To quote Kanye West and Jay-Z, "It was all good just a week ago." Unfortunately for the Miami Heat, that week was followed by one of incredibly poor basketball. Since their impressive wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and the LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers, the Heat have dropped three winnable games to the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, and Indiana Pacers. While not all losses are cause for panic, the lack of chemistry Miami is exhibiting after being so successful early is not something a Udonis Haslem halftime speech can fix.
There were times in the Pacers game, where I gazed at the television, watched Miami make a barrage of turnovers, and wondered how the score was still so close. The Heat looked tired, unenthusiastic and lacking the will to win that has made them a nightmare for other teams this season.
So the question remains? What happened!? Unfortunately it's a mix of things. Hassan Whiteside is obviously frustrated, and hasn't been a factor in the fourth quarter for three consecutive games. Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Goran Dragic are conflicted on who should run the offense and as a result are making selfish decisions, and Luol Deng's return hasn't fixed much either.
In order to offer some suggestions regarding what to do moving forward, I think it's important to analyze the Wade and Dragic duo, Hassan Whiteside and his future as a member of the Miami Heat, and Bosh and what he should be adding to the team going forward.
Wade & Dragic
The Heat aren't playing team basketball. It's apparent that players like Bosh and Wade, are playing with their contracts first, though its understandable why someone like Wade, who just signed a $20 million dollar contract this offseason might want to prove his worth. Currently, Wade is averaging an impressive 18.6 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game while at times showing us that there is a lot more "Flash-Wade" left in the tank.
That being said, Wade's transitioned game is slow, his old man style play involves backing down defenders in the post, more than it does running in transition and that has taken its tole on Dragic who thrives in a fast paced offense.
For Wade to be an effective scorer he needs the ball in his hands, for Dragic to be an effective point guard he also needs the ball in his hands and this leads us to an incredibly awkward situation.
Basically, all of a sudden, Wade and Dragic don't work well together, though there weren't this many problems in the latter half of last season. With their contracts, you can't justify not starting them both, but by putting Dragic in a position where he can't conduct the offense you ruin his flow early in the game thus delivering stat lines like last night's Pacers' game (5 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists). I think if you take Dragic out early, he can lead the second unit the way he's accustomed too with Gerald Green, and thus create sparks for the Heat at needed times throughout the game.
I'd like to think the problem is all mental for Dragic, but at this point the Heat are losing, and they need him to return to his almost All-Star ways. The quickest way I see them doing this is by putting him in familiar elements. For Wade, as a veteran he knows what he needs to do to be effective, but if it clashes with other players, changes must be made.
Throughout this three game losing streak irrational fans have been calling for the firing of Erik Spoelstra and using Hassan's time on the bench in fourth quarters to justify their claims.
Put simply, having a reliable center is new for Spoelstra who has been using small ball as a winning strategy for five years. With that being said, he needs to start incorporating Whiteside right away, and there are multiple ways he can do that. I don't know if the Heat are going to be able to re-sign Whiteside next year, and perhaps that's why they aren't making him one of the main weapons of the offense, but they need to abandon that thinking if they want to stay contenders. At this moment in time, Whiteside is playing 27 minutes a game and much of that missing playing time can be attributed to his fourth quarter absences.
Whiteside is an elite talent and when he's playing, there is no reason why a good chunk of the offense can't be run through him. This once again leads me to my point of mixing up the line-ups to suit team needs. For example, Whiteside should be paired with Wade because of their amazing chemistry. Without Wade, Whiteside averages 5.6 points and 5.4 points compared to when he plays with Wade and averages 11.6 points, and 9.8 rebounds.
Wade can get Whiteside going and because he's so young he needs that to gain confidence. Whiteside should be a huge part of this Miami offense, but it can't be in the current system.
Out of all the players having struggles, Chris Bosh has been very good. He's averaging 17.2 points, and 8.6 boards, while at the same time shooting 35% from three point land. Put simply, he's returned to form after missing most of last season with blood clots. However, one thing that's severely lacking is Bosh's chemistry with Dragic. When Dragic arrived I thought we would see an unbeatable pick and pop, similar to what Dragic accomplished with Channing Frye.
Unfortunately, it just never seems to work out and I don't understand why. This was visible against the Pacers when Dragic tried to hit Bosh while he faded out of a pick only to throw the ball too hard and have Bosh bobble it for a backcourt violation. What should be an elite offensive weapon is not there, and that spells trouble moving forward. Otherwise, Bosh has been an offensive force and I don't expect him to slow down.
While this is not the time for Heat-Nation to panic, it is certainly time for them to be concerned. The silver lining is clear, Miami is not as injured as they were at this time last year, and all the problems I listed are fixable. It's not likeSpoelstra hasn't gone through stretches of losses and made adjustments, he's one of the best coaches in the league and has an unbelievable group of assistants to consult with. I fully expect Miami to get over this hump, but in order to do this sacrifices must be made.
It's time to shake up the rotation, and quickly, as in a shaky Eastern Conference the difference between a 1st seed and 7th seed is just 2.5 games.