Last year at this point (January 1), the Heat were 21-8. This year, they are somewhat better but near that standing at 24-7 heading into a new year. We all know how good the first half of 2013 was to the Heat, but what about this year? With the stellar play of the Indiana Pacers, and the consistency from the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trailblazers, the Heat have found themselves within the "mix" of the best teams in the league.
They still have a long way to go, and they know this. And they want to be even better moving forward than they were this past year. After Monday's win in Denver, LeBron said, "We could definitely use this (3-1 road trip) going into the new year. We know 2013 was great, hopefully we can eclipse that."
So far this season, we have seen each of the Heat's big three take a scoring dip from last season. James has gone from 26.8 to 25.5 PPG. Bosh from 16.6 to 16.0 and Wade from 21.2 to 19.5 PPG. Yet the team has become better offensively, averaging 4 more assists per game than last season, and scoring has gone up 1.6 PPG. Miami is 6th in the NBA in scoring in 7th in scoring defense.
Yet Miami finds themselves behind the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference standings. The Heat are playing well, but minor injuries and Wade's maintenance program haven't let them get to their potential yet. But as we know, this team usually hits their stride around the All-Star break. Let's take a look at how we can report on the progress of some individual players so far this season.
|Roger Mason Jr.||14||12.2||1.5||3.6||42.0||1.0||2.5||40.0||0.3||0.3||100.0||0.1||1.3||1.4||0.9||0.5||0.4||0.1||1.4||4.3|
The Heat have been very fortunate the Beasley has worked out for them. At such a low cost, Beasley is a consistent double digit scorer off the bench. Michael is averaging 11.1 PPG and 4.4 RPG playing in 18 of the Heat's 31 games. Beasley is shooting a career high 52% from the field, career high 50% from three and career low in turnovers. He's found his way on this team very well, and he is providing a spark that is much needed.
He is the most pleasant surprise for the Heat this season. After sitting out the first 4 games of the season, Beasley has been a fixture in Spoelstra's second unit. He's used him in different ways and different times. He's used him as a 6th man, as a 10th man, and with the closing time clutch unit. He's scored in double figures 9 times including a season-high 23 points on December 3.
If Beasley continues to accept his role, he will be a huge contributor come playoff time.
There really isn't an update on Greg Oden other than the typical, he is progressing well. Here's what everyone needs to keep in mind when thinking about Oden: think long-term. The Heat signed Greg Oden to do one thing for them, slow down Roy Hibbert for a short amount of time in the playoffs. The Heat don't need Oden running his knees down and risking injury in January against the Orlando Magic. They need him healthy for May and June.
So if being cautious and slow in Oden's return is how they manage that, then we should accept that. We've seen Oden countless times getting his work in pre-game. He's healthy, and he will help the Heat when they are ready to insert him into the line-up. It's just not time yet. Oden is continuing to work himself to be durable to play game after game without soreness and inflation in his knees. Once he does that, Oden will start the process of getting up to game speed with the rest of his teammates.
The King is still doing it. LeBron's overall numbers may have a small dip, but he is still leading the NBA in PER, and he is still unstoppable most of the time. James is among a few candidates to capture the MVP this season. If LeBron can lead Miami closer to the top of the pack then he should be in the drivers seat. James has a couple of highlight dunks over Paul Millsap and Ben McLemore. He also brought them rim down twice on Christmas Day in L.A. off of passes from his partner in crime.
James has spent more time in the post than usual, and at times the Heat run their offense through him there. We've talked about James' shooting on here before as he is nearly hitting 60% of his field goals. James is just on another planet than most players. Enjoy it.
James has continued to always make the game fun. Honestly, four years in this experiment in Miami, it's a joy to watch James play each night, even in December.
Even while missing several games this season, Wade is shooting a career high 54% from the field. He's also shooting a career high from three, although still not an impressive 33%. As of late, we have seen Dwyane play much better and at times looking like the Wade of old without injury concerns. Wade even won player of the week which saw him score 20+ four straight times including a season high 32 points against the Pacers.
Wade is getting better, but he still isn't playing in back-to-backs yet this season. That's OK for now if it means getting Wade to a more stable health position. But Miami is an its best when he is himself. If you've noticed, Wade has spent much less time on the ground this year. He is trying to be much smarter with the hits that he takes and the game that he plays. It seems as though Wade, and the Heat, are doing their most aggressive approach ever to make sure Dwyane is healthy for the playoffs.
Averaging a career low 29.6 MPG, Chris Bosh has been coming on strong as of late. Just recently winning East player of the week which included a 27 point performance in Portland alongside a game winner, Bosh knows his role on this team. Chris has been showing numerous times, that he can step out and hit the three in big moments.
Still not where we would like him on the boards, but Bosh is playing undersized most nights at center, and his game naturally drags him away. He's taking a career high in threes per game, and it's helping Miami be more versatile.
At 24-7, the Heat have some work to do. They need to incorporate Oden in at some point, they are still trying to keep pace with Indiana, and they need to get Wade as healthy as possible. But, we know they don't fast track anything. This team is proven, and at this point in the season, they are pretty much right where they need to be.