LeBron James is not only the best player in basketball, but he’s also the most versatile player. That’s why, come playoff time this season, James’ versatility will be needed more than ever when going up against bigger teams. While James’ natural position is the small forward, where he uses his quickness to blow by defenders, James will need to play the power forward come playoff time if the Miami Heat doesn’t bring in a true center.
After the injury to Chris Bosh in the Eastern Conference second round, James moved to power forward, where he displayed his improved post-game that he worked on all summer with Hakeem Olajuwon. The move seemed to re-energize James, where he realized that nobody could match up with his 6′ 8″, 260-pound frame in the post as he demoralized players like Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha in the Finals.
James seemed to get back to the fundamentals, as he racked up rebounds, averaging 9.7 rebounds in the playoffs, including 18 in game 3 vs Indiana in the Eastern Conference second round. Realizing that his jump shot isn’t the best, James’ move to the power forward was so successful that once Bosh returned from injury, they inserted him at the center position with Shane Battier manning the three position.
Not only did the move help James, but it helped the rest of the team, opening the floor more for players like Battier, Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller to rain wide open threes with teams doubling down on James. This recipe is what killed the Thunder as they had no answer for James on the low block and the three ball killed them.
With no future help on the way in the form of a center, James will be depended on more than ever to play bigger this season with teams getting bigger (Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, etc.). While the Eastern Conference doesn’t have many true centers, especially with the departure of Dwight Howard, there still remain some other good centers including Tyson Chandler, Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah, who command respect from the Heat.
James has shown during the 2012 Olympics that he also has the versatility to defend the power forward position as he defended Pau Gasol in USA’s gold medal win versus Spain.
With a move to power forward, the Heat would excel in multiple areas. With James at the four, it will open up the spacing on the floor for players like newly acquired Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to shoot open threes along with returnees Chalmers, Miller, Battier, etc. It gives Miami that one post player they’ve lacked for years and that will complement Bosh’s finesse face-up game.
With the addition of Allen, the Heat has one more guard to throw at defenses while creating mismatches for other teams on how to defend James (as if teams knew how to before). With a move to the power forward position, teams will have a hard time trying to defend James as no power forward has the strength, quickness, and lateral ability to stay in front of James while staying out of foul trouble.
While the Heat’s one true weakness is their size, they can make up for that if they move James to the power forward, because it gives them more size while also giving them the best and most versatile player the game could ask for at the position that we haven’t seen since the days of Charles Barkley and Karl Malone. The move can be a make or break difference between the Heat winning or not winning the NBA championship this season.