Since the beginning of the preseason, we have all been very anxious to see what brand of basketball the Heat are going to play in light of the departure of LeBron James. See, for the past four seasons, we have been accustomed to not worrying about trailing in a game because the fourth quarter is our time. And we have gotten used to relying on the MVP to always make a play.
Now, we eagerly anticipate a more team oriented game, focused around Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But a part of what Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra envisioned when this roster was put together is missing, and you might not even realize the impact. Josh McRoberts has yet to play in the preseason for the Heat due to a nagging recovery from a foot injury.
When McRoberts returns, I believe he will make a large impact on how the Heat play, their rotations, and how efficient they will become. It's hard to measure because no one has seen the Heat play with McRoberts, so it doesn't "feel" like we are missing him.
But we are.
Here's some of the most noticeable ways that McRoberts will help the Heat score and be more efficient as they do it.
McRoberts was the second most assisted power forward in the league at 4.3 APG last season behind Kevin Love. Think about that for a second, of all the players listed at power forward in the league, Josh McRoberts was the second best at sharing the ball. 4.3 is a great assist mark. Last season Dwyane Wade averaged 4.7 APG and Mario Chalmers was at 4.9 APG, and they are guards.
Now, assists per game isn't the only way we will measure McRoberts' ability to share the ball. You also have to keep in mind the ways he will share the ball. So far this preseason, we have seen Chris Bosh be much more comfortable in the paint. He has played some mid-post, but also has given time to the block. With Josh on the floor with him, his ability to flash to the mid-post and create rotations will allow him to find Bosh near the basket.
This is something the Heat haven't had alongside Bosh except when they went smaller with LeBron. Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis and even Udonis Haslem weren't threats in this area (Lewis and Battier were strictly three-point threats, and Haslem a baseline threat). McRoberts, although not a mid-range sniper, has the ability to make a play from this area of the floor with his mobility, and thus will cause the defense to react. When that happens, McRoberts is a willing and able passer, but also a finisher.
Once he gets familiar to his teammates, you will start to see the type of quick passes that McRoberts is able to make. He is a gifted catcher (unlike Joel Anthony), and thus can react on the fly, creating more opportunities for his teammates. He is a creative passer, using behind the backs and cross court passes to help the offense.
You can get a glimpse of McRoberts' ability with this compilation from his work last season.
If you found yourself watching the entire video, you can start to get excited about how McRoberts will be able to share the ball and create space, which is what we will talk about next.
Josh McRoberts made more threes last year than Chris Bosh (7th in 3PM among PF). And we all know that Bosh knocked down his fare share of three-point attempts last year. McRoberts has the ability, along with his passing and driving to shoot the ball from deep. But different than the specialists that the Heat have had in the past, Josh focuses most of his shots from the arc, and not from the corners.
You can see his shot chart from last season here.
As you can tell, he spent most of his time at the rim, or the top of the arc. Now think about this for a moment: What type of player has the Heat put on the court than can catch and drive, shoot the three, has the size the rebound easily, and pass above the bar? The answer is LeBron James. The Heat haven't fielded any power forward alongside Bosh that can do these things, and his spacing is going to create a much more fluid offense.
Because Josh can stretch the floor, as well as Bosh, it now opens the floor up for Wade while maintaining size in the post for rebounds, defense, and deflections. The spacing may not be as efficient as Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis or a good Shane Battier, but it will be a different spacing, and one that has a greater gain on the defensive end.
Lastly, Josh McRoberts is a basketball player. He isn't a one dimensional player like many of the previous role players the Heat have suited alongside their All-Stars. Josh is a true player, one that is skilled in many areas. One of those is playmaking. From his highlight reel, you can easily see that he has a keen sense for the game. It was clear back in his days playing for Coach K at Duke University.
Josh has the ability to drive the ball, and not predetermine his end play. He takes what the defense gives, and adapts to the situation. That is something that is desperately needed from the Heat's supporting cast. For years, because of the personnel, the role players have had single tasks on the offensive end of the floor. Now, the team will again be a team.
With all this said, I think it's very likely that Josh McRoberts has a significant impact on the Miami Heat offense. His abilities are unique and ones that the Heat haven't had their hands on in a supportive player. And if everyone else does their supporting job well, the Heat will greatly appreciate Josh's style of play.
Stay tuned, Heat Nation, Josh McRoberts will suit up soon and you will enjoy his play in Miami.