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Some numbers placed Miami Heat’s talent as fifth best in the East last season

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Using two different numbers, the Heat’s average team quality ranked fifth in the East.

Miami Heat v Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Two stats, average Win Shares (WS) and average Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), both put the Miami Heat fifth behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and Washington Wizards in those categories among teams in the Eastern Conference.

East WS and VORP

TEAM WS AVG WS MIN VORP AVG VORP MIN
TEAM WS AVG WS MIN VORP AVG VORP MIN
TOR 3.46 5.37 0.96 1.51
CLE 3.24 5.98 0.96 2.11
WAS 3.24 5.74 0.88 1.86
BOS 3.20 4.89 0.83 1.51
MIA 3.16 4.53 0.81 1.22
CHI 2.90 4.50 0.77 1.49
CHO 2.79 4.58 0.71 1.40
IND 2.71 4.49 0.63 1.37
MIL 2.71 4.21 0.65 1.32
DET 2.55 3.94 0.54 1.01
ATL 2.33 3.90 0.51 1.03
NYK 2.22 3.08 0.40 0.60
BRK 1.59 2.01 0.19 0.30
PHI 1.39 1.98 0.09 0.14
ORL 1.30 2.49 0.03 0.34
AVER 2.59 4.11 0.60 1.15

Last season the average VORP for Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, and Brooklyn Nets were pathetic. Yet the Heat lost 3 out of their 4 games to the Magic, while sweeping the 3 games against the Nets. Given the difference in talent level, the results versus the Magic will test whether Miami brings its best effort every game.

What the top teams had in common was that they gave their best players a lot of game minutes. In average team WS figures, the Cavaliers beat out the Heat by only 3.24 to 3.16, but when adjusted for minutes played, the difference between them jumped to 5.98 versus 4.53. Again in average VORP the numbers went from 0.96 against 0.81, to 2.11 versus 1.22 when adjusted for minutes. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were almost always on the court for Cleveland in games they played.

The Celtics, Raptors, and Wizards all used the same game plan to maximize wins by relying heavily on their star players. Those teams were definitely top-heavy with talent and employed that tactic to the fullest. What's surprising is Miami's average WS and VORP numbers were better than four teams that made the playoffs in the Eastern Conference last season.

The Heat made some roster changes from last season. Let's look at players officially on the roster as of now, and have some NBA experience from last season.

Heat WS VORP

PLAYER MIN WS MIN VORP MIN
PLAYER MIN WS MIN VORP MIN
Dragic, G. 2459 7.50 18443 2.9 7131
Johnson, J. 2085 5.10 10634 2.5 5213
Johnson, T. 2178 5.80 12632 1.9 4138
Olynyk, K. 1538 4.10 6306 1.0 1538
Whiteside, H. 2513 9.50 23874 0.9 2262
Richardson, J. 1614 2.20 3551 0.9 1453
McGruder, R. 1966 2.90 5701 0.8 1573
Ellington, W. 1500 3.30 4950 0.7 1050
Waiters, D. 1384 1.60 2214 0.4 554
White, O. 471 0.60 283 0.0 0
Haslem, U. 130 0.20 26 0.0 0
Mickey, J. 141 0.10 14 -0.1 -14
Hammons, A. 163 0.00 0 -0.1 -16
Winslow, J. 625 -0.10 -63 -0.1 -63
AVERAGE 18767 3.06 4.72 0.84 1.32

At the top the table has their minutes played, WS number, WS minutes contributed, VORP number and VORP minutes contributed. The bottom row has total minutes, average team WS, average team WS adjusted for minutes, average team VORP, average team VORP adjusted for minutes.

For this season the average WS and VORP again beat out the last one’s by a WS of 3.06 to 2.59, and a VORP of 0.84 to 0.60. Comparing these numbers against last year might be misleading with the numerous pre-season blockbuster trades.

The figures show the more players with high WS and VORP are on the court, the higher the team's numbers for total and average WS and VORP. That's the strategy the top four teams in the East used last season for top-4 seeds in the playoffs.

Using last season's numbers, the starters for Miami would be Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Hassan Whiteside. The numbers don't agree with the eyeball test of Heat fans, but I'm just a messenger of how the team performed last season.

As always, past performance doesn't guarantee future success. The numbers do NOT take into consideration the intangibles that Heat Culture provides. These figures are from LAST season, when many players were hobbled with injuries that hurt their figures. Even with those problems, the team placed fifth in the East with these numerical figures, which bodes well for this year, if everyone stays healthy.

Another consideration lies in the fact that the Johnson Brothers often competed against other bench players. Their figures might not come out as well when competing against starter-grade players. And of course, Bam Adebayo has no track record in the NBA, so there isn't anything to go on, because he’ll be facing experienced men ten years older than him.

The Miami Heat may not have an All-Star before this season, but on the whole they stacked up well in regards to talent as an ensemble, against other teams in the East last season. The big changes in Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, etc., puts the use of those numbers in question. Miami Heat will have an exciting season when they maximize their talent as much as the top teams did last season.