The Miami Heat are 40 games into the 82 game NBA season, and it's time for us to look at their progress. Earlier this season, Senior Writer for Hot Hot Hoops, Diego Quezada looked at their Heat's First Quarter Progress and determined that injuries and poor defense marred the Heat's good start to the season.
Now, at 18-22, the Heat find themselves in 7th place in the Eastern Conference. They are 7-12 at home, but 11-10 on the road. The Heat still find themselves as the worst rebounding team in the NBA, and are now one of the slower paced teams among the 30 teams. The Heat rank 28th in points scored per game and 25th in assists. However, Miami is 4th in the NBA in points allowed.
Dwyane Wade is leading the Heat in scoring at 22.1 PPG and Chris Bosh is right behind him 21.6 PPG. Luol Deng (14.2) and Mario Chalmers (10.7) are also scoring double figures for the Heat. But, here we want to look at more than just the stats you can find looking on your own. Let's look at the real progress and real problems the Heat have faced so far this season and asses where they are at in this point of the season.
For real, Hassan Whiteside has uplifted the spirits of Heat nation at a desperate time. The 25 year-old is averaging only 7.2 PPG and 6.1 RPG, but it's the way and the progression in which he is doing it that makes us all excited. Before his foul troubled return to Sacramento, Whiteside had score din double figures in 6 straight games, highlighted by his 23 point, 16 rebound performance against the Clippers. It took Spoelstra a while to figure out what he had, but he has now played rotation minutes in 10 straight games.
Hassan is averaging 2.1 BPG and has a 25.2 PER! OK, did you hear that? He is a 25.2 PER, that's good for 8th in the NBA just behind LeBron's James' 25.59. Whiteside has been exciting, going after every block he can, and trying to push every paint touch into a basket. At 7'0, he's the center the Heat have always desperately needed since Alonzo Mourning retired. Of course, he comes with his blemishes, mostly fouling. But if you don't see this is a hope for the future, then you're fooling yourself.
It has come on as of late. It was what harmed the Heat for so long, but they've managed to be a top 10 team defensively. In the last 6 games, the Heat have only let one team score 100+ points and that was the Golden State Warriors. It's a combination of trusting in the system, and that guy we just talked about protecting the rim.
The Heat have also made an effort to get back to regular basketball as either Chris Andersen of Hassan Whiteside is no starting at center instead of Chris Bosh. This has helped protect the paint, and cause opponents to score more from the outside that eat the Heat up in the middle. The defense ultimately is what will help the Heat turn their season around.
We beat the Cavaliers
Seriously though, that felt good. I was expecting the Cavs to come in there and LeBron drop 39 points on us and make Christmas a sad day. But it wasn't. We appreciated LeBron, showed our class, and then beat them without Chris Bosh. That's been a highlight of the season so far for me.
This has been what hurt Miami to start the season, and really has been the biggest catalyst from stopping the Heat to reaching their potential. Obviously, just at the time the team and he was clicking, Josh McRoberts went down with a season ending knee injury. That hurts, that was their MLE pick-up, and really how they were going to glue their offense together.
Then, we've also had Wade miss 10 games (1/4 of the season), and Bosh miss 8 games. Mind you, those were all different games. That's 18 games out of 40 that the Heat have not had their power combo of Wade-Bosh. That's a lot of basketball to have your two best players not together. It's created some problems, and they are just now working through that.
Injuries are an excuse, and no one is going to feel sorry for the Heat. But when we look at the Heat's 18-22 record, keep in mind the circumstances it has come under. Hopefully, it gives you hope for the second half of the season if those two can stay healthy together.
Point Guard Play
It's been bad, folks. Norris Cole started off the season on such a strong note, it's hard to imagine he has fallen to nearly unproductive on the court. It just seems like he dribbles too much, and doesn't know when to assert himself. Chalmers had a great stretch when Wade missed 7 games in a row as he started at point guard. But he's had some trouble adjusting to bench player, and now back to a starter.
And then there's Shabazz Napier. He was in the rotation, and then sent to the D-League, and then out of the rotation, now he's started the last two games and played pretty well. With all of this said, the Heat are halfway in the season, and we don't know who their best play is at point guard. Hell, it's probably Dwyane Wade!
Spoelstra is going to have to figure this out soon because the Heat cannot go into the Playoffs not knowing their guard rotation. I, for one, would like to see Napier continue to get reps as the starting point guard and see where that takes us.
Third Quarter Production
The Heat are the worst team in the NBA in scoring margin for the 3rd Quarter, and if you've watched them all season like we have, that's no surprise to you. The Heat are being outscored -4.1 per 3rd Quarter. That doesn't seem like a lot, but there has been plenty of times that number has been double digits. The Heat are a +1.1 first half team, and the break has killed them.
I don't know if they are getting better or not. But the trend is alarming, disturbing and disappointing. It's almost a joke when you watch it happen. The Heat could easily be 4-5 games better if they hadn't been out-done in third quarter by 15+ points.
Mid-Season Final Assessment Grade: C+
But, they are trending upward.