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Can the Heat dominate through catching other teams napping?

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Observers debate who will win the small forward spot. What if it’s obsolete?

NBA: Miami Heat-Media Day Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Who will be the small forward of the Miami Heat this season? Moving away from obsolete positional thinking makes that question moot in today’s NBA. As Boston Celtics’ head coach Brad Stevens is quoted as saying,

"I don’t have the five positions anymore. It may be as simple as three positions now, where you're either a ball-handler, a wing or a big... It's really important. We've become more versatile as the years have gone on.”

The soccer site fourfourtwo.com points out,

“This unyielding race towards new knowledge and innovation is one of the primary reasons behind the constant evolution of the sport. Without doubt, a coach that can implement a formation strategy that their peers are unfamiliar with has an enormous advantage going into a competition.”

The article points out the weakness of a traditional system lies in its overuse.

“Predictability and rigidity are typically the problems associated with a 4-4-2....The formation has been around for so long that any number of ways to overcome it have been developed.”

For instance, the pick & roll play type has been used so often in the NBA, its effectiveness has vanished because defenses have neutered its potency. A slightly different twist is the 1-3-1 setup on defense that relies on fast long, athletic players.

This defense works best if you have long, athletic players; but with a couple of simple adjustments, can easily work of teams with a variety of athletes.

At its core, the 1-3-1 zone defense is an aggressive defense that relies on cutting off passing lanes, anticipation, and deflections to create turnovers and fast break opportunities for your team.

If you decide to implement the 1-3-1 zone defense for your team, it’s imperative that you’re ready to play fast basketball!

Sounds like the Heat’s 3 guard’s lineup, which has three athletic players as stoppers in the middle, who can then overwhelm unprepared defenders on the other end for high-percentage baskets.

A major weakness in the 1-3-1 comes leaving the corners open for easy three-point buckets, but any scheme has defects other teams can exploit. Minimizing the damage from the defects is the key to success.

Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside make ideal ones in the scheme, while Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo can disrupt the passing lanes and drives with their quickness.

When teams catch on to Miami’s game plan, then instant adjustments are necessary to avoid serious damage, such as blowing a 19-point lead in this 97-91 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. As Winslow said,

“Mentally, everybody checked out for a little bit."

Coach Erik Spoelstra has the versatile players to run multiple formations, like the 1-3-1 or traditional 2-2-1, to confuse other teams as Heat players transition from one look to another. Heck, Spo might occasionally put triangle offense “specialists” on the floor to further put teams at a disadvantage.

The best major league pitchers mix up their pitches all the time, because in the majors the great hitters can handle tough fastballs and curves when they know which pitch is coming. Pat Riley has put together a flexible ensemble of players, who can break down other teams with unexpected shifts. NFL football defenses always have one look before the snap, and transition into the “real” one when the quarterback has seconds to decide on what to do with the football.