Scouting the Miami Heat: Offense

Last week I described the role an advanced scout would take in preparing for the Finals match-up. Here’s Part III of an abridged version of what those scouts might have found.

Offensive Scheme/Philosophy

When you have arguably two of the best players in the world at their respective positions (and a power forward that’s in the Top 5), it’s easy to underappreciate Erik Spolestra’s ability to create good offense. After starting the season in a rut, Miami went on to post the 3rd highest offensive efficiency rating in the league. They’re currently ranked 4th this post-season, but that’s pretty impressive given that they played the NBA’s two best defensive teams in consecutive series.

Their main offensive scheme is based off their “Elbow Sets” (or A-Set offense to some) that has the Heat align in a 1-2-2 formation with two wings in the dead corner, two posts at the elbows, and a guard up top with the ball.

The offense is initiated by a pass to either post (Bosh being the first preference, followed by Haslem) followed by the “top” perimeter player moving toward the baseline to screen for a wing in the corner. The corner player reads the defense then executes his cut (curl, bump, straight, or backdoor) and the screener reacts accordingly. While it seems like a relatively simple action, it can be a bear to defend, especially when Lebron James and Dwyane Wade are screening for each other:

If there is no play off the initial action, the wing in the corner now has another series of choices; he can either curl into a post-up, cut to the wing for a pick and roll, or move into a dribble hand-off as shown here:

There are also some “specials,” typically called by Spoelstra, that they can run out of this alignment. The most prevalent is a double stagger for Wade.

The guard enters into the post opposite Wade’s side of the floor and immediately sprints to the corner to set a screen. The post trails behind the screening guard to mop up any stray defenders, hoping to free Wade for a mid-range jump shot or a tight curl toward the rim, as shown here:

Another effective play from this series is a high ball screen with roll-replace action.

The ball handler will come off a high pick and roll (which, again, is dangerous in itself when Wade or James are involved) and look to penetrate. If the original screen is defended well, the ball is reversed to the ‘replacing’ big, who fills the space previous occupied by the screener.

The post’s options are now: shoot, high-low pass, or swing opposite (depending on the player). If the ball is passed to the wing opposite, Haslem (in this case) sprints into another side pick and roll with Wade against a still-recovering defense.

Outside of the “Elbow Sets”, Miami has a few other general tendencies of note. Their favorite isolation set involves a ‘wall screen’ to free whatever member of the ‘Big Three’ Spolestra wants to isolate. Here is a video showing Bosh initiating the play and receiving the screen, but both James and Wade have run the same action to get isolated on the other side of the floor as well.

The Heat also have an interesting concept they like to use at the end of quarters. They occasionally will invert their offense and allow Mario Chalmers to set a ball-screen for Lebron James. Because of the uncommon nature of the play, and Chalmers’ underrated value as a strong screener, it tends to create open looks, as shown in the following clip from Game 5 of the Bulls series:

Miami’s transition offense, with Wade and James, is obviously something to behold. Those two are both one-man fast breaks and absolutely unstoppable in the open court. Wade or James will turn any mistake the opponent makes into at least two points, as Kyle Korver found out the hard way in this video:

Twitter: @Bkoremenos

Read more: Mavericks offense and defense scouting reports

All play diagrams created with Fast Draw

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  5. Bulls’ bigs frustrating Miami’s mid-range game

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