I feel there has been a lot of negativity surrounding the Heat lately, and understandably so. Over the past couple weeks the Heat have only won two of their last six games, barely scraping by in the two victories. Now I'm sure that most of us will agree that a major lapse in the team's defense is the reason for the sudden string of under .500 play. I thought that I'd try and spread a little sunshine on the situation because quite frankly, the ship can get righted just as quickly as things began going wrong.
You guys know how much I love stats, so I did some digging and found some offensive numbers that should have most of you seeing the growing bright side of the Heat's recent play. Before I get into it, I'll say this: I'm not trying to ignore the defensive problems that have emerged, but I believe that they will get fixed relatively quickly.
Getting Quentin Richardson and Udonis Haslem back into the mix will help a lot, but overall I think players were getting a little too content with how well were going on D. When that happens, the hustle gets a little less frequent and players start trying to defend with their hands instead of their feet. The defensive minded Heat coaching staff will make sure everyone gets back on track...just give them a few practices and film sessions.
Shifting our focus back to the offensive side of things, there are a few players who have been putting up some great numbers on a consistent level and I've got the stats to back it up. I was going to use our five starters, but its no secret that Quentin Richardson hasn't been the offensive force that he has been in years past, despite hitting some big shots already this season. Instead I'm going to focus on the other four starters and one bench player.
He started the year struggling with his jumper, and then more recently has not gotten to the foul line as much as usual. I've also gotten on his case for taking way too many ill advised three-pointers. Looking at his numbers over the past week, the only thing that needs to get a little better are the free throw attempts.
Last 3 games: 28-of-63 from the field (44%), 6-of-14 from 3-point range (43%) and 14-of-19 from the foul line (74%). All three are big improvements on his early numbers, and just by watching him you can see that lately he has seemed much more comfortable shooting from the outside. He has also been contributing elsewhere, with 17 boards, 16 assists, 3 steals and 5 blocks in the last 3 games.
Sticking with the last 3 games, Beasley is another guy who has quietly been improving on all his early season numbers. I know I give him a lot of grief for not consistently being able to finish when he drives, but he has still been making a huge difference for Miami.
23-of-36 from the field (50%), 2-of-3 from beyond the arc (67%) and 11-of-12 from the foul line (92%) are all really good numbers. He is also averaging 10 rebounds/game over the last three. Slowly but surely, Beasley is maturing into a hell of a power forward, and his body is still growing, as is his knowledge of how to play and succeed in the NBA.
For the next three players we're expanding our viewing range to the last four games, and starting things off with the big guy. Before getting to the stats, I could have probably taken a look at his offensive numbers from any four games this year and they still would be impressive, but the main thing I wanted to bring attention to here is his rebounding, which slowly has been decreasing.
26-of-46 from the field (57%) and 11-of-16 (69%) from the foul line. On the season he is shooting over 57% from the field, which is just awesome. Getting to the boards, he's got 25 over the last four games which is 6.3 per game, one below his season average of 7.3. Since he has played in 12 games, lets look at his rebounding in groups of four games at a time.
Over the first four games of the season O'Neal pulled down 33 boards, an 8.3 per/game average. The next four games he snared 29 boards; a 7.3 average over those four games, which moved his season average down to 7.8 a game. As I mentioned before, in his 4 most recent games J-O has only 25 rebounds, which is 6.3 per game. This moved his season average down to 7.3. While his shooting has been amazing, hopefully he'll catch himself before letting his rebounding numbers continue to decline.
There hasn't really been much attention paid to Rio this season, be it positive or negative. I don't see this as a bad thing because last season Chalmers was focused on a lot when talking about defensive weaknesses on the team. While he still has a ways to go, he is no longer consistently getting beat off the dribble and his perimeter coverage has gotten significantly better.
Offensively he has just started to get more aggressive and the benefits are showing. He has a quick little first step and almost always finishes when he gets to the rim, often times dunking the ball. To the stats we go...
In the last four games he's gone 20-for-36 (56%) from the field, 8-of-19 (42%) from 3-point range but just 9-of-14 (64%) from the foul line. On the year he's shooting 53% from the field and 44% from beyond, but he takes just 6.9 shots/game. In the last four games however, he is taking 9 shots/game and making them at a slightly higher percentage.
And while he may be taking a few more shots per game, it hasn't effected his production in other areas. 12 rebounds, 18 assists and 5 steals in four games should have a lot of people happy with his all-around performance, and hopefully he'll continue to play as well all-around as he has over the past week or so.
Dae-Dae is having a rough start to his season. While he missed five games due to a shoulder injury, I'd say that he played in another 3 games in which the injury was affecting his productivity. His minutes have been wavering over the last four games as Erik Spoelstra is likely waiting for his shooting stroke to get back to normal. Still, we take a look at numbers not as much to enjoy, but more to see his struggles because we all know what kind of shooting he is capable of.
10-of-29 (34%) from the field, 7-of-21 (33%) from beyond the arc and 8-of-9 (89%) from the charity stripe. Sure, he's the only player other then Beasley who has given us really good foul shooting numbers, his overall shooting is just atrocious. The worst part is that these numbers are actually better then his overall season stats. He's shooting just 28% from the field and 29% from 3-point range on the season.
While he really needs to get his shot going, it shouldn't be very difficult for him to improve on both his early season numbers from this year and his final stats from last year, when he shot 37% from the field and 38% from 3. The one bright side of Cook's play this year has been his rebounding. He is pulling down 3.3 boards a game this year which is almost a full rebound more then his average last year (2.5). He also has 5 or more rebounds in three of his eight games this season.
I hope that this first ‘stat blog' of the season has given you all a closer look into how despite the Heat have been falling in the standings, there are still some things that indicate why the Heat will get back to their winning ways as opposed to a continued slide.
Individually, Michael Beasley and Jermaine O'Neal are playing some great offensive basketball. Dwyane Wade is in the process of getting back to his 30+ ppg routine. Then there is Mario Chalmers, who is giving us very little to complain about in the early season. Daequan has a ways to go, but there isn't as much pressure on his this season as there was a year ago. Coming off a bench littered with good shooters (Haslem, Jones and Carlos Arroyo, who is shooting 51%) will allow Cook to find his rhythm and get his minutes back without hurting the teams overall performance.