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Miami Heat: Will the Heat's Dependence on LeBron Come Back to Bite Them?

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 27: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat signals to his bench during the game against the Boston Celtics on January 27, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Joshua J VannucciniSenior Analyst IIIJanuary 30, 2013

When you have the reigning league MVP on your side, it's no surprise you have one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the league. The Heat rank fifth in points per game at 102.7, first in field-goal percentage and third in three-point percentage. While it's a concerted team-effort in doing so, LeBron James is a big part of Miami's success.

As of today, LeBron is averaging 26.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists for last season's NBA champions. His shooting percentages of 54.7, 39.4 and 73.7 are all stellar, however the latter two could do with a slight improvement. However, James has proved to be not only a central component to the Heat's system, but perhaps the most crucial.

With LeBron on the court, Miami scores 101.6 points per 48 minutes. The team shoots 48.1 percent as a collective group, dropping 35.8 percent of their long-range attempts as well. However, as James receives his rest and is on the bench, the Heat simply cannot keep up their offense. They average just 85.9 points per 48 minutes in this regard, shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from deep respectively. 

While it's not rocket science to predict Miami won't perform as well with their best player on the bench, the drop-off in production is somewhat alarming for the defending champs. Their offensive rating of 107.7 per 100 possessions plummets to an even 95 without LeBron, though they do remain consistent defensively (defensive rating drops just 0.3 with James on the bench). 

In terms of overall offensive fluidity, the Heat cannot replicate much without their MVP. He keeps their turnover ratio excellent at 14.92 percent, which elevates to an atrocious 19.27 percent when James is off the floor. For those that are unaware, the turnover ratio represents the percentage of possessions end in a turnover. So realistically, per 100 possessions, Miami will turn it over 19 times compared to about 15 with James on the court.

Again, being without the most skilled and productive contributor obviously leads to a drop-off for any team. However, Miami has the luxury of pieces like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to do the heavy-lifting when LeBron needs a break. The Heat are not doing so, an aspect of the team that must be altered if they wish to be successful in June.

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