LeBron’s Carmelo Problem

Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Game One

Jun 12, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3), LeBron James (6), head coach Erik Spoelstra and Udonis Haslem (40) react on the sideline against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the third quarter of game one in the 2012 NBA Finals at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

I was watching the Heat last night, but it felt like I was watching the Knicks.

Miami came charging out of the gate in Game One of the NBA Finals, building a big first-half lead thanks to uncharacteristically-strong three-point shooting from the likes of Shane Battier. But in the second half, they became a one-man show… LeBron James scored 30 points, but Dwyane Wade shot 7-19 for the game and looked like he wasn’t 100 percent healthy. Chris Bosh went 4-11, and spent much of his playing time floating out by the three-point line like a poor man’s Steve Novak.

Wade’s struggles, and Erik Spoelstra’s curious decision to turn Chris Bosh into the world’s tallest shooting guard, left LBJ as Miami’s only real offensive option. Problem is, James is also Miami’s best choice to initiate the offense. And he can’t pass the ball to himself – that’s a travel, even in today’s NBA.

Sound familiar? It should, to Knicks fans. We saw a similar problem early in the 2011-12 season before Jeremy Lin took over at the point and late in the year when Lin was hurt. Without a dependable backup at the point, Carmelo Anthony was forced into the primary ball-handler and primary scorer roles, and Iso-Melo was born.

Thing is, James isn’t particularly well-suited to playing hero ball. He doesn’t have the post-up game he’d need to back down opposing defenders – that’s one phase of the game where Anthony is far superior to the King. He’s close to unstoppable if he can get to full speed and attack the basket, but he needs a little bit of space to make that happen, space that comes from a pick-and-roll or similar.

Now, I’m never going to be accused of being a LeBron apologist, but this isn’t his fault. I see it more as a structural defect of the Miami roster. Miami doesn’t have a legit point guard to initiate plays in the halfcourt, and in the second half of last night’s game, that deficiency was glaring.

Is it a fatal flaw? Not necessarily. It was a problem in Game One mostly because Wade was off and Bosh was floating out on the perimeter, dis-engaged from the offense. Wade may bounce back. And I suspect Bosh’s positioning was designed to draw Serge Ibaka away from the paint; Erik Spoelstra will want to reconsider that strategy in Game Two. But win or lose, Miami should take a long look at upgrading the point guard position in the offseason.

Which is just one more thing they have in common with the Knicks.

About Charlie Zegers

Charlie is an NBA columnist on @Rotowire, @TheKnicksWall, @BallerMindFrame, and a supporter of the no-layup rule and Oakley's Car Wash.

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