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5 Thoughts From Heat-Cavaliers

Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports

Before we get started, do me a favor. If you’re at home, go to your kitchen and grab a teaspoon. After grabbing that, go to wherever you keep your salt — the table, the counter, the cabinet — and get that too. Next, use your teaspoon to scoop up some salt. Put the salt in your hand, then sit back down wherever you were when you opened this link and get comfortable.

You now have the necessary grains of salt to take this article with.

The Miami Heat have played a grand total of two games so far; it’s fair to say that the Heat team you saw Friday night will not be the same one you see two weeks from now, and definitely not the one you’ll see come playoff time — assuming they get there.

However, for the anxious “WE’RE TAKING DOWN LEBRON THIS YEAR” section of Heat Nation, last night was a reminder that there are very real concerns about this Heat team, as talented as they are on paper, and as high as their ceiling is overall. Cleveland got the best of Miami, defeating them 102-92, while causing me to not only lose my cool on Twitter a few times (follow me at @NekiasNBA, BTW), but also to revisit some of the questions I had about the Heat coming into this year.

1. GORAN DRAGIC’S FIT WITH THE STARTERS

We have to remember that the Heat’s starting five still hasn’t had much time together. When Miami made the trade for Dragic last February, Chris Bosh was ruled out for the year with blood clot issues a few days later. Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside all missing some games due to injury (and suspension, in Whiteside’s case) certainly didn’t help for cohesion purposes. And even this summer, Whiteside missed most of training camp and the preseason with calf and ankle issues.

With that said, Miami Herald beat writer Ethan Skolnick has been all over the potential chemistry issues with Dragic and the starting lineup, specifically his fit alongside Dwyane Wade:

Dragic learned that quickly last February, when he was tossed into a playoff chase for a teetering team that, on his arrival day, lost Chris Bosh for the season because of a blood clot. He and Wade tried to come together but came up short, 11-13 in shared games and a minus-2.5 points per 100 possessions, with Wade shooting better without, than with, Dragic on the floor. The primary purpose last season’s stretch run served? Allowing them to establish parameters for how they want to play.

“I told him, ‘D, run with me, you’re gonna get some easy layups,’ ” Dragic said.

That’s the message again, and that transition strategy still requires some transition for Wade, who concedes his “pace is a little slower than Goran.”

“Sometimes I love to come back to the ball because I’m able to slow things down and get guys shots,” Wade continued. “But then I have to realize when Goran is in there sometimes I got to change it, and I got to go up the court. So sometimes, for me, it’s like a switch. I have to tell myself, ‘Oh, Goran’s there, Go!’… And know that if I get out, and I can find a way to get in front of him, I can get the ball pitched up.”

Dragic is happy to start breaks this way, because of Wade’s ability to take on, and split, defenders. But he adds, “It’s both ways. Sometimes he’s going to get the ball, and I need to run.”

Skolnick also mentioned how Dragic looked more comfortable and played better with the second unit during the preseason:

skol2

Skolnick also brought it up again last night:

The two will grow more accustomed to playing together with experience, but it does make sense for Erik Spoelstra to stagger the minutes between the two so they’ll both be able to get an adequate amount of touches.

2. SPO’S HOCKEY SUBS/ALL-BENCH UNIT

For this section, forget everything I wrote in the beginning of the article. It makes absolutely no sense to play extended minutes with Dragic, Wade and Whiteside on the bench at the same time. All-bench units are fun on 2K — I’ve ran them into oblivion over the years and love keeping my starters as fresh as possible for the fourth — but this ain’t 2K.

Not only is that asking too much of Gerald Green…well, actually, that’s a good enough reason not to do this. Skolnick surely agrees:

Skol

Green can shoot you into or out of a game, but God as my witness, he’ll just be happy to shoot the ball period. Think of the relationship between Green and shooting like the one between sugar and a pitcher of lemonade; adding the right amount of sugar makes for some really good lemonade, but three bags of sugar will taste awful and give you diabetes faster than you can say “diabetes.”

Nobody wants diabetes, although talking about it gives me an excuse to post this:

3. JUSTISE WINSLOW’S DEFENSE

One of the few bright spots from Friday’s game was Justise Winslow’s unusual-f0r-his-age poise and defense in general. He did a masterful job of guarding LeBron James, playing him tough and contesting his shots in such a matter that Shane Battier probably shed a tear. Unfortunately for Winslow, James, in the illustrious words of Drake, was “on one”:

Winslow is by far the best defender in the Heat’s bench unit. His ability to defend without fouling is rare for a wing his age; that’s a skill that’s going to take him places moving forward.

4. MIAMI’S BENCH UNIT CAN’T DEFEND OVERALL

It shouldn’t be a surprise, but Gerald Green on the wing and Amar’e Stoudemire playing a bulk of minutes at center is bad for your defense. It’s just science. LOOK AT AMAR’E, MAN:

To Stoudemire’s defense (lol), Miami did hold him out for most of the preseason and he missed the season opener against Charlotte on Wednesday, so he’s still working his way back. But again, as mentioned in the Skolnick tweet from earlier, Miami was outscored 24-11 when an all-bench unit was on the floor together. This is another reason Spoelstra has to figure out a way to stagger minutes to maximize offensive cohesion while minimizing defensive ineptitude.

5. HASSAN WHITESIDE WAS BAD AGAIN

Whiteside’s box score numbers looked pretty good — 11 points (4-7 FG), nine rebounds, a career-high two assists (which is really sad), six blocks and a plus-six — so on the surface, you could argue that Whiteside had a good game.

To that, I would likely reply:

WYAL

“Disappointing” wasn’t the word to describe his performance against Cleveland. No, “disappointing” describes his performance against Al Jefferson in the opener:

Last night was just flat-out BAD. And for a guy who said he wanted to be the Defensive Player of the Year, his defense was just pitiful.

It started out relatively early, where his lazy stance and late reaction led to a TIMOFEY MOZGOV blow-by:

Not even two minutes later, Whiteside pretty much drifted through this defensive possession:

Not too long after, he actually played some good help defense and swatted a pair of shots! Of course, that came after flubbing a rebound opportunity against the towering presences of Mo Williams and J.R Smith:

Offensively, his lack of solid screening bothered me as usual, but when he played within himself, he did good things. Like here:

Sadly, getting Whiteside to put consecutive good possessions together was just too much to ask for:

Again, the Heat season is only two games old. As mentioned earlier, Whiteside did miss most of training camp and the preseason. Asking a center who’s played 69 games in his entire career and missed a majority of his “first” training camp and preseason with a team that actually plans on keeping him to come in and guard Al Jefferson and Timofey Mozgov is asking for a lot.

And he’s got Dwight Howard tomorrow.

On the flip side, it wasn’t just a matter of Whiteside making mistakes on both ends. The types of mistakes and poor judgement he showed was what made the whole thing frustrating. Whiteside’s development on both ends will be vital, so hopefully he pulls things together soon.

Heat Nation, Miami will be fine.

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