receiving interest from Kings, Wizards, Clippers

    Aug 27, 2015, 3:31 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    He probably will land on a roster somewhere. Eventually.

  7. Pelicans pull French center Alexis Ajinca out of EuroBasket

    Aug 27, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    New Orleans Pelicans v Minnesota Timberwolves Getty Images

    This is a blow to France, but they remain one of the deepest teams at EuroBasket and one of the favorites.

  8. Despite earlier report, Chuck Hayes will not sign with Rockets

    Aug 27, 2015, 1:54 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks Getty Images

    Houston’s salary cap picture changed before the deal got inked.

  9. Pistons’ Brandon Jennings says when healthy he’s fine with being sixth man

    Aug 27, 2015, 11:54 AM EDT

    Orlando Magic v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    Stan Van Gundy wants to play Brandon Jennings and Stephen Jackson together at times.

  10. Report: Clippers, Glen Davis still talking about potential deal

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets - Game Two Getty Images

    At this point in his career Davis is the “break glass in case of emergency” big.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. James (2031)
  2. D. Rose (1896)
  3. K. Bryant (1692)
  4. J. Smith (1586)
  5. K. Irving (1506)
  1. T. Thompson (1434)
  2. A. Davis (1371)
  3. T. Wroten (1362)
  4. J. Embiid (1286)
  5. F. Saunders (1259)