Dynasty In Motion

LeBron James and the Heat are great enough to win multiple NBA Championships. But it's not as simple as that.
Share |

It is about LeBron James, and rightfully so. He is 28 years old, he is by his own oversized leaps and bounds the best player in the world, and he is unquestionably better than he’s ever been before. In Game Seven of the NBA Finals, he scored 37 with customary efficiency while pushing the Spurs’ best offensive player to the margin. Game Seven marked the fifth time in the last two years that the Heat have faced elimination, and in those games, James has averaged 35.4/11.4/5.1, while shooting better than 50% from the floor. For the first eight years of his career there were questions about his mindset, a sort of braying and inherently silly attempt to isolate his “clutch gene.” These were always silly questions, to a certain extent, but they at least and at last seem answered.

This is what we have been talking about, and are going to be talking about. This is because our instinct is to assimilate what’s just happened into the legacies of the various parties involved, rather than consider the multitude of counterfactual scenarios that don’t end with a celebration in the Heat locker room. What if Ray Allen misses an off-balance, contested three in the corner with 5.2 ticks left in Game Six? Or Dwyane Wade fails to rebound LeBron’s errant three on the prior possession? Or Kawhi Leonard, who like Paul George played as though inspired by the challenge of facing down the Chosen One, makes that first free throw? After supposedly exercising all the demons surrounding their assemblage with a decisive victory in last year’s Finals, this much is true: at a particular point not so many days ago, only an exceedingly unlikely sequence saved the Miami Heat from another round of reductive psychoanalysis from the spittle-flecked armchairs on the First Take set. The Heat were—Lebron was—this close to failure. We will forget this, and are maybe already forgetting it.

Point being, selective recall has a nebulous effect on NBA historiography. Michael Jordan, forever and always the benchmark for LeBron’s greatness, won six titles, and was thus enshrined as an insatiable, world-historic winner. We look back on his six titles as inevitable; the early-career flameouts against the Pistons either become the crucible in which Jordan’s unbreakable winner-dom was forged, or are consigned to the margin. It’s not enough that Jordan and the Bulls won all those championships; it is, retroactively, that they were destined to do so all along, that it simply couldn’t have happened any other way.

This is problematic for obvious reasons, but more to the point, this is boring, a duh-storm of written-by-the-victors myth-fogging that obscures what was, actually, some pretty interesting basketball. What’s done is done with Jordan, and nothing on earth is going to stop ESPN’s professional totalizers from totalizing where LeBron and the Heat are concerned. But we might as well talk about the basketball while we can. Which means, when we’re talking about these Finals, talking about shooting: the shots that went in, the shots that didn’t, but also where they came from.

In Game Seven, Shane Battier knocked down six of his eight three-pointers. In Game Six, the Heat shot 58% from beyond the arc. After a space/time continuum-rupturing hot streak from outside over the series’ first five games, Danny Green made just two of the eleven threes he took in Games Six and Seven. The Spurs managed a paltry 30% from range once the series returned to Miami.

Regardless of what it becomes in the days and weeks and years to come, three-point shooting was, in fact, the story of the 2013 NBA Finals. We knew before the Finals began, because it has been the case for years, that LeBron would be the best player on the floor; until last night, that was assumed to be a necessary but not sufficient condition for the Heat to win the title. Now, of course, begins the process of acting as if LeBron’s greatness was irresistible and that this championship was prophesied way back in that mystical summer of 2011. But it wasn’t. LeBron is great, and we saw that. But these Finals came down to which team effectively spaced the floor by shooting from deep, and that tells us much more about the Finals that await next year and in years to come than any sudden mutation in LeBron’s clutch gene.

***

The NBA in its current iteration places more of a premium on three-point shooting than ever before. In some ways, this is bad luck for LeBron: he does literally everything on the court better than anyone else, save for getting back on defense after a missed shot, which he does worse than anyone else. He can dominate a basketball game in more ways than even Jordan could, and, indeed, his physical frame would have been an even greater asset in the rough-and-tumble 1990s. Even when he has an off night shooting, he can neutralize the other team’s best player, make passes that no one else on Earth could even conceive of, convert a handful of jaw-droppingly athletic plays in transition. But he can’t make his teammates’ corner threes go down. And without that, as we’ve seen, even the Big Three Heat are vulnerable.

The value of floor spacing was catalyzed by a rule change: in 2001, in an effort to speed/open up play, the NBA removed its ban on zone defense, implementing in its place the far less restrictive defensive three-second rule. Cue the unshackling of defensive rotations, the advent of Thibodeau-style help defense; cue the transition from isolations to pick-and-rolls and rapid ball movement, and the analytics that showed the enormous value of the three-pointer relative to midrange jump shots, and the reinterpretation of the hand-checking rule in 2004 that further encouraged slash-and-kick basketball.

Thus the strategic dialectic—defenses introduce a new wrinkle; offenses respond; rinse, repeat—was essentially reset by the legalization of zone defense, proceeds apace. Teams are still experimenting on both ends of the floor—think about the Rockets’ emphasis on high-efficiency shots on offense, or the varying ways defenses handle the primary ball-handler on pick-and-rolls. But it’s fair to suggest that the NBA is converging on a new equilibrium, one that places a higher value than ever before on one of the game’s higher-variance aspects. In a sense, this is just a new gloss on basketball orthodoxy: when facing a zone, shooting matters more. Much more.

Unsurprisingly, this is especially true in the playoffs, when the squads remaining are effective at sending help and recovering defensively. Regression analysis shows that effective field goal percentage—a pretty good proxy for how well a team is shooting—is a significantly better predictor of winning percentage in the playoffs from 2006-2013 (the Lebron Era, roughly) than it is from 1991-1998 (the Jordan Era, slightly less roughly). This result holds even when the other three of the so-called “offensive four factors”—offensive rebounding rate, turnover percentage, and free throw rate—are included in the analysis. And, of the four, effective field goal percentage is the only factor that has become significantly more important in the zone-legal NBA. Again, this time with data: shooting matters more than ever.

On the surface, the Heat’s space-the-floor small-ball offense is well suited to take advantage of the importance of the three. The thing about shooting, though, is that it comes and goes, and seven games isn’t a large enough sample to expect a team to shoot its mean percentage. The four teams that have given the Big Three Heat teams trouble—Rick Carlisle’s 2011 Mavericks, Doc Rivers’ 2012 Celtics, Frank Vogel’s Pacers and Pop’s Spurs—were smart, well-coached teams with elite-level paint defenders, who understood that LeBron in the paint was the most unstoppable force in basketball. So they packed the paint, and counted on the whims of variance (and Wade’s ego, and decline) to give them a chance. For the Mavericks, facing an inferior version of this Heat team, that plan was enough to win a title. For the Spurs, but for a few unforeseeable breaks in Game 6, it would have been.

Unlike last year, when the Heat steamrolled an incredibly talented OKC team that simply didn’t rotate well enough on defense to provide a challenge, this year’s Finals showed how brutally difficult it can be, even for LeBron, to win even one NBA Championship. Within minutes of the final whistle, Magic Johnson and Bill Simmons were off to the races as to how eclipsing MJ’s six titles is now a goal that’s “in play” for James. And sure, if anyone could, it’s LeBron.

But the dynamics of the post-illegal defense, post-analytics NBA have made it harder for one player to exert a Jordan-like influence over the game. And despite our insistence that every championship won or lost be a referendum on a given star’s legacy, James will only accomplish the things now “in play” if the corner threes—shots he can set up but will seldom take—are falling. Basketball is difficult, and protean, and changing before our eyes. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Success is not guaranteed. It’s all even tougher than it seems.


Share |

Comments

Superb blog post. Any place strikes numerous pressing obstacles of your modern culture. People can not be uninvolved that will those obstacles. The place delivers guidelines together with thoughts. Rather interesting together with handy. drywall companies minneapolis

A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post.
Abdichten

I would be appreciating all of your articles and blogs because they are fitting up mark. Street Guardian Sg9665gc

mundo. Desde la Tailandia de 'Lo imposible', hasta el Londres de 'Harry Potter', pasando por la isla de Oahu de 'Perdidos'. En esta fotogalería descubirás los mejores lugares para visitar la magia del cine y la televisión.
loftplan

Very engaging to consider this content.I may need to thank you for the activities you had made for surrounding this astonishing content.Excellent article http://thecncrouter.org/

Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up! animation studios los angeles

Wonderful blog post. This is absolute magic from you! I have never seen a more wonderful post than this one. You've really made my day today with this. I hope you keep this up animation studios los angeles

Your blogs and every other content is so entertaining and useful It makes me come back again. pocket pussy cougar

Chelating medical care will be dangerous (even fatal) and offers no advantages, creating it probably the foremost harmful syndrome catch cheat boyfriend

Great Information sharing .. I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through info.Fantastic nice. I appreciate this post. http://bit.do/b66Rt

per visualitzar l'agenda de la JSC i conèixer més a fons, la Joventut Socialista de Catalunya (JSC) a nivell nacional i pel territori. Animeu-vos i navegueu per beta glukan

urther notice. We apologise for any inconvenience. The rest of the reserve and car park is open as usual.
slatki pelin

Thanks for sharing this interesting blog with us.My pleasure to being here on your blog..I wanna come beck here for new post from your site. novoline online spielen

I feel really happy to have seen your webpage and look forward to so many more entertaining times reading here. Thanks once more for all the details.
iPhone

Thanks for a wonderful share. Your article has importaciones your hard work and experience you have got in This field. Brilliant reading .I love it.
drones for sale 2016

Keep doing awesome read few posts on this site and I consider that your web journal is exceptionally fascinating and has sets of fabulous data. online-kreditvergleich24.de

Hello. I am well into a boring Sunday thanks for giving something to think about. This is a great story got me thinking, Thanks! pure slim cleanse free trial

I just like the valuable info you provide for your articles.I’ll bookmark your weblog and take a look at once more right here regularly. I am reasonably certain I’ll learn a lot of new stuff proper here best odor absorber

Sin embargo, con tu móvil lograrás el impulso que necesitas para bajar de peso. Google Play y la App Store te ofrecen prácticas aplicaciones. Desde listas de la compra o cálculos de masa pelin

I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information. Keep it up. Keep blogging. Looking to reading your next post. jaipur to delhi taxi service

Really pleasant post. I just discovered your weblog and needed to say that I have truly delighted in skimming your blog entries. After all I'll be subscribing to your food and I trust you compose again soon! charcoal odour absorber

Thanks a lot very much for the high quality and results-oriented help. I won’t think twice to endorse your blog post to anybody who wants and needs support about this area.
Harsh Nagar SEO

This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I've joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your wonderful post. vape mod

You guys make it really easy for all the folks out there. flyball equipment

You guys make it really easy for all the folks out there. flyball equipment

patrons contain Alan tam, sammo strung, Jackie chan, distinguished entertainers, chan potom cheung, Eric.org.uk tsang, therefore. Step in September 2015, the business authorized a binding agreement along side times of excitement medium, in 2015, "satisfied chick" number one some slowly became xtep signing spokesman. how to get a very beautiful girlfriend

It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I've read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about it!
lost keys

I truly enjoyed reading your post. we will bookmark your blog for future refernece. I want to encourage one to continue your Great post
BUSINESS CREDIT CARD

Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. its was really valuable. thanks a lot 0800 call forwarding

verbalize from your coronary heart and also quality with this crucial subject matter may be effortlessly witnessed. more details see web site... High Pr backlinks available

I truly enjoyed reading your post. we will bookmark your blog for future refernece. I want to encourage one to continue your Great post
real estate websites

I was reading your article and wondered if you had considered creating an eBook on this subject. Your writing would sell it fast. You have a lot of writing talent
REAL ESTATE INVESTING FLORIDA

Hello. I am well into a boring Sunday thanks for giving something to think about. This is a great story got me thinking, Thanks!.

Cartoon HD Download

It’s critical that you pay attention to details when working on your adult escorts guide. Your success is dictated by a multitude of tiny details. Please, take these strategies into consideration when running your website.london independent escorts

Your site has grown a one-stop find as much as possible tutorial authoring. Thanks for your time in the very good get the job done. As i tested the online sites one preferred and even On the net which will best-dissertation.pores and skin look though. Ones own get the job done is kind of exemplary. read this article

I was excited to find this site. I need to to thank you for your time for this wonderful read!! I definitely liked every bit of it and I have you book-marked to look at new information on your web site.
HOUSES FOR SALE

Great post! I am actually getting ready to across this information, is very helpful my friend. Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have. Keep up the good work you are doing here.
INVESTMENT NEWS

We believe that everyone deserves a chance at moving ahead with their lives. In our Mitigation services we strive to provide the Court with your history For our other court appointed services, our goal is to help provide the most up to date and relevant interventions.
مبرمج

I truly enjoyed reading your post. we will bookmark your blog for future refernece. I want to encourage one to continue your Great post
REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT

I have been intelligent for hours and I haven't gone through such awesome stuff. kyani sunrise

Basketball is difficult, and protean, and changing before our eyes. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Success is not guaranteed. It’s all even tougher than it seems.
escort in lebanon

This is a great post ! it was very beautiful view. I look forward in reading more of your work. Also, I made sure to bookmark your website so I can come back later.
loft plan

Job well done guys, quality information. fruitkast

Below you will find the important facts and figures I feel every consumer should know surrounding Phen375 and complete guide for taking necessary precautions and improve weight loss simultaneously.phen 375

Below you will find the important facts and figures I feel every consumer should know surrounding Phen375 and complete guide for taking necessary precautions and improve weight loss simultaneously.phen 375

I am a antique ’Article’ collector and I sometimes read some new articles if I find them interesting. And I found this one pretty fascinating and it should go into my collection.www.wow-nutrition.com

I was reading your article and wondered if you had considered creating an eBook on this subject. Your writing would sell it fast. You have a lot of writing talent
Toko Wallpaper

This includes sports medicine experts who have studied Olympians using vert training methods, and found a profound difference between their performances when compared to other types of training methods.Vert Shock Reviews

Your articles make complete sense out of each topic. electric smoker reviews

Superb blog post. Any place strikes numerous pressing obstacles of your modern culture. People can not be uninvolved that will those obstacles. The place delivers guidelines together with thoughts. Rather interesting together with handy.
hcg diet