The Miami Heat are coming off long back-to-back campaigns which were extended deep into June as the team reached the NBA Finals in both 2011 and 2012.
Due to the grueling nature of the NBA season, players are bound to endure small, nagging injuries.
The Heat are no exception to that rule, despite the freakishly athletic talent that they field.
LeBron James has averaged just over 38 minutes per game in the regular season over the past two years, while averaging around 43 minutes per game in the playoffs over the past two seasons.
During that same time frame, Dwyane Wade has averaged 35 minutes per game in the regular season and around 39 minutes per game in the playoffs, while Chris Bosh has averaged just over 35 minutes per game in both the regular season and postseason in the last two campaigns.
While the trio of Miami superstars are all still relatively young, they have undoubtedly racked up some extra mileage on their bodies as a result of playing an extra two months of basketball the last two seasons.
If the Heat are truly going to win not one, not two, not three, etc., (yes, I know that is overplayed)...then they are going to have to find a way to preserve their most important players.
With the Eastern Conference being very top heavy, the Heat will play plenty of bottom feeders over the course of the season. With that in mind, Coach Erik Spoelstra can employ some simple strategies against these bad teams to ensure Miami's stars can avoid nagging injuries and get some extra rest.
Play the Big Three Less in Blowouts
While Coach Spoelstra already employs this tactic, he needs to make sure that he does so even more against the worst teams.
The Heat haven't played any current sub-.500 team this season thus far, but the team has already taken part in five blowouts in its first eight games. Miami usually elects to sit its starters at the start of the fourth if the game is out of hand, but it would be wise to sit them even sooner when they are playing against the league's lottery teams.
The Heat were first in the league in point differential in 2011 and fourth in 2012, demonstrating their ability to hang onto big leads.
So, using these figures, you'd assume that plenty of those large leads were against weaker teams in the league. When Miami finds itself in those situations, they should rest the Big Three in the middle-to-late part of the third quarter, instead of waiting until the final period.
Consider Resting Starters During Second Half of the Season
If, in the final two months of the season, the Heat hold a large lead in the conference standings, it wouldn't be a bad idea rest the Big Three in select situations.
For example, if Miami is on the second night of a back-to-back, playing against the Charlotte Bobcats or Washington Wizards, it would be smart to alternate resting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Maybe one week, James gets a game off; another week Wade gets a night off.
The Heat's wealth of talent gives them this rare ability to sit one of their stars on select nights. Allowing James, Wade or Bosh to sit out a meaningless game gives them time to heal nagging injuries and rest them for the playoffs.
While it's true LeBron averaged a career low in minutes last season, he has only failed to play in seven games over the past two seasons. While this is obviously a positive, it wouldn't hurt to give him games off against poorer teams in the last two months before the playoffs.
The same goes for the nearly 31-year-old Wade who, based on his past, will very likely be hampered by injuries throughout the year.
The Heat's chemistry is at an all-time high, so they can afford to rest starters against bad teams.
Rely on the Team's Depth
Unlike the past two seasons, the Heat are extremely deep this year. The additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, to go along with returning players Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Norris Cole give the Heat plenty of weapons off the bench.
According to 82games.com, Miami's bench unit of Cole, Dwyane Wade, Allen, Lewis and Haslem is the second-best five-man floor unit.
Those five have played 45.4 minutes together this season and boast a 66.6 percent winning percentage, are plus-18 on the floor and have an effective field goal percentage of 50 percent.
It's evident that the Heat aren't as reliant on their Big Three as they were in the first two seasons of this super team experiment. When Miami is up against light weights, they should rely on that depth and play the reserves more minutes in order to give the starters much-needed rest.
Go Hard in the First Half
The Heat average a league-high 115 points per game when they are leading at the half, meaning their lead will likely be safe when they play the bad teams.
We have seen Miami play rather lackadaisical in the first half at times this season. Stepping up their effort before intermission against weaker teams will likely give them a huge advantage heading into the second half of such games.
Depending on the size of the lead, they won't have to play the starters more than six minutes in the third quarter, as long as they maintain the edge or build upon it.
The Heat's role players are more than capable of keeping the lead, especially against subpar squads.
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