HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat really figured it out last Spring.
They realized that “positionless” basketball, with the personnel they had on their roster, was pretty much unstoppable. They didn’t need a real point guard or a real center. They just needed LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and a handful of shooters.
In the 2012 postseason, the Heat were better both offensively and defensively when they played with fewer than two true big men.
Heat efficiency, 2012 Playoffs
|Bigs on floor||MIN||Pace||OffRtg||DefRtg||NetRtg||+/-|
|One or zero bigs||840||91.5||107.4||97.9||+9.5||+138|
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
In the offseason, the Heat fully embraced their positionless concept by trimming a center — Ronny Turiaf — off their roster and adding two more shooters — Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Offensively, they should be more unstoppable than ever. Defensively, they should be fine as well.
But here’s a question worth some investigating: How does playing small affect the Heat on the glass?
James is a great rebounder relative to other small forwards (only Shawn Marion was better last year), but not compared to power forwards like Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Carlos Boozer or Pau Gasol. And Bosh isn’t a great rebounder at either the four or the five.
If you look at preseason rebounding numbers thus far, you might start to get a little concerned. Through Thursday, the Heat rank 27th in rebounding percentage, grabbing just 47.4 percent of available boards through their first seven preseason games.
Worst rebounding teams, 2012 preseason
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds obtained
REB% = Percentage of available total rebounds obtained
Yep, it’s preseason. But the Heat have played their stars a decent amount in those seven games. They’ve rebounded OK in each of their last four games, but they got absolutely crushed on the glass (101-70) in two games against the Clippers in China.
Furthermore, the Heat did suffer on the glass when they went small in the playoffs last season.
Heat rebounding, 2012 Playoffs
|Bigs on floor||OREB%||DREB%||REB%|
|One or zero bigs||25.4%||73.8%||50.1%|
Over the course of 82 games, the Heat should be fine. They do enough other things both offensively and defensively to make up for any rebounding issues they might have. But there are a few very good rebounding teams that could take advantage of a smaller Heat lineup on any given night … or in the playoffs.
Indiana is one Eastern Conference team that could really hurt the Heat on the glass. And on the other side of the country is a team in L.A. that was the league’s second-best rebounding team last season and happened to add the league’s leading rebounder this summer. Just ask the 2010 Celtics how important rebounding was when they faced the Lakers in The Finals. (Hint: L.A. had 23 offensive boards in Game 7.)
So while we watch the Heat roll through the Eastern Conference this year, we need to keep a close eye on how well they rebound, which may be the one vulnerability of positionless basketball.