After a disappointing loss yesterday against Minnesota, the Miami Heat's record stands at 6-4 after ten games. Here's what we learned so far from this young season.
Goran Dragic hasn't been himself
Even though he played relatively well against the Timberwolves, Goran Dragic has struggled so far this season. Offensively, he's still trying to figure out how to fit in Erik Spoelstra's system and with the rest of the starting five. Known as one of the best finishers in the game, Dragic hasn't been very aggressive this year and often looked out of rhythm. Obviously, it's going to take time until everything mesh together and family issues may have played a role in Dragic's early difficulties, but he has to step up if the Heat wants to compete with the best teams of the Eastern Conference.
The bench is solid and dynamic
Last night against Minnesota, the bench was one of the main reasons why the Heat lost but this game doesn't reflect the overall performance of the second unit this season. In fact, the reserves looked solid and often gave the Heat energy, defense and playmaking. Tyler Johnson and rookie Justise Winslow have exceeded expectations, Josh McRoberts has shown flashes of his old self with his passing ability (and some dunks !) and Gerald Green already proved he can give Miami a scoring boost from the bench, even though he played in only four games and hasn't shoot very well. With a healthy roster so far, Spoelstra has declined to utilize big men Amar'e Stoudemire, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen off the bench.
Hassan Whiteside has taken the next step
When you see a player capable of defending both the passer and the shooter on an alley-oop play, you know he is special. That's what Whiteside did yesterday against Minnesota on a night he finished with 10 blocks and a triple-double. Leading the league in rejections (4.6 per game), the starting center has been terrific defensively -- even though he is still struggling a little bit against great post players like Al Jefferson -- without getting into chronic foul trouble. But more than his defense, it's his impact on the other end of the floor that needs to be recognized today. Outside of his numerous alley-oops on pick and rolls and his spectacular dunks, Whiteside has been more and more involved offensively and has shown some progress in the low-post. He's still a work in progress but the Heat knows how important he is by his capacity to create opportunities for guys like Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic, who love to attack the basket.
Miami may have the best defense in the NBA
Second best team in points allowed per game (91.5) and number one in opposing field goal percentage (40.5), the Heat may have the best defense in the NBA right now. Obviously, having a rim protector like Whiteside is a big reason for that, but not the only one. From the starting five to the second unit, the collective effort on defense (ball pressure, defensive rotations) is remarkable. Furthermore, Miami is very good when it comes to limiting turnovers (well, not last night), which allows the Heat to set the halfcourt defense. There are still some issues in defending penetrations and pick and rolls but overall, Miami has been great on this side of the court.
Justise Winslow confirms he's a steal
Immediately after the draft, almost everyone said that the Heat was one of the big winners by selecting Justise Winslow with the 10th overall pick. Five months later, it's easy to understand why. At only 19 years old, he has shown incredible maturity in the first ten games and his defense has been nothing short of remarkable. Of course, he made some rookie mistakes and his jump shot needs a lot of improvement, but Winslow has clearly lived up to the hype so far.