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Cavs starting a center who can’t defend raises questions about the role of a 5 in the NBA

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The Heat might be in a good place with the Cavaliers line-up in disarray this season.

NBA: Preseason-Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Tyronn Lue announced Kevin Love as the Cleveland Cavaliers new starting center in place of Tristan Thompson, because of Love's ability to initiate a transition offense.

"He's a great passer," Lue said of Love. "Fives (centers) have to get out and try to guard him on the pick and roll with LeBron and D-Rose and those guys making plays, so it's going to be tough for those guys. We liked it."

Center Tristan Thompson will come off the bench, and newly acquired forward Jae Crowder will take Love's former spot, Lue said. Crowder, acquired this summer in the Kyrie Irving trade, is a strong defender.

The Cavaliers totally shifting attention towards a wing oriented style of play with Crowder and LeBron James as the featured players. Wonder if Dwyane Wade influenced the decision? Timing of Wade’s arrival and Thompson’s demotion seems suspicious.

What else can Thompson say when Love takes his job? CavsNation writes,

“The Cavs may be looking to play small ball, and should that be the case, it will force Tristan Thompson to come off the bench, to provide the second stringers with an experienced center. However, instead of seeing it as a demotion, the 26-year-old Canadian international is even looking forward to his new role, even being very professional about it.”

Cavaliers admit they don’t have a dominant center like Hassan Whiteside. The season looks good for the Miami Heat because they can field a team that protects the paint with Whiteside, or an outside-in team with Kelly Olynyk. Seems like the Cavs over-reliance on James gives them an identity crisis.

That said, the days of a center putting his head down to attack the basket, without surveying the field for three points instead of two, are numbered. Here Whiteside attracts 3 help-side defenders, and ignored 3 open teammates standing at the 3-point waiting for a pass from him.

A quick quiz, who was the center for the Chicago Bull team, featuring Michael Jordan, which won 72 games in the 1995-96 season? The names Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman come to mind as Jordan's partners in crime, but the center for that team remains forgettable.

The term "point" in basketball comes from hockey and goes against today's conventional idea of a point player, with limited defensive responsibility, who also is a principal scorer.

"According to one of the earliest books on ice hockey, Farrell's Hockey: Canada's Royal Winter Game (1899), Mike Grant of the Montreal Victorias, describes the point as "essentially defensive. He should not stray too far from his place, because oftentimes he is practically a second goal-minder ... although he should remain close to his goal-keeper, he should never obstruct that man's view of the puck. He should, as a rule, avoid rushing up the ice, but if he has a good opening for such a play he should give the puck to one of the forwards on the first opportunity and then hasten back to his position, which has been occupied, in the interim, by the cover-point."

Kelly Olynyk fits the concept of a point player, from the previous century, who sets up transition opportunities from the half court and then hustles back to defend an empty net. He fits the mold of the Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh, who could make long-range baskets, while also patrolling the paint on defense. Like the Bulls of the 1990's, the title-winning Heat of 2013 and 2014 relied on a scoring guard and forward as the drivers of the team.

Where does that place Hassan Whiteside, with the Cavaliers benching Thompson for a center who can't defend? Brute strength has lost value in today’s fast-moving NBA, where court vision and basketball IQ gained in importance. Expanding his skill set to meet the challenge of traditional and small-ball lineups the top-tier teams throw at him is necessary to bring a title back to Miami.