The Miami Heat are five games into their 2018-19 NBA season and are 3-2 so far. And so we want to take five observations that may or may not continue to be true throughout the season. But if you have watched the entirety of these fives games like I have, you may have seen these be true.
#1 — Rodney McGruder is LEGIT.
And if you think that isn’t something to talk about, you haven’t been paying attention. Rodney has had an interesting journey with the Heat. As a rookie he played nearly the entire season as a starter (78 games, 65 starts) with several injuries on the Heat. He then was injury plagued last year and overlooked (20 games played). Now, he’s being touted as the most conditioned player on the team and the numbers are staggering.
He’s averaging 16 PPG, 7.4 RPG and also shooting 54%, which only trails Kelly Olynyk on the team. He’s getting the job done. And when you evaluate the potential impact Justise Winslow’s return could have on him...I think we would all be overly happy if those were Winslow’s numbers. But they aren’t. They belong to McGruder. And he’s a legitimate rotation player, and maybe a legitimate long-term starter for the Heat. I could go on and on about all the things he does, but clearly early on he has shown to be an important part of what the Heat are doing.
Get used to Hot Rod McGruder!
#2 — Josh Richardson is trying really hard to be the Heat’s best player, but he’s not there yet.
And the problem is we all want him to be. But Goran Dragic is the team’s best and most important player. Richardson so far has a 11.6 PER which is second worst of the ten rotation players. He’s shooting an ugly 39% from the field (not efficient at all) and a team-high 2.8 TPG. Yes, he’s averaging 17.6 PPG and that’s great but at this point it is not very efficient.
Goran Dragic is averaging 19.0 PPG and creates much more for the Heat than Richardson is right now, at least for other players. When Dragic is off the floor, the Heat struggle. There are ten Heat linueps that have a positive +/- and 8 of them have Dragic on the floor. This isn’t a knock on Josh, he’s trying. He’s competing. But he’s not ready to lead the team on his own yet. Luckily, the Heat have plenty of players to help lead the way. He’s forcing a lot right now, and hopefully will blossom into something special.
#3 — Tyler Johnson is trending in the wrong direction.
And it’s not looking good. Johnson is averaging 7.0 PPG so far, down from 11.7 (17-18) and 13.7 (16-17) from the previous seasons. Yes, he has a few less minutes, but more than that, he’s shooting only 36% from the field and an ugly 16% from three.
Some of this, hopefully, is a shooting slump. But you can’t discredit all of this. He doesn’t seem to be hesitating, but he’s just missing. So far this season, he’s only getting to the free throw line one time per game, that’s not enough for someone who can attack like him. TJ needs to turn his trend around and that begins with shooting the ball better.
#4 — The Heat do and will have a good depth problem.
They have eight players averaging double figures and the other two in the rotation average 7.0 PPG (Johnson and Adebayo). And that’s also without James Johnson and Wayne Ellington playing a game yet. We’ve talked about the Heat’s depth before.
But it’s a good depth problem...and that’s because the Heat can rely on the player who is playing the best each and every night. For example, when Bam has it going, they might not need Whiteside if he’s struggling. If Wade is having a terrible night and seems to not have the energy, Winslow gets some extra minutes. This is ultimately a good thing, especially when injuries are present like they have been.
And when Dion Waiters returns, the Heat will have a serious problem with their minutes. I have no idea what they will do to make everyone happy when that happens.
#5 — Nothing will be easy this season.
And that’s something we should expect (unless they play the Knicks). The first three games were nail-biters, decided by three points of less. Even the game against the Blazers, where the Heat had a huge lead, then it was gone and it wasn’t easy. And that’s because the Heat don’t have enough talent to truly continue to dominate teams. They win with effort, hustle and grit.
And that’s the way we like it. But they are going to lose some they shouldn’t, they will win some they shouldn’t...and there will be a lot of close games. Things won’t be handed to them.
But hey, that’s what makes a fun and entertaining season.
What do you think?
Do you agree with these early observations about the Miami Heat? Is there something I missed? Chime in with the comments below.