After 41 games, it is time to evaluate where the Miami Heat are at as we are midway though the regular season.
In our first quarter progress report, we evaluated the Heat as unstable. They were 10-11, losing at home and shuffling their lineups while beating good teams and losing to bad ones.
RECORD, STANDINGS and STATS
4th in the Eastern Conference
PPG: 101.0 (28th in NBA)
RPG: 41.6 (24th in NBA)
APG: 21.3 (22nd in NBA)
OPP PPG: 102.0 (6th in NBA)
Points: Goran Dragic (17.0 PPG)
Rebounds: Hassan Whiteside (11.8 RPG)
Assists: Goran Dragic (4.9 APG)
Steals: Josh Richardson (1.2 SPG)
Blocks: Hassan Whiteside (1.7 BPG)
Significant Injuries: Rodney McGruder (yet to play this season), Dion Waiters (missed 11 games), Hassan Whiteside (missed 18 games), Justise Winslow (missed 14 games).
The value of Wayne Ellington
I mean look what Tim Reynolds of the AP pointed out about Ellington’s time with the Heat.
Heat in Wayne Ellington's 1-1/2 seasons:— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) January 11, 2018
.573 winning % when he plays
.300 winning % when he doesn't
It’s obvious he makes a huge difference. Multiple times this season, Ellington has lead the Heat in scoring off the bench. He’s played in all 41 games and hasn’t started any one them. His ability to make the defense stick to him like glue is reminiscent of Ray Allen. He has the ultra green light and makes an impact on the game.
Ellington has stabilized the second unit in a way that the brothers Johnson did last season. He isn’t always on target, but he typically doesn’t stay cold the entire game. And he can drop 3-4 threes in a quarter to help the Heat even when they are struggling offensively.
Ellington has been a huge bonus for the Heat this season, and one of the main reasons they are seeing success.
Defense wins games
This has been the turning point for the Heat during the first half of the season: when they defend, they typically win. Miami is not an offensive juggernaut. They are capable of scoring a big number, but the reality is that their roster and style of play are not going to lend them to scoring in bunches.
The Heat hang their hat on their defense. And they have had moments where they are holding their opponents to their worst shot selection games of the season. This is really a credit to Erik Spoelstra, because he has designed a defensive approach that maximizes his players and their potential. They fail at times and give up big numbers, but when they are on point, they are pretty good at locking teams down in the sense of making it difficult on them.
This is the NBA, players are going to score even on good defense. That’s why Miami is priding itself on forcing the opponent into poor shot selections as opposed to just defensive efforts. The numbers tend to fall in your favor over a longer period of time with shot selections.
Emergence of Bam Adebayo
He’s had games that make you think he may be something special. But he’s also had games where it is hard to keep him on the court. That’s all part of being a rookie. But Bam has shown the ability to be a very good defender and rim protector. He’s shown that he can make free throws, and even hit a mid range shot (something Whiteside didn’t learn for a while).
Bam has a long way to go, but the promise has become evident. When Whiteside was injured, Adebayo stepped in and it was like the Heat didn’t miss him all that much. They did miss him, but Bam can do many of the same things.
Now, Adebayo and Whiteside have seen some time on the floor together and the result isn’t conclusive yet. They like playing together, and create a formidable foe when trying to get to the rim. But the pick-and-roll defense and rotation to the perimeter can hurt them.
Either way, Bam has made his way into the rotation and that’s a good thing.
Status Report: The Heat are finding their rhythm.
Mid Season Grade: B
And it’s safe to say that this 6 game win streak has saved them some face. The Heat’s schedule get’s much more difficult coming up with 7 of the next 10 on the road.
And as we learned yesterday, the Heat will miss Dion Waiters for the rest of the season for ankle surgery. So it is imperative the rest of the roster stay healthy.
But for now, many of us are satisfied with where this team is and potentially headed.