In particular, three players, Dwyane Wade, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson exhibited their own unfair advantage offensively on the court, but each in a unique fashion all their own.
Wade’s exceptional ability to read defenses allowed him to score when he caught them off-balance when guarding him.
Tyler Johnson’s compact size and quickness gave him room to outmaneuver the trees planted in the paint to stop him.
Richardson’s long 6’10” wingspan allowed him to hold the ball far enough away so the defender couldn’t reach it.
This is how Wade started to attack the basket in the paint versus Gordon Hayward.
Wade isn’t fast enough anymore to blow by Hayward and the help defender, but Wade actually used his lack of speed to get defenders backpedaling as he made his floater before the defenders expected him to release the ball.
Notice how Hayward’s momentum was taking him away from Wade as he rose to make his shot.
Here’s the video of Wade no longer trying finish at the rim, but using his wits to force defenders to give him enough space to make the basket.
Tyler Johnson used his unfair advantage in a different manner when he drove in the paint.
Notice a modified 3-2 zone defense as the Celtics set up to defend outside shooters with no Hassan Whiteside in the game.
Due to his shorter height and wingspan Johnson kept the ball low to the ground and closer to his body and thus protected it from the hands of prying defenders, in this case Robert Williams and Marcus Smart.
Since they couldn’t reach the ball to steal it, Johnson broke through that small opening for an open look at the basket.
Notice how Bam Adebayo ran to the rim for a rebound or put-back opportunity in the complete sequence below.
Contrast the two videos below of how Richardson struggled to score when going for an ill-advised attempt in the first one, while using his physically unfair advantage with success in the second.
On this first drive Richardson went at two defenders planted in the paint ready to stop him with no attempt at trickery or deception on his part.
The second frame shows why he failed to convert as he exposed the ball to Jayson Tatum and Williams for an easy steal.
Leaving ball open to be stripped away lead to the expected result.
In Richardson’s sequence against Marcus Morris, Richardson used his body to keep the ball away from Morris and added a little more craftiness in his moves.
When launching the attempt Richardson’s powerful advantage of body and arm length gave him the separation needed to make the highly contested basket.
The complete video shows while has Richardson average speed allowing Morris to keep up with him, Richardson’s blend of a long wingspan and athleticism lets him finish the play successfully.
Years ago Richardson could elevate to give Greg Monroe a facial at the rim.
This season he all too often goes for contested jump shots in the paint, while ignoring open shooters (James Johnson) in the corner.
Even though Josh Richardson possesses an elite advantage due to his long wingspan, he needs to learn how to protect the ball at all times when working in traffic by using his body wisely.
Given his God-given long limbs and athleticism to finish what he starts, Richardson may eventually become the All-Star Miami hopes for.
The few examples examples above show finding an unfair advantage and making full use of it changes with each player on the team.
Miami’s roster is deep enough that in any given game a different player can have a hot hand, and Miami can ride that Heat check for a win.
Going eleven deep could be the new norm because staying with what works for a particular game may be the way to totally blow up and disrupt the other team’s game plan against the Heat.
Oddly what seems like a liability at first, like Tyler Johnson’s average wingspan or Wade’s age, can be turned into an unfair advantage for them because other team’s don’t take how those factors can become assets when used the right way.