Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Lakers became a laughing stock in NBA circles after attempting just three three-point attempts over the course of an entire preseason game against the Golden State Warriors. They lost the game by 41 points.
League wide, three-point attempts continue to increase year after year, so it's unfathomable that a team actually decided to do away with them nearly entirely. To put it bluntly: Three's are worth more than two's, and are thus more valuable (check me on the math though). Specifically, the corner three is widely regarded as the most efficient spot in the game, factoring in distance and shot value.
This means the Miami Heat could be in trouble.
If you look at this roster compared to years past, the first thing that should jump out at you (aside from, well, you know) is the lack of established three-point shooters. A team that once kept James Jones around just because they could is now keeping Shannon Brown of the "33% career 3-pt shooter" variety in his place. Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis have now turned in to Danny Granger, Brown and Shawne Williams - all acceptable players, but deadeyes they are not.
Any team that loses the best player in the game will certainly have to undergo an identity change, but obviously this new roster is not without faults, and the lack of spacing stands out above the rest. With LeBron, three-point shooters flocked to Miami because their job was simple - stand in the corner, wait for the ball to be thrown to you and shoot it when it gets there.
Now that he's gone, the Heat missed out on some of the better three-point shooters in this free agent class who took their talents to other contenders instead - Anthony Morrow and Chris Douglas-Roberts would almost certainly play major minutes for this team.
With the roster as it stands right now, Mario Chalmers is probably the best three-point shooter the Heat have. Granger would have held that title before his injuries, but over the last three seasons he's shot just 32% from deep, and given all the concerns about his health, it's fair to wonder if he'll be able to reach his 38% career mark again.
Dwyane Wade said recently that he's now feeling more comfortable behind the three-point line, and if that proves to be true, it would give this team a huge boost - the lack of spacing currently available for Chris Bosh in the post is seriously concerning.
Norris Cole's shooting has been erratic throughout his career. Josh McRoberts is intriguing as a stretch four, but he's only had one season (last season) where he shot a high volume of three-pointers, so I'm hesitant to declare him a great shooter just yet. James Ennis is shooting above 40% from deep in the preseason after a strong summer league, and if he can keep that up in the regular season it would give the Heat an option they really need.
The Heat were in the middle of the pack last season, averaging 8.1 made threes per game. Those numbers should decrease slightly - they won't be the worst team in the league from there, but I don't see them improving, either. Without the constant threat of the three-pointer looming, spacing suffers and the offense collapses inside the arc, making it difficult to tell how the Heat are going to generate offense.
This roster does have some very interesting strengths that can help to balance out the lack of spacing. Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts are two of the most skilled bigs in the NBA, and they will be given plenty of opportunities to make plays for both themselves and others. Wade and Luol Deng are both excellent at moving without the basketball - more Wade ghost cuts! This should distract defenders and help prevent defenses from doubling Bosh in the post.
In addition, when the Heat decide to send Wade to the post (which we should see pretty often this season), Bosh and McRoberts are both excellent shooters for their size, which should allow Wade to operate freely against smaller defenders, something he's done extraordinarily well throughout his entire career.
One particular action that I wanted to highlight is what's known as a high-low that I think the Heat will utilize frequently this season. There are a lot of different ways this can be run - through pick-and-pop, horns sets, and the like. What the Heat will probably try to do is get Josh McRoberts the ball at the elbow, with either Bosh or Wade flashing through the lane for a quick post up and potentially easy layup. Here we see the Lakers running this same action - Gasol receives the ball near the elbow, and then waits as his point guard goes to screen for Kobe. Kobe ducks his man in right when he steps in the paint and gets an easy look at the rim because of it.
It's unlikely that offense ever looks as easy as it did in the last four years in Miami - RIP Flying Death Machine - but all hope is not lost. While this year's version of the Heat is not perfect, high IQ players like Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts will help make the transition to a LeBron-less life a little bit easier. Without his usual army of three-point shooters, Erik Spoelstra will have to totally redesign his offense, and it starts with quick actions like the high-low as demonstrated above.
It might not always be pretty, but this year's Heat still have a chance to do some damage.