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Miami Heat Vs. Detroit Pistons – Pre-Season NBA Notes and Analysis

We have seen Miami’s Big Three play together.  For about 3 minutes before Dwayne Wade tweaked a hamstring and sat down, that is.  So we don’t know precisely how the Heat are going look and divide up the shots.  We do have an idea what the Pistons might look like, though.

With the Heat, your theoretical starters outside of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh would be Carlos Arroyo at point guard and Joel Anthony at center.  Center seems to be a little more up in the air than point guard, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Things were fairly tentative for the Heat on offense while Wade and LeBron were on the court at the same time.  Both of them are ball-dominating alpha dogs and you were waiting to see a rhythm get established, which didn’t actually happen.

Once Wade went down, the offense was driven by LeBron as the team really pushed the tempo  LeBron only had 4 assists to go with 18 points, but that’s largely because people kept missing shots.

The Heat offense, as you might expect, has almost no post-up play.  As starting center, Anthony attempted exactly zero shots.  Bosh is going to be something of a high-end garbage man, if this first pre-season game is at all representative.  Primarily shooting face-up jumpers, tipping in offense rebounds and then going in for the drive or lob, he looked primarily to be a kick-out option for LeBron and/or the point guard of the moment and then cleaning up the glass.

Now let’s talk about the center position.  You had Anthony there for about 20 minutes with 1 rebound 2 assists and two blocks (and no shot attempts).  He’s just filling space, but he can run with the rest of the team.

Then you’ve Dexter Pittman who managed to shoot 3 of 5 in garbage time against questionable competition, but still only managed 2 rebounds and one blocked shot.  Pittman has a little more size than Anthony, but doesn’t seem particularly fast and didn’t strike me as a starter on a championship squad.

You’ve got Udonis  Haslem, who’s really a power forward, but whom you’d expect to see some minutes at the 5, especially against smaller competition.  Haslem’s no post threat, but he’s a pretty efficient jump shooter.  He can also rebound a LOT better than Anthony or Pittman (13 for this contest) and can run the floor.

Then you’ve got Zydrunas Ilgauskas.  Ilgauskas is the real size on the team.  He’s not anywhere near fast enough to run with the rest of the squad.  And while he’s tall enough to post-up, he really more of jump shooter (well, set shot shooter, perhaps).

If the Heat want points in the paint, it’s going to have to come from slashing and lobs.  LeBron James is probably their best post-up player and that’s not how he was used tonight.  Granted, if Wade or a point guard were doing more of the ball handling, that might free up LeBron to spend a little more time in the post, but that isn’t what was happening tonight.  What you’re going to see a lot of running and a wide variety of picks and rolls.

This brings up to the point guard quandary.  Carlos Arroyo was starting and he looked adequate.  Mario Chalmers came off the bench and put up better numbers, but much of that was against the Detroit B-team and without LeBron dominating the ball.  Eddie House was sitting tonight, so we don’t know exactly how he fits in this offense.  What we do know is that LeBron is drawing a ton of attention and he’s willing to pass.  Of the three point guard candidates, House is the best pure shooter and clutch shooter, as well.  Somebody’s going to be the odd man out here and it isn’t clear who just yet.

Defensively, lack of post-presence aside, the Heat are very quick to rotate and seem committed.  Not a lot to complain about in their first… well, I’m not sure I’d call this a test, but… you know.

Moving forward, you’d think that you’re going to have at least one of Wade/LeBron on the court at all times.  When one of them takes a breather, it’s likely that Mike Miller is going to get those minutes, and Miller did look OK tonight.  You’d like to think that anytime Bosh is off the court, Haslem will replace him.  James Johnson may get some stray minutes at the small forward position to round things out in the regular rotation.

The real questions with the Heat are:

  1. What’s the center rotation going to end up looking like?
  2. What’s going to happen when they run into a team with a serious post-presence and/or a high-scoring center?

They just might be able to run a lot of teams with larger post players off the court, but that needs to be proven.

And if the Wade injury proves serious, you can likely get away with a Miller getting most of his minutes and some combination of Jones and House filling out the 2/3 rotation.

As to the Pistons, they still look to be a mess.  The best player tonight was clearly Tayshaun Prince, who appears to be healthy.  Richard Hamilton was his usual efficient scoring, non-rebounding self, in a 20 minute stint.  Ben Gordon led the team in rebounding and scoring with 17 points and 5 boards on 5-10 shooting.  That’s three healthy players who were pretty banged-up last year.

In an attempt to be positive, Austin Daye looks close to putting it together.  While he could stand to gain more weight, he has filled out a little.  Actually, his body is now nearly identical to Prince’s and they’re hard to tell apart from a distance (Daye has longer arms).

Past that, the Pistons are a mess.  The point guard situation is still up in the air, as they continue to hope that Rodney Stuckey, a combo-guard if ever there was one, turns into a point guard.  While I still think Will Bynum keeps things on a slightly more even keel, he isn’t doing enough to win the job.

Much like the Heat, your post game is a mess.  Greg Monroe may round into a player by the time the season starts, and it’s reasonable to cut some slack for the first game.  The announcers made noise about the Pistons wanting Charlie Villanueva to be more hard-nosed.  Yeah, like that’s going to happen.  Villanueva’s a perimeter guy they’d desperately like to more of a low-post 4.  Not the best idea.  For that matter, they were playing Monroe at center when he seems more of a power forward.  Ben Wallace isn’t getting any younger.  He had 2 rebounds in 15 minutes and you know he isn’t going to give you many points.  Jason Maxiel had a poor outing.

Or to put it more succinctly, Ben Gordon led the team in rebounding.  (Well, Villanueva had 5 rebounds, too, but that’s still weak for 25 minutes.)  And the centers couldn’t score on Joel Anthony.

The Pistons continue to have too many people at shooting guard and small forward and precious little elsewhere.  Wallace, Jerebko, Monroe and Maxiell are all power forwards.  I’m not seeing a center (unless Chris Wilcox, who was dinged up and didn’t play, can emerge from potential’s cocoon).

There’s no reason that the Pistons can’t get 48 minutes of scoring out of the wing positions.  Everything else is going to make this a season where they need to concentrate on outscoring their opponent unless there a ton of progress before opening night.  If you’re a Piston fan, direct your power of positive thinking toward Monroe having a short learning curve.

The big question for the Pistons: Can they get to .500 based on wings alone?

To tell you the truth, I’m curious to see what happens if Prince gets the green light to just start trying to score.  I’ve always wondered what his ceiling was, and he’s usually been a secondary option and cog in the machine/good soldier.

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