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Erik Spoelstra and Rajon Rondo

 

Those who argue the five traditional positions are nearly obsolete look to the new Heat as evidence, and Erik Spoelstra over the weekend suggested he’s thinking the same way. Spoelstra sounds ready to give key minutes to a line-up of Chris Bosh-LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Mike Miller-Other Big Man. If “Other Big Man” becomes Udonis Haslem, the Heat’s go-to crunch time line-up will include neither a traditional “point guard” nor “center.”

Here’s Spoelstra on LeBron, via the Miami Herald:

“LeBron certainly will play minutes during the game at point guard and handle the ball a lot…He will be a facilitator. He’ll be so many different things. We want to take advantage of all his skills.”

More:

Spoelstra will use preseason to decide whether to start Mario Chalmers or Carlos Arroyo or an intriguing lineup with swingman Mike Miller starting and James and Wade handling the ball.

And here’s Spoelstra on Mike Miller:

Defensively, James, Wade and Miller “are smart enough to know how to get in position against smaller point guards,” Spoelstra said. “Dwyane has guarded point guards often, LeBron the same. Mike has guarded three positions virtually his whole career. He once played half a season as [Memphis'] backup point guard.”

What does this mean for the Celtics?

This discussion might be a bit premature, but a PG-less Heat line-up would present some obvious challenges to Rajon Rondo.

• Has he improved his jump shot?

Point guards close to Rondo’s size (6’1”) are more apt to defend him in a traditional way—chasing him around or under picks, trying to stick with him on screen/rolls, etc. That’s how “normal” point guards defend against everyone else, and that’s the style they—and their coaches—are usually most comfortable having them play.

Wade and LeBron aren’t like that. Wade guarded Rondo for extended stretches in the first round last season, and he almost always hung several feet off of Rondo, daring him to shoot jumpers while waiting to jump into passing lanes or otherwise act as a super-athletic help defender. LeBron is an accomplished help defender, and he’d likely defend Rondo the same way. LeBron didn’t defend point guards with Cleveland as much as Wade has done in Miami, but it’s unclear if that was LeBron’s preference or if Mike Brown felt more comfortable watching opposing PGs abuse Mo Williams.

We’ve seen the C’s offense is vulnerable to droughts when Rondo can’t create, and Rondo has more trouble creating when presented with a packed lane. The only way to unpack it is to hit jumpers. Can he do it?

• Who does Rondo guard?

Wade is 6’4” and comfortable pulling up in mid-range and operating on the block. The latter isn’t his best skill, but he can do it. LeBron is 6’8” and experimented with a low post game last season. Mike Miller is 6’8” and gets to the rim more often than you’d expect, according to Hoopdata. He doesn’t shoot often from the mid-range and has no post game, but a seven-inch height advantage turns unwilling post/mid-range players into easy scorers.

• Do the Heat dictate the front line match-ups, or do the Celtics?

If Haslem-Bosh ends up being the Heat’s crunch time front line, how should Boston respond? Perk and Shaq would have a hard time keeping up with either Bosh or Haslem, but they’d have an enormous one-on-one advantage in the post on offense. Do you stick with a traditional center and hope the benefits outweigh the obvious problems?

Or do you go with KG and Glen Davis, a front line made up of two guys with inconsistent offensive games within 10 feet? What about KG-Jermaine O’Neal?

Again: This is all premature. The C’s and Heat might not play a truly meaningful game (i.e. a playoff game) this season. But if they do, these issues will be front and center.

  • cos

    And this again points out the need for another defensive 3, unless Double P plays a full 48. And thats not happening.

    Since we’re setting up with most everyone on a 2 year contract, can we get posey to be the back up 3 and stretch player. He’s on a 2 year contract as well and Im sure he wouldnt mind playing for a contender again.

  • http://www.livefromapt.blogspot.com w2

    I miss Tony Allend and the Celts will too. I hope Gaffney is a revelation in Camp.

  • Tugboat

    Not to sound too pessimistic, but those match-ups all seems to hugely favor the Heat. It will be very interesting to see how teams actually respond to such a daunting Heat lineup. We could see some brave coaches getting very creative this season trying to counter.

    Very curious, Zach, if you have any insight into Spoelstra’s statement that Miller played backup PG for half a season. I can’t find any evidence of this looking only at total minutes played by the Grizz during Miller’s tenure. Seems like they went from the Williams/Watkins era to the Stoudemire/Atkins era to the Conley/Lowry era without many unaccounted for PG minutes…

  • Celtics3417

    I hope they put Wade on Rondo because that would create mismatches for ray, Miller could not keep up with Allen. This would make for Allen to have big games(provided he hits the shots). If they put James on Allen then you tire James out(possibly he is kinda an athletic freak) and I that would make Miller on Pierce which is a lot better than James on Pierce.
    Also, I don’t feel that Doc would change his lineup in terms of what the Heat came out with. He would stick with KG and Perk because it gives them the size advantage and KG is the best help defender so he can help Perk on Haslem if he is too quick for him.

  • NHBluesMan

    Once again (like everything else with the Heat) this looks good on paper, but we don’t know how it would work out for them.

    I remember once in 06 or 07 when James played PG for a quarter with the Cavs, but the only difference really was that he brought the ball up the court, and then did his thing. I have a tough time seeing him take on the facilitator role. While this does create difficult match-ups, i honestly think the Celtics can stick to their game of great help defense and do ok.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    Only five players averaged more assists per game than LeBron last season.

  • keith popsicle

    The 96-97, 97-98 Bulls basically did this already right? Yeah, they had Kerr, but Pippen was playing the “point forward” and led the team in assists those years. Doesn’t seem like a new idea, but I agree with this idea about the disintegration of the traditional five positions, but only to an extent. You won’t have many teams that have ball-handlers like Miami does to employ such tactics, although many teams will probably try to do it. A smart team will base their style on the personnel available, so I don’t think we’ll see a huge wave of “no-center, no PG” formations out there.

  • Jeff

    The Heat will have versatility in this lineup but how exactly are they going to stop anyone?

    I understand that limiting RR will be a priority but do they really believe that Rondo would be the primary offensive threat if you had Haslem and Bosh in the middle trying to guard Shaq on the block?

    He’ll eat Joel Anthony and Haslem then use Bosh as a toothpick.

    If they are in that type of set on the defensive end is Miller going to cover Ray? Or PP?

    If Wade’s on RR then who’s Lebron on? PP? Then you have Miller on Ray! Talk about getting toasted!

    And defensively the Celtic’s can stop anyone on that team other than Wade and Lebron so it doesn’t really matterif they can stop Rondo because Wade and Lebron can only guard two people, the rest will get abused. So take Rondo, and maybe PP. Then you’ll still have to stop Ray, KG and JO or Shaq.

    In 7 games…I don’t see it.

  • Kevin

    @Jeff you are absolutely correct there with your assessment. Wade actually did not fair to well on Rondo at that last playoffs. Didnt Rondo have a GREAT series that one. If Wade was guarding Rondo the moajority of the series then Wade had serious issues with Rondo. Bosh cant guard his own underwear let alone KG or Jermaine Oneal. Haslem on Shaq or KP or Big Baby is a huge mismatch either way. The only 2 players guardable for Bosh and Haslem would be KP (NO O anyhow really) or Big Baby. Although KP will shut either one of them down with his smothering D. lol

    Celtics win in 7 game series EVERYTIME against a Non Physical team like Miami

  • Perry

    Rondo’s consistency from the field is a legitimate concern, but he doesn’t wilt under pressure and has shown the ability to knock down shots in crunch time. It is the foul shooting that scares me, and may be one reason why Sheed finished more games than Perk. Doc couldn’t leave two subpar free throw shooters on the floor with the game on the line, so I’m sure we won’t see Rondo and Shaq finish many games together. But there are so many intangibles to Rondo’s game that make it virtually impossible for opposing teams to game plan even if he shoots a poor FG%.

    Celts are one of a handful of teams that won’t overreact to matchup threats Miami will pose because their depth allows them to create their own set match up problems. I’ve always thought Kevin got the best of Bosh, and for all his virtues Bosh couldn’t elevate the Raptors past the first round. Indeed Haslem and Miller should flourish with Lebron handling the ball. But the Celts have proved they can keep him dribbling east to west by packing bodies inside the paint, and Miller has to prove all over again he can drill three’s consistently. It’s also nice to have a capable defender backing up Ray Allen since foul trouble is always a concern playing against Wade.

    Perhaps Delonte will play the point when a team like the Heat go big, but Spokesrta will have to prove a title can be won without a true point guard and mobile center. Until then I remain dubious about Miami’s top heavy roster.

  • http://buckets.stuckon16.com Tony

    Isn’t this what Riley said back with the Lakers? Five guys flowing up and down the court without regard to position?

    You move Rondo off the ball more and let Wade/Bron try and help off him while he is cutting to the hoop. Let Pierce or Allen initiate a lot, they seem to be more comfortable with that anyways.

  • dranen645

    zach sounds scared

  • Champs

    you guys forget that the O’neals and KG are all shells of their former selves. none of them are going to be 20 point scorers. maybe one game but anthony’s defense is underrated and so is haslems.

  • http://8ofdiamonds.blogspot.com Leroy Smith

    Celtics 3417, I think if Haslem is too quick for Perk you have to live with that, because no matter how great a help defender KG is I would never take him off of a 24ppg 53% FG guy like Bosh for even short stretches. If Haslem beats you, then you just gotta shake Spolstra’s hand after the game and move on. But if Bosh scores 25 and the Heat win, then Doc would have some explaining to do (if KG was busy helping on Haslem).

  • Patrick

    Maybe Rondo could gamble more and try to steal more. Put Rondo on Miller. Miller really isn’t that quick and I can’t imagine that he’s that great of a ball handler. If Rondo could put some full court pressure on him then I think Miller would really have a difficult time getting Miami into an offensive flow. Plus, Miller isn’t a true point guard which is what I think made the Celtics Big 3 so successful because Rondo is a true point guard. If Miami wants to succeed they need a true point guard.

  • Perry

    @Champs

    KG was a 14/7 PF last year. We all know he’ll never be the same player he was, but despite the set backs he played Bosh to a draw in two of three games last year, and over a 15 game span — head to head — has recorded better numbers.

    The key to his future success is his gate since he can still defend and knock down shots despite the knee. Being that the coaching staff kept his minutes down he looked pretty spry in the playoffs. I think it’s accurate to say that even at their advanced age the Celts’ front line, if healthy, can make life difficult for Bosh, and possibly wear him down since he doesn’t have the muscle mass of Dwight Howard and a side kick to bang inside.

  • http://www.truecloud.com Dave

    The Heat are going to get good scoring opportunities in the half court out of their big three most of the time. All three are young, strong, capable of getting their own shots.

    Throw in Miller’s spot ups and they’re going to be a difficult stop every trip down.

    On the flip side, Rondo and Pierce are going to be the preoccupation of any team defending the Celtics. Slow them down and you have a great chance to beat Boston.

    Allen, the O’Neals, Garnett? They aren’t going to scare anybody night in and night out anymore. And the same holds true in a long seven game series.

    Is Ray Allen capable of going off? Sure now and again like he did in the Laker series. Once!

    Garnett doesn’t have the inside game anymore and he can’t run the floor for easy opportunities like he used to. He’s still a beast on defense and he can make a spot up jumper from 15 feet or so.

    The blueprint for stopping Pierce is clear now. If Miami sticks James on Pierce the same way Cleveland did, his offense will disappear. We already saw that last Spring.

    That leaves the primary remaining issue with Rondo, but using Wade there will work just fine.

  • Rangatiratanga

    This is where i think we will truly miss Thibs.

  • Rangatiratanga

    Nah i miss him already,but i believe in this team.Try stopping that backcourt-Wade,Miller,Bron.They’re going to drive our perimeter D guys MAD,INSANE.
    Rondo’s inability to knock down jumpshots will become a glaring blackhole on offense against the Heat.If that’s the case then what?Do we keep hoping one day he’ll magically show up with one.I don’t know,a lot of questions in my head,it will be interesting to see how this plays out though.

  • Champs

    @ Perry
    Where did you hear that? Bosh averaged 25.33 ppg and 7 rpg against the celtics and KG averaged 15.5 and 4 rpg.

  • Perry

    @Champs

    Sorry, I used two dates of data from 2009 … not 2010. Actually last years sample is so small you almost have to compare them head to head over their 15 game history and Garnett does have an edge.

    You’re right about his scoring average, but the Celtics owned the Raptors last year. So the points have to come from someone, and he was Toronto’s first option. I’m not diminishing Bosh at all. He is better than KG at this point of his career, but Kevin is capable of holding his own at the defensive end.

    In the only head to head match up last year CB registered 20/13 in 39 minutes with a -10 +/- vs. a 12/7, +11 +/- for KG. Then Kevin got hurt and Sheed put up 16/6 and 29/8 in his place. Bosh didn’t play in the fourth game of the series, which the Celts swept.

    Miami may have some distinct advantages, but the PF position for Boston is not a glaring weakness … unless Kevin gets hurt or declines more rapidly. :-)

  • Ray

    People really think the Heat won’t have D?? Lol D Wade was 1st in blocks and 3rd in steals for SGs last season and LeBron was 1st blocks and 2nd in steals for SFs last season Chris Bosh averaged like a block a game and Joel Anthony averaged like 1.4 blocks… The Heat will be just as dangerous on D as on O and the transition games is just scarey in their advantage…

  • Ray

    People really think the Heat won’t have D?? Lol D Wade was 1st in blocks and 3rd in steals for SGs last season and LeBron was 1st blocks and 2nd in steals for SFs last season Chris Bosh averaged like a block a game and Joel Anthony averaged like 1.4 blocks… The Heat will be just as dangerous on D as on O and the transition games is just scarey in their advantage… And as for the people saying how will they stop the Celtics… Name someone besides PP who creates their on shots??

  • Champs

    @ Perry

    I get what your saying. KG will hold his own but Bosh can take him. Remember the Raptors were a bad team. Put Bosh on Celtics and his +/- improves drastically. They were a terrible team. On the Heat they will spread wealth and the big 3 will average around 60-70 together.

    @Ray I agree the Heat will have a great defense. They had a top 10 defense with that group cuz Spoelstra is a defensive coach. With LeBron on the perimeter and Bosh is no slouch on the inside, they will be fine. Anthony is a shot blocker who will help Bosh in the inside

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