Strange thing: LeBron James being guarded less

As Brian Windhorst reported yesterday, the 76ers have committed to a gameplan of denying Dwyane and send multiple defenders his way when he does catch. Wade is widely considered to be the best pure scorer of the Big Three, and has assumed the Heat’s closing duties during their stretch run to grab the East’s second seed, and in the playoffs thus far.

Still, isn’t it kind of insane that the Sixers gameplan is to pay less attention to LeBron James?

This isn’t the first time a team playing the Heat has tried to shut off Wade as a means of disrupting the Heat’s offense, but it’s probably the first time in LeBron James’s life that a team has chosen to pay him less attention in order to better defend a teammate. When he was with the Cavaliers, any time he touched the ball, the strong side would swell with defenders told to swarm as soon as he put the ball down.

This is, in part, why many killed LeBron for joining the Heat. Teamed up with Wade, there now existed the chance that a team would think it prudent to take it easier on him.

Now that it’s happened, let’s take stock of the reasons why Collins might have chosen this strategy:

  • Philadelphia does not possesses anyone remotely capable of hanging with Wade. Shooting guard is by far Philly’s worst defensive position, and he will murder them in pick and rolls and clear-outs without extra attention.
  • Andre Iguodala is their best defender, and does a decent job of keeping LeBron from getting to easy spots. The majority of LeBron’s in close opportunities have come on fast breaks or at the expense of Evan “defense is hard” Turner. You can live with that one-on-one match-up.
  • Chris Bosh chips in on all of the Heat’s best offensive line ups, but doubling him is problematic because he often is the beneficiary of actions designed for LeBron or Wade. He’s also been doing a good job of sticking around the rim, and if the Sixers double him in that position, or his preferred iso-zone on the right baseline they risk a cutting LeBron or Wade crashing down the middle. At all cost, defenses want to keep these two from catching with a head of steam towards the rim.
  • The Sixers can’t really deny LeBron the same way they do Wade, because LeBron catches more in the pinch post/low block than Wade does. Although LeBron has spent plenty of time taking jumpshots in this series, he’s such a brilliant passer out of the post that doubling him is an awful option.
  • Denying Wade might cause the ball to stick in LeBron’s hands a bit more (this, I think has been the case), which is the best way to gum up the Heat’s offense.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to try and take away Wade is that nothing else, to this point, has worked for the 76ers. When you are playing a superior team, your only hope is to shove them from their comfort zones, mentally and physically. Could Collins’s public admission of the stop Wade tactic be a ploy to encourage LeBron to play selfishly and perhaps ignore Wade in anticipation of the increased attention to his running mate?

This is why I picked the Heat to win it all back in July, and why I feel pretty comfortable with that prediction today. In the playoffs, it’s taken entire teams to slow Wade OR James down. Now, Doug Collins has made the decision to help less on the best player in the NBA, and no one’s laughing.

Twitter: @BeckleyMason

Related posts:

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  2. What if LeBron and Wade could shoot?
  3. What LeBron James can learn from Carmelo Anthony
  4. LeBron James for MVP
  5. LeBron James: Hate Hater


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