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Dwyane Wade admits Heat’s lack of size is weakness

Oct 23, 2012, 7:56 PM EDT

Miami Heat's James and teammate Wade walk to the bench in a timeout against the Detroit Pistons in a preseason NBA basketball game in Miami Reuters

When NBA general managers were asked who they thought would win the NBA title this year, they overwhelmingly chose the Miami Heat to repeat. Even people looking to pick against the Heat this season have to do so in terms of defining their pick against Miami. They have the best player in the game, two other elite players and system in place now that is proven to work.

But there are no unbeatable teams. Achilles had his heel.

When asked what it was, Dwyane Wade was honest — size. Via Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida.

“Yeah, we have weaknesses,” said Wade, whose Heat went 46-20 during the 2011-12 lockout-shortened campaign, an equivalent of 57-25 during a normal season. “We’re not the biggest team in the league. It’s a glaring weakness.”

One of the turning points in last season’s title run for the Heat was when they had to adapt to deal with Roy Hibbert from the Indiana Pacers. Miami had now way of just matching up with him, they had to adapt and find a way to exploit their advantages as well.

“As well as it’s a weakness, it’s a strength,” Wade said. “And so we got a weakness. We’re not going to come out and we’re not going to say this big guy is going to get 14 rebounds a game. We have to rebound collectively as a team. So, obviously, that’s a weakness for us. But it’s also a strength for us because at the other end of the floor, when the ball gets off the rim, we’re able to use our speed.”

And as of right now, 29 other teams have to adjust to that strength. Size might be part of that equation — Philadelphia, Brooklyn Indiana and the Lakers may have a leg up there — but it’s not enough by itself.

  1. eventhorizon04 - Oct 23, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    It’s more of a weakness on defense than on offense.

    On offense, by going small, the Heat are able to put in more long-range shooters, which gives LeBron more space to operate in the low-post and Wade more space to slash to the basket. It also matches up Bosh against a Center, giving him a tremendous foot-speed advantage.

    The potential problem is on defense. This small lineup worked fine against OKC because neither Ibaka nor Perkins is a real threat in the low-post. Teams like the Lakers and Grizzlies with two “bigs” who can operate in the lowpost on offense could exploit the Heat’s lack of size in 2 ways.
    First, they can overpower Heat defenders to get favorable position in the lowpost, and second, they can use their height and strength advantages to grab offensive rebounds and get second-chance points.
    Most would agree that the 6 foot 9, 260 lbs LeBron isn’t exactly outmatched at power forward, but would the 6 foot 11, 240 lbs Bosh hold up against centers? And can the Heat’s team defense make up for a mismatch between Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh, while also covering the wing players of the Lakers?

    We’ll find out soon enough.

    • tcclark - Oct 24, 2012 at 12:55 AM

      You’re right and well said. It’s going to be more of a strength some nights and more of a weakness others. Against teams like OKC it’ss be great. Ibaka was 1st team defense but he couldn’t even pretend to guard Lebron. But facing teams like LA, Philly, or even Utah of (i can’t believe I’m typing this) Sacremento with good, athletic, centers, it’s going to be a tougher road. Against teams like LA or Philly, you’d probably be better off having Lebron playing Howard or Bynum than Bosh. Between the two, Lebron is stronger and will hold his ground a little better, but even he isn’t good enough to stop them. It’ll be tough for him on Defense.

      And even on Offense, you could essentially take the ball out of your two best players hands if they start playing a zone to keep their shot blocker in the paint. It’s really tough to beat a zone on the drive. Zones are broken with outside shooting which is the weak point for Lebron and DWade. If you go to a Zone, one of three things is most likely to happen: Lebron and Wade still try to drive, but have a tough time against the zone, Lebron and Wade abandon the offense and start taking iso jump shots, or they spread the ball and let the three point shooters do their thing. From the other teams perspective worst case scenario is the shooters are hitting from the outside and you lose the game because Shane Battier and Ray Allen had great nights. That’s a win in that teams book. You slow down Lebron and Wade and still lose? oh well, chalk it up to bad luck.

      This small ball is going to be tough to defend, but someone will figure it out, and I have a good feeling, we’re about to see a lot more zone defense in the NBA.

      • eventhorizon04 - Oct 24, 2012 at 1:34 AM

        All good points –

        For the Heat on Defense, when up against teams with 2 quality bigs (and I’m not talking Roy Hibbert and David West – I mean Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard; or Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph), it will be tough.

        I imagine the Heat will collapse to the paint whenever teams try to get the ball to the low-post, and the Heat will then rely on their athleticism to close out on perimeter shooters if the opposing bigs pass to the outside. The Heat matched up pretty well against the Lakers back when they had Bynum instead of Howard – the Heat went 3-1 against the Lakers in the BIg-3 era, only losing a game that Bosh missed after his grandmother passed away. Still – that just proves how important Bosh is against teams with quality bigs, and the decision to prioritize signing Ray Allen instead of Marcus Camby could come back to haunt the Heat if they lose Bosh in the playoffs again, and they have to rely on Joel Anthony to guard either Pau Gasol or Dwight Howard in the Finals. Against teams like OKC with 1-way bigs like Kendrick Perkins, though, there’s no downside to this strategy since guarding Perkins counts as a vacation for either Bosh or LeBron.

        As for the Heat on offense, I think the Heat won’t have as much trouble with zone as they have had in the past. They were much improved last season against the zone after getting ambushed by it in the 2011 Finals against the Mavericks, which is why OKC’s coach Scott Brooks abandoned it after trying it out briefly this year in the Finals. Wade and LeBron aren’t great shooters but they are good facilitators, while Chris Bosh actually is a great-midrange shooter, and for the final 2 Heat players, the Heat have a choice of Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, and James Jones – all 35-45% 3-point shooters. And as I said before, matching up on man-defense with the Heat presents problems with traditional lineups, since Bosh at Center and LeBron at Power Forward are tough matchups, especially if LeBron keeps developing his low-post game (which, while effective in the Finals, could be much better).

        I don’t think points will ever be an issue for the Heat, zone or no zone, and I don’t think defense against probably 24 of the 29 other teams will be an issue. However, teams like the Lakers, Memphis, Utah, etc., present matchup challenges on defense for the Heat.

        If I’m the Heat, I’m hoping for the Spurs or OKC to take the West, since they prefer small-ball and the Heat proved last season in the playoffs that they do very well in that type of game.

      • bougin89 - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:21 AM

        Spoelstra would never put Lebron on Howard or Bynum. That would be a matchup nightmare for the Heat. Lebron is strong enough but is not a polished post player offensively or defensively when compared to traditional big men. He’s getting there on offense but if they post him on offense it would be because he has a smaller/weaker person guarding him that he can physically exploit.

      • tcclark - Oct 24, 2012 at 7:55 PM

        “That would be a matchup nightmare for the Heat.”

        And playing Bosh on them isn’t? Look, Bosh on Howard, and Lebron on Gasol is completely terrible for the Heat. Those are two terrible match-ups for them. Now Lebron on Howard, and Bosh on Gasol, that’s only one terrible match-up. Bosh can handle Gasol because Gasol’s not gonna sit on the block and pound it in on him. Gasol likes to face the basket and Bosh can guard like that. Lebron is in no way a polished defensive post player, but he is a strong body that you can put on Howard. If he can front him or pester him with quick hands on the ball, he can keep Dwight from dominating down there.

        I don’t know why you were talking about post offense because if Dwight was playing Lebron on defense, (something they would never do) there’s no way Lebron is going to try and post him up. He’ll take dwight out of the paint, beat him off the dribble or take the wide open shots he’s bound to get with Dwight playing off of him. Either way this point is moot because the Lakers would NEVER play Dwight on Lebron. They’d have Metta play Lebron and let Gasol play Battier. You don’t have to guard the person who’s guarding you. Spoelstra can play Lebron on Dwight without having to worry about Lebron trying to post up Howard.

      • bougin89 - Oct 25, 2012 at 9:49 AM

        I wasn’t very clear on my point about Lebron in the post. Basically you don’t want Lebron in the post unless if he’s on offense and a smaller player is guarding him, that is really the only time you prefer him in the post at all. He will never match up again Dwight, that would be asinine. Bosh would match up on Howard before Lebron ever would but when they play the lakers you would put in a rotation that could match up with them. You would probably see a lot more Joel Anthony in the game when Howard is in.

      • bougin89 - Oct 25, 2012 at 9:53 AM

        To add to my point about Lebron in the post, Kevin Garnett even ate him up when the Heat matched Lebron on Garnett in the eastern conference finals last year. I’m not trying to throw a dig at Lebron because he is a great defender, but he is not a good defender in the post. You can have all the strength in the world but if you don’t know how to use leverage/balance in the post it’s useless.

      • tcclark - Oct 25, 2012 at 5:24 PM

        Oh I wouldn’t play Lebron on Howard by choice. I’m saying he’d be a better option than Bosh. I know Spoelstra would never do it, but it would be the better move. I honestly don’t think playing Joel Anthony is going to be much better. He can block shots, but Dwight will abuse him. The Lakers will be a match-up nightmare for the Heat. They don’t have a person on the roster who can guard Dwight so they’re going to have to hope for a fast passed shoot-out instead of a methodical defensive approach

  2. miamatt - Oct 23, 2012 at 9:19 PM

    Meh. Every team has a potential achilles heal(s). This isn’t news, it’s what is in every team’s scouting report against Miami. Exploit them with your big men inside, if you can. Miami will try to front and use help inside.

  3. michaeljordanseviltwin - Oct 23, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    Lack of size is not likely to be the Heat’s downfall, but there is one issue that might. Two seasons ago they shot 18 3-pointers a game and when faced with a good zone defense in the Finals they shot jumpers almost exclusively.

    Last year LeBron & Wade cut down on their 3-point attempts and the team only averaged 15 attempts per game. But in the Finals LeBron went to work in the post and set up countless wide open 3-point shots. It worked for that series but with their new small-ball identity they better be careful not to rely too heavily on the 3-point shot. Guys can go cold and seasons can end.

    • tashkalucy - Oct 24, 2012 at 9:54 PM

      Teams look at playoff film and make adjustments the next year.

  4. numba1recx19 - Oct 23, 2012 at 11:16 PM

    So does this mean Dwight Howard is now thier kryptonite?

  5. BigBeachBall - Oct 24, 2012 at 6:51 AM

    Weakness your team has….

  6. cantonbound13 - Oct 24, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    Howard & Gasol will eat them up

    • hehateme2 - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:10 AM

      Dream on cantonclown

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