The 2010-11 season was significant in oh so many ways, but the monumental construction of the new-look Miami Heat stole the season's narrative and ran with it. Everything that happened in the NBA could somehow be traced back to LeBron James and company to the point that the Heat managed to either worm their way into every basketball conversation or overpower it completely.
And if you'll recall, one of the recurring Heat storylines from that season—somewhere in between LeBron James allegedly irredeemable failures and the violations of equity in assembling so much talent—targeted Miami's supporting cast. Winning a championship in the subsequent season has helped to quell many of the doubts over the viability of the Heat role players, and yet it also feels as if the revival of those concerns is a mere losing streak away.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are so tremendously talented as to make many of their less dynamic teammates look unreliable by comparison. But is it really so problematic that the Heat are loaded with specialists to surround their multi-talented stars?
Specialization by design
Many an offense has been derailed due to a lack of shot creation, and the Heat aren't entirely exempt from that concern. Yet between James and Wade alone, Erik Spoelstra has two dominant and highly-efficient playmakers capable of running a complete offense. In Bosh, he has another go-to scorer with potential to establish himself either in the low post or on the perimeter. In Ray Allen, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers, Spo has capable ball-handlers and helpful passers who can redirect things in a pinch.
It may seem that there's a place for everything, and everything has a place in Miami, but what we really see is specialization in a highly useful (and oddly flexible) form. Players are tasked with responsibilities to build off of the central talents of James and Wade, but many are specialists by choice rather than necessity. They can do more, and in many situations, do.
But the Heat understand from top to bottom that they have the best chance to win when the offense flows through the best two players on the floor and do their best to fill in the gaps accordingly.
Building a team the only way they can
There's nothing at all wrong with critiquing the play or construction of a contending team, but in the case of the Heat, arguments against acquiring role players and specialists always struck me as a bit odd—if only because the inclusion of such players is a necessity given the Heat's construction. With so much salary devoted to James, Wade and Bosh alone (not to mention mid-level and mini-mid-level deals handed out along the way), what else are the Heat to do other than draft as best they can and pick up whoever happens to be affordable?
It'd be wonderful if the Heat were lined from top to bottom with shot creators, but that just isn't a realistic financial scenario for any team pieced together as the Heat were. They made their huge investment all at once and essentially capped themselves in the process. Any additions from here on out must be made using salary cap exception and the draft, and neither of those methods offers all that much hope of bringing in additional playmakers.
So the Heat do what they can and have done well to pick up some "specialists," with diverse enough games to allow themselves some flexibility. It may seem like a strange strategy, but when considering Miami's top-heavy model, it was the only one possible.
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