NBA Roundtable

Heat Set Starting Lineup

In General NBA on October 28, 2009 at 4:26 pm

ESPN reports

Haslem is out of Miami’s starting lineup for the first time in six years, paving the way for Michael Beasley to open at power forward. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra announced the starters Wednesday: NBA scoring champion Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers at guard, Jermaine O’Neal at center, Quentin Richardson at small forward and Beasley.

Spoelstra called it a “difficult and uncomfortable” decision.

More on and from Udonis Haslem

“I understand where he’s coming from,” Haslem said. “I’ve been behind him and this organization 100 percent since I’ve been here, and this is another situation where I’m behind him again. My role is going to be different, but pretty much still the same.”

Haslem has come off the bench in only two games in the previous five seasons, once because of injury, the other in an end-of-season game at Atlanta before the 2006 playoffs.

Starting Lineup

The Heat used six different starting lineups in preseason:

  1. Chalmers + Wade +  Beasley + Haslem + Jermaine
  2. Chalmers + Wade + Beasley + Haslem + Joel Anthony
  3. Chalmers + Jones + Diawara + Beasley + Joel Anthony
  4. Chalmers + Q-Rich + Beasley + Haslem + Jermaine
  5. Chalmers + Wade + Q-Rich + Beasley + Jermaine
  6. Chalmers + Wade + Q-Rich + Haslem + Jermaine (twice used – final two games)

There was a lot of indecision surrounding the forward spots. Chalmers, Wade and Jermaine were locks at their spots but Erik Spoelstra couldn’t decide who start alongside them. The three main decisions were:

  • Should Spoelstra go with a small forward (or wing) or go with two power forwards in order to play his two best forwards?
  • If Spoelstra goes with a small forward, should he play …
    • Quentin Richardson — the only wing who rebounds. A decent defender and decent shooter.
    • Yakhouba Diawara — His best defender but a non-entity in other areas
    • James Jones — By far his best shooter and a decent defender but a non-rebounder.
    • Dacquan Cook — The club’s sixth man and best scorer amongst the wings
  • And if Spoelstra decides to go with a small forward (wing), who then does he decide to play at the power forward slot?
    • Michael Beasley — The club’s prized draft pick from a year ago. A player with very good potential who needs time to develop.
    • Udonis Haslem — Miami’s second best player. A glue guy defensively, a rebounder and a solid offensive player who plays very well alongside D-Wade.

Good decision, bad decision?

I think Spoelstra made the wrong call here. I think Miami is a much better team with Haslem on the floor rather than Michael Beasley. Last season Haslem played almost 10 more minutes than Beasley (34.1mpg to 24.8mpg), if that situation is reversed this year then I’m seriously worried about:

Defense

Miami ranked 11th in defensive efficiency last season but Beasley is a very poor defender versus a good-to-very good defender in Haslem. Along with some other teams getting better defensively, and Miami not, I was expecting their defensive efficiency to drop off anyway. But with Beasley playing more minutes it’ll drop even further, likely down to the low teens.

Rebounding

Miami’s rebounding figures to get worse too. Considering the Heat were out-rebounded by 2.5 boards a game last season (fourth worst) so you’d hope they won’t fall much further than that.

Miami have two good rebounding wings in Wade (very good) and Richardson (solid). Jones, Diawara, Cook are all very poor on the glass.

Dorell Wright is healthy again though, he’s a good rebounder, but it remains to be seen how much he figures into the Heat’s plans. Their two point guards (Chalmers, Arroyo) are slightly below average rebounders.

Their starting two bigs were liabilities on the boards last season and figure to be this season. So too was Joel Anthony who was their fourth big in the rotation. Udonis Haslem was only a mediocre rebounder but the best of the bunch.

In other words, the Heat have huge rebounding problems already … and playing Haslem less minutes in favour of an inferior rebounder makes things worse.

Overall

Miami’s defense ranked 20th in offensive efficiency last season. Unless Beasley becomes significantly more effective as a scorer, that doesn’t figure to get any better by him playing more minutes and taking more shots.

If the offense isn’t showing dramatic improvement … and the team’s defense and it’s rebounding is getting worse, then the team is going to have a hard time playing .500 ball this season.

Conclusion

#1 — I don’t like the decision to play Beasley ahead of Haslem.

I think Michael Beasley is individually a worse player and I think he creates a lot of issues team-wide that will make Miami’s life far more difficult in their quest to return to the playoffs this season.

#2 — With Beasley and Jermaine O’Neal starting alongside one another and playing 30+ minutes a night … the Heat will be hard pressed to make the playoffs this season without one of them showing dramatic improvement over their previous season’s performances.

Unfortunately, we saw no sign of improvement during preseason.

#3 — Ah, Quentin Richardson. In all the thoughts about Beasley I forgot to say that I like Spoelstra’s decision to play Q-Rich as his starting small forward. I think he desperately needs Richardson’s rebounding and that Richardson’s all-round is superior to the other options open to him.

My secondary choice would be James Jones because his shooting could open up Miami’s offense a lot more. But he’s second to Richardson due to rebounding issues (individual + collective).

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