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.”
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.