We eagerly expected all off-season. The Miami Heat staring lineup that never had a chance to play together last season. On paper, one that seemed to be one of the best in the league. But now, on the stats sheet, one that is struggling.
Hey, maybe it's why Erik Spoelstra has helped facilitate Hassan Whiteside to the bench recently, but we are going to look at the Heat's starting lineup numbers and show you what is wrong.
First, let me give credit -- all of the numbers and data I am drawing from are coming from Basketball-reference.com -- that's a great site with a lot of tools!
This season, the Miami Heat have played 20 different lineups that have played 25 minutes or more. By far, the most used lineup is the projected starters of Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside. They have played 338 minutes together this season. That's 223 more minutes than the next most used lineup.
Spoelstra has put all his eggs into this lineup as it's the one he trots out there the most. The problem?
This lineup is being outscored -1.8 points (per 100 possessions).
That's not good. That's not good for your starting unit. Yet, it's the one that is out there the most. Their second most used lineup simply replaces Bosh with rookie Justise Winslow and that unit is a +9 points. And the third most used lineup replaces Deng with Gerald Green and they are a +6.7 points.
The issues here is that the Heat have 13 other lineups that have a better net rating than their starting lineup. This could mean a lot of things, and can be generated from a lot of things. But if you think about how many times the Heat have gotten off to a slow start in the 1st or 3rd quarters -- it is likely due to this lineup.
So the numbers suggest that this starting lineup isn't really that good together. In fact, the unit that includes Amare Stoudemire in place of Hassan Whiteside does a lot better. They have a +10.9 net rating and have a team best +15.4 true rebounding % advantage over their opponent. They've only played 84 minutes together, but they have been successful.
I don't like to point out issues without offering some solutions...so here we go.
Play Justise Winslow more
In the 13 lineups better, Winslow is in 10 of them. In the 7 lineups that are having a negative net rating, he is in only 2 of those. It seems as though, even if his box score isn't that impressive, he is making a difference. He is only averaging 5.7 PPG and 5.1 RPG and he is playing 27.8 MPG. Maybe it's time to start looking at him as a 30+ minutes guy more regularly.
Consider keeping Whiteside as a reserve
This is hard because I think he changes the game for the Heat in a good way. But he might be a more influential player for the Heat in this way. When Whiteside is in the starting unit, he is always the last option. When he can come in and play alongside two starters and 2 other subs, he has a better chance to do what he wants to do -- dunk on people and score.
I don't think Whiteside should see a minute reduction because he isn't the issue, or at least the only issue. He makes plays and his energy is valuable. But I believe he can be more valuable as a reserve, at least for now. The numbers don't lie...or maybe they do. This is just an observation.
Let me know what you think about the Heat starting lineup and who should be in it!