One point emerges for Miami from splitting the first two games against the New Orleans Pelicans and the Grizzlies: the importance of the players knowing their duties at playoff-caliber levels.
The Pelicans bench outscored Miami’s by 14 points among 5 players, or about 3 points on average in a 1-point overtime loss.
Miami’s bench trounced the Grizzlies’ unit by about 18 points as an ensemble, when Wade, with his gift for reading defenses on the fly, was on the court.
As was the case all season, Miami’s depth and teamwork has been a key to its successes, or communication breakdowns in its failures.
Who will start and who will come off the bench, to sometimes close out a game, in the next few weeks as the player’s roles become clearer?
The traditional depth chart might be the one below.
Point guard: Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade
Shooting guard: Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington
Small forward: Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder
Power forward: Justise Winslow, James Johnson, Luke Babbitt, (Jordan Mickey)
Center: Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk, (Udonis Haslem)
That’s 12 players for 9 rotation spots, so some will get only limited minutes.
Let’s put a different spin on the positions:
Ball handlers: Dragic, Wade, J. Johnson, Richardson, Winslow, Olynyk
Wings (scoring): T. Johnson, Ellington, McGruder, Babbitt
Centers: Whiteside, Adebayo
Looking at the depth chart from the second angle, there’s a surplus of ball-handlers and not enough score-first mentality wings to space the floor.
Miami works so hard on ball movement, the players don’t develop their finishing skills for the simplest scores at the rim.
Perhaps the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach would work, like it does for the Houston Rockets, who have 2 ball-handlers, 5 wings and 2 centers in the rotation.
Toronto Raptors have the same structure of 2 principal ball-handlers, 5 wings, and 2 centers, with excellent results.
The Detroit Pistons experiment with Andre Drummond as a facilitator worked at first, but NBA teams adjusted to that strategy so well the Pistons have sunk into the lottery.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have slipped this season after they lost their All-Star caliber ball-handler Kyrie Irving, even though they have arguably the smartest player in the NBA, LeBron James, running the show on their team.
Like in football, too many quarterbacks on the turf at the same time and not enough receivers leaves the ball in the hands of a guy who can direct traffic, but not skilled in weaving his way through the punishment on the field to score touchdowns on a regular basis.