Should LeBron James Play Point Guard for the Miami Heat?

by April 02, 2012

Many consider LeBron James to be the modern-day Magic Johnson – just ask Doc Rivers – and CBS Sports makes the case that the Miami Heat are misusing James and teammate Dwyane Wade in their offensive attack: “James and Wade don’t need a point guard on the floor with them. They certainly didn’t need one Sunday, when Chalmers (1-for-5, two points) and Cole (2-for-11, seven points) were utterly dominated by Rajon Rondo (16 points, 14 assists). James, one of the top two or three pure passers I have seen come into the NBA since I have been watching it, had zero assists in 35 minutes. ‘We didn’t make any shots,’ Spoelstra said, noting that Miami shot 35 percent from the field. ‘How do you get an assist on a missed field goal?’ Fair enough. But the Heat’s problem — on Sunday and come playoff time — goes a lot deeper than that. Spoelstra is a good, smart coach, and I give him credit for tweaking the Heat’s early offense this season by incorporating a three-man pick-and-roll game on either side of the floor on semi-transition possessions when no set play has been called. Only two other teams in the league have run such an action this season: the Knicks, when they were coached by Mike D’Antoni, and the Suns, who still run his offense. But like his mentor, Pat Riley, Spoelstra is wedded to tradition. He relies on conventional lineups, and that means he plays almost always with a point guard on the floor. If your point guard is Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Steve Nash, that’s good. Not so much with Chalmers and Cole. Furthermore, if James — whose Magic Johnson-like playmaking gifts are now relegated to a once-a year exhibition in the All-Star Game — played point guard in the games that count, he’d be better than all of the above. Or at least as good, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said in slightly correcting me. ‘Well, I don’t know if he’d be the best, but he is a point guard as far as I’m concerned,’ Rivers said outside the Celtics’ locker room Sunday. ‘He’s Magic Johnson. That’s who he is.’ Simply put, Spoelstra needs to forget about convention, put the ball in James’ hands, and watch every playoff opponent try and fail to stop him. The answer is: You can’t. ‘We trapped Wade tonight and we trapped [Chris] Bosh tonight,’ Rivers said. ‘But when LeBron had it, if he scored, he scored. But you can’t score and get everybody involved. That’s why he’s the only guy maybe in the league that we have a no-trap rule. You don’t trap him because he wants to pass.’”