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Taking Offense

Hopefully Coach Spo knows that more than just the roster will need to change to keep this look off his face more consistently.
Hopefully Coach Spo knows that more than just the roster will need to change to keep this look off his face more consistently.

It's obvious that the Miami Heat's roster will be vastly different on Opening Night than it is right now. Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Jermaine O'Neal, Quentin Richardson, Dorell Wright, Carlos Arroyo, and Jamaal Magloire, among others, are becoming free agents along with seemingly half the League. That's a whopping seven roster spots (maybe more) that could be open on this Heat team as of July 1. Debating about which free agents could come, won't come, and whether or not they'd fit in with D-Wade and the Miami Heat Way is certainly fun, but the truth is no one really knows what our roster will look like come late October.

So our roster is in for a major overhaul. Is there anything else that needs to change along with the arrival of the fresh faces that will soon be headed to South Beach? Some have called for the removal of head coach Erik Spoelstra as well. I was on that bandwagon for a while myself, but overall, I believe Coach Spo is good for this team. What I do believe needs to change, however, is the offensive philosophy he has for this team. What specific offensive changes would really benefit this team?

First off, with natural athletes like Wade, Beasley, Wright, and Mario Chalmers, the pace needs to be much faster. In the 2009-10 season, only the Detroit Pistons and the Portland Trail Blazers played at an offensive pace slower than that of the Miami Heat. One way to pick up the pace would be to run the ball more off opponents' missed shots. That would improve Heat's offensive output because transition buckets make scoring so much easier. As mentioned above, we have the athletes to get out and run. Our defense also sets us up to get out in transition. The Heat were second to only the Orlando Magic in opponent's FG%, which means the opposition misses a lot of shots when they play us. We are just above the League average in defensive rebounding, so we are playing the defense and getting the rebounds. Pushing the ball, however, would require having a point guard who is comfortable enough to handle the ball effectively in the open court.

Transition buckets would also help make life easier on D-Wade. Lay-ups and dunks help a guy's rhythm and confidence. By Dwyane's own admission, he's a rhythm shooter. Seeing the ball go in-even if it's an easy shot-tends to make the basket look bigger. D. Wright would benefit as well, as he seems to be one of Wade's favorite targets for the fast break alley-oop. Getting out in transition would help Michael Beasley as well. He had a few memorable putbacks as a result of trailing the fast break this season. If we run more, those highlights could happen even more. It might also help Beasley be more interested in the games, which would skyrocket his production.

What type of offense would work best for this team? I propose a flex-type offense like the one the Utah Jazz runs. I know coaches are skeptical of "stealing" ideas from other coaches, but the current sometimes-pick-and-roll and sometimes-freelance offense is just not getting it done. I've been watching Utah all season, though, and they are a very fundamentally sound team offensively. They use a series of cuts and screens based on a reaction to what the person with the basketball does, and their system generally gets them a quality look at the basket on each possession. Their playmaker, Deron Williams, gets the ball with space to operate, their shooters get open looks, and Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap get looks in the post where the only thing left for them to do is finish. The principles of the triangle offense, perfected by Tex Winter and popularized by Phil Jackson, might work as well with a very Michael Jordan-esque Dwyane Wade at the focal point. Maybe Uncle Phil and Pat Riley can bury the hatchet and Jackson and Winter can come and teach our guys their system of spacing, cutting, and passing? Yeah, I doubt it, but hey, the Dr. Buss & Co. insist that Phil Jackson will be coaching "somewhere" next season. He'll be somewhere all right, but I doubt very seriously it's anywhere but with the Lakers.

Another concern is the way the Heat fail to put points on the board for long stretches-sometimes entire quarters. It sometimes cuts into D-Wade's rest, which also means he has to be on the court trying to make something happen while he's exhausted. A more efficient offense could help Dwyane in numerous ways. You can get away with having a freelance offense when you have a dominant player on the perimeter player (Dwyane Wade) and a dominant force in the middle (a la Shaquille O'Neal when he first came to Miami), but that's not our current situation. It hasn't been for quite some time.

Why not wait and see which post player we can snag from the Boozer/Chris Bosh/Amare Stoudamire Sweepstakes before we make any drastic changes? Boozer puts up the 20 in his 20-10 because of the flex. Stoudamire benefits greatly from having Steve Nash as his PG. Bosh is probably the most effective pure one-on-one player of this group (and another glimpse of the caliber of player Michael Beasley could soon be), but I honestly worry about giving him the MAX contract he seems to be seeking (I'll expand on my thoughts on guys who are worth MAX $ in a FanPost later today). Even if we go with Bosh, he and Wade putting up 25 points apiece is still only 50 points a game. The rest of the team must contribute, and a more efficient offense would help them do that-especially when the stars are resting. I look at the Jazz when Williams and Boozer are resting and the Lakers when Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are not on the floor, and those teams don't struggle as mightily as the Heat do when their main guys are resting.