All over SB Nation NBA today, each blog has carefully chosen what they consider to be the biggest surprise so far for each of the NBA teams they cover. Well, to me that's a no-brainer when it comes to the Miami Heat.
Some snickered at the thought of the Heat even considering signing Rashard Lewis. Some had figured he wouldn't contribute much to the team and would be buried at the end of the bench. Most never thought he'd recover enough from his injuries the past couple of years to be an effective shooter like he had been over the course of his career. One of them even writes for Hot Hot Hoops and had no choice but to write an article admitting he was wrong.
Yes, that bloated contract the Orlando Magic forever branded him as an overpaid player only capable of spotting up for three-pointers and not much else. Well, now that he's finally healthy and having some lift in his legs, it has brought him back to relevance and he is playing effective minutes for the Heat which gives them yet another deadly shooter from the outside. Oh yeah, all of this comes at a bargain at the vet's minimum. What's not to like?
Even more surprising, we've even seen him do more than just shoot three-pointers (which he's doing at a fantastic 54% pace). He's also attacked the basket more than a few times so far this season, dunked on the Brooklyn Nets twice and has even played some decent defense. He also collected 17 rebounds in the first four games of the season and has scored in double-digits four times in the Heat's first 11 games of this season. Who thought that would happen?
Yes, his production will be up-and-down playing for the elite Heat and his minutes will dip and rise based on match ups since they don't need to depend on him like the Magic did. But that's fine too, since it'll only keep him fresh for the postseason when he can continue to pair with former Seattle Sonics teammate Ray Allen for a fantastic scoring punch off the bench that the Heat can surround the Big 3 with.
Jay will try to convince you that the Heat's biggest surprise has been their unexpectedly subpar defense. Sure, it's a bit of a concern but it's not like the same Heat core that just won the championship 21 weeks ago has forgotten how to play defense. Just like how the New York Knicks will eventually go on a losing streak or two this season and have a more realistic record, the Heat's defensive statistics will eventually balance itself out and it will eventually be a non-issue. But Lewis will continue to enjoy open looks at the basket all season long and the crack Heat training staff will (hopefully) keep him healthy all season long.
What do you say, Jay?
We'll, it's Theme Day over at SB Nation. And this theme is about selecting the "biggest surprise" for each team. It may seem like small sample size galore, but it's nonetheless a fun early season exercise.
The most surprising thing about the early version of the 2012-13 season seems to be the rather hot shooting start to the season by veteran forward Rashard Lewis, and Surya will try to convince you of this. Although it has been a pleasant surprise, this is not the 'biggest' surprise this season.
We knew Rashard Lewis could shoot. He just didn't have his legs last season. But when was the last time the Heat were not elite defensively?
The real surprise early this season has been the turnstile Heat defense. Miami is 24th in the league in defensive rating through 11 games. They are allowing 99 points per game on 44 percent shooting (18th in the NBA).
The last time the Heat were not in the top five in opponent field goal percentage was 2008-09, Erik Spoelstra's first season as coach, when they we're 13th in the league, allowing 45 percent shooting. The last time the Heat were not among the best six teams in the league in defensive rating was that same season.
It's been awhile. And going back to Heat history since Pat Riley brought his slicked back hair to Miami's sideline, there have been very few outliers in which Miami has not been great defensively. The horrific 2007-08 season comes to mind, but there have been very few otherwise where the Heat have not been at least a top ten defense.
We kind of suspected they wouldn't be the suffocating, scary defense they have been the last two years with the inclusion of Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen to the rotation and the emphasis on offense, but this is still a little unprecedented. The surprise is linked to Joel Anthony's dissapearance from the regular rotation as well.
The whole situation should regress to normal soon, but so should Lewis' hot shooting start.
Anyway, that's my counterargument to Rashard Lewis being the biggest surprise of the year.