Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cogs and Gears: Why the Heat should be scared of the new Lakers.

Before I start this article, I am introducing you to this new segment called Cogs and Gears, where I will break down games or potential previews in the upcoming season. This is definitely different than my usual comedy stuff, but let's see how this goes.

The Lakers have the been the biggest talks across the league this summer, with additions of a two time MVP, Steve Nash and 3 time Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard. They also reloaded with veteran Antawn Jamison and streaky Jodie Meeks. This is an impressive roster and props to Mitch Kuchak for pulling this of, and finally getting rid of Luke Walton, who is been in the league for too damn long.

Miami's offseason wasn't too bad either, adding shooters Rashard Lewis and the great Ray Allen. The biggest concern for the Heat is Dwyane Wade's health, his knees have been reported to still have not recovered to a 100%. If the King wants to repeat, his sidekick will have to stay healthy. He has been injury plagued ever since he came into the league with a reckless offensive attack that is now putting his body and career in jeopardy.

For this post's sake, I am going to assume both teams are healthy and have already meshed. The reason why I have picked Lakers to beat the Heat is because of one person and it's Dwight Howard. This man is a huge threat to the Heat offensively in every way possible. Miami will not be able to guard a center of this caliber, when they are short on bigs and height. A perfect example of the Heat's struggle to defend a All-Star center can be seen in the Indiana series, where Roy Hibbert almost took the Heat down. If the Pacers had found ways to set Hibbert up in better positions, the Heat might not even be the reigning champions.

Dwight Howard's presence alone will affect how Miami will play defensively. Throwing a double team is dangerous, with the Lakers's loaded backcourt of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake. These players can all hit shots at a high percentage (last season, they combined for an average of 37% from three) and if given open looks, will destroy you on offense. If Dwight is left with one defender, he is either going to get a good shot off or get fouled, and it might be the risk they will have to take. According to synergy sports, when Dwight was still a player for the magic, he scored 47.4% of the time in post up situations with a field goal percentage of 49.9%.

One thing the Heat does really well is their perimeter defense, specifically defending the pick and roll. They trap hard on the primary handler, in this case, will be Steve Nash, who is very good at reading defenses. When they trap, the screener is usually open for a pass, and if the Heat adjusts quickly, some one will still be left open in the wings because they have a tendecy to clog the paint. (check out these play by play breakdowns). Again this gives the Lakers solid looks at the basket with minimal defense on them. In theory, Lakers have everything they need to beat the heat, it will be very interesting to see Heat's defensive adjustments against the Lakers in the season.

Last year when Miami played against Orlando, LeBron James showed signs of struggle when playing Dwight Howard. Out of the 4 times (tied at 2-2) they faced each other, the King managed to only have one game where he shot above 50% (64% to be exact), where as the other 3 games, he shot below 35% (total average of 32%). NBA Advanced Stats show that when Dwight is on the court, LeBron shoots only at 36%, and when the big man is off, he shoots at a ridiculous 80%. Although this does not reflect on how the Lakers and Heat will actually match up, these are just small sample values to show how Dwight directly impacts LeBron. I specifically match these two up because they are the best player on their team, and the King needs to solve Superman, in order to bring Miami to victory.

In the Western Conference Semi-Finals, Westbrook uncovered all of the flaws in Lakers's defense. The Lakers are a terrible pick and roll defensive team, but you can put most of the blame on Andrew Bynum. Bynum's rotations are terrible, he is an unwilling hedger, and tends to fall back from the screen. Against a jump shooting team like the Thunder, any space is a basket. I brought this up, because Miami is also a good pick and roll team, especially if the ball is in either Wade's or LeBron's hands. There is no doubt that Dwight is a better defender than Bynum, he is equpped with better footwork, speed and may I remind you that he won the defensive player of the year, three times in a row.

Dwight Howard holds the paint down, when the Magic had him on the floor, only 33.4 points were allowed in the paint, when he is on the bench, that number rises to 44.1. With LeBron's new game play style, that invloves him playing in the post, Dwight will have an immediate impact and alter any shot that is near him. The Lakers however do lack perimeter defense that can contain Heat's many spot up shooters. Besides Metta World Peace, whose defensive production has also dropped, no one on the Lakers can cover the non stop moving shooters Miami have present. The aforementioned players for Lakers, are all defensive liabilities, and reliance on Howard to clean up their mess, can prevent this team from advancing to the Finals.

The Lakers are a huge threat to the Heat, if they can exploit the weaknesses of the reigning champs, they will not only obstruct Miami from their goal to repeat, but they might be able to take the crown themselves. Before they do, they must overcome the Thunder. Which in my opinion is built to kill Kobe's dream for a sixth ring, and the Heat are more than welcome to take on the young squad for a finals rematch that they would rather prefer.

Be on the lookout for my next analysis for the Thunder. I hope you enjoy my first breakdown article.

Source: Picture, Statistics provided by ESPN, NBA and My Synergy Sports.

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