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Miami Heat: 10 Thoughts Through 10 Games

David Santiago/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

THE FACTS:

Record: 6-4, 5th in East

PPG: 96 ppg, 26th

Opp. PPG: 91.5 ppg, 2nd

Offensive Rating: 100.3, 18th

Defensive Rating: 93.9, 2nd

Net Rating: 6.4, 3rd

Pace: 96.5, 26th

FG%: 45.8%, 6th

3PT%: 31.7%, 23rd

FT%: 72%, 23rd

RPG: 45.1, T-12th

BPG: 7.8, 1st

SPG: 6.6, T-26th

APG: 19.1, 26th

TPG: 14.8, 13th

Opp. FG%: 40.5%, 1st

Opp. 3PT%: 28.3%, 2nd

Opp. FT%: 77%, 19th

Opp. RPG: 43.4, T-11th

Opp. BPG: 4.6, T-10th

Opp. SPG: 7.5, 11th

Opp. APG: 18.8, 2nd

Opp. TPG: 13.6, 24th

**all stats are updated through games played on 11/17/2015**

The revamped and healthy Miami Heat came into the season with high expectations, seen as one of the few teams in the East that may be able to push the Cleveland Cavaliers as the top team in the conference. So far, the Heat have been pretty good, jumping out to a 6-4 record in their first 10 games with only a couple of “bad” losses to the Indiana Pacers and, most recently, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The sample size for this year’s Heat is still a little small, but it is large enough to start analyzing some of the trends we’ve seen so far.

BONUS: #HeatTwitter is the best Twitter

Heat fans are fun to interact with on Twitter. They also wildly overreact to just about everything. Sure, that describes virtually every fanbase in sports, but there’s just a different passion and snarkiness to this fan base that you have to be a part of to truly appreciate. You all make me better, and occasionally make me shake my head in disgust at my mentions during and after games.

But it’s okay. I love y’all.

1. Miami’s Defense

I had questions about Miami’s defense coming into the year, but the Heat have exceeded my expectations in just about every area. Erik Spoelstra’s decision to have bigs drop back in pick-and-roll coverage is a refreshing change from the blitz-tastic coverage we saw in the Big Three Era.

Excluding Goran Dragic and, for the most part, Dwyane Wade, the perimeter guys have done a good job of hounding opponents and running them off the three-point line, while Hassan Whiteside has swatted just about everything in sight, leading the NBA in blocks. Here’s a fun fact: via SportVU tracking date, Whiteside is blocking 4.6 shots a night while only allowing 4.4 made shots at the rim at a 40% FG clip.

That’s crazy to me.

2. Goran Dragic’s Slow Start

FACTS: Dragic is averaging 11.1 points, 4.5 assists, and has a shooting split of 42.3/25.9/81.5. Via Basketball-Reference, Dragic is only shooting 58.3% inside of three feet, the 2nd lowest mark of his career. He’s looked tentative offensively and has fouled too many three-point shooters for anyone’s liking.

CONTEXT: Dragic had a pretty hectic summer in which he signed a five-year, $85 million contract, was-but-really-wasn’t there for the birth of his daughter, and endured a training camp where he was trying to work himself into shape and build chemistry with a starting unit that literally didn’t play a second together last season.

Trying to get in NBA shape, build chemistry with a unit that didn’t play together, deal with potential title aspirations, AND adjust to new life in a new state while your wife and children are in a totally different country is just a lot for a human being to deal with. I mean, just check out this excerpt:

After a difficult pregnancy that forced his wife, Maja, to give birth in their native Slovenia instead of the planned delivery in Miami, only this weekend did Maja, 3-month-old Viktoria and 2-year-old Mateo arrive. It is the first time Dragic has seen his daughter since the day after her birth and the first time Mateo has been old enough to have a conversation in person with his father.

“It’s awesome to see my kids, my wife, and now we’re all together. And after three months, it’s going to be much easier,” he said.

With Dragic’s family with him again for the first time in over three months, his mind should be clearer.

As the season progresses, his on-court chemistry with Wade and Whiteside should get better. There’s not much I can say about the defense, though; his effort isn’t an issue, but he struggles with quicker guards. Miami’s going to have to find a way to hide him come playoff time.

3. Tyler Johnson is LEGIT

There shouldn’t be any more questions about Tyler Johnson at this point. He’s a ball of fire on both ends, which isn’t necessarily great all the time, but boy is he entertaining. He gives life to Miami’s second unit with aggressive defense, fear-inducing drives to the basket, and a sweet lefty stroke because Miami has some sort of fetish for those:

https://youtu.be/6Kwq5Ck5j8I

All hail Bumpy!

4. Justise Winslow is Well Beyond His Years

I wrote about him recently, so there isn’t a need for me to get into too much detail. Winslow should be no lower than 4th in your Rookie of the Year power rankings if you’re into those, and has already established himself as one of the league’s best perimeter defenders. His poise and IQ on both ends of the floor is astounding for a 19-year old, and he should become more of a threat offensively when he confidence and jumper grows.

5. Heat Fans Have To Be Realistic About Dwyane Wade

Wade has had a solid year so far, putting up averages of 17.1 points, 4.6 assists, and a steal per game. Even better, Wade hasn’t missed a game to injury yet; his lone absence this year was due to his son being hospitalized.

The issues with Wade have been consistency and defense. After a hot start to the year, Wade has been pretty dreadful:

good wade bad wade

To be fair, Wade’s synergy with Whiteside is great, and he’s done a good job of impacting games with his passing overall while his shot has been off. But it’s ugly right now.

Wade’s going to show flashes of being great this year. He’ll also have stretches like this where he’s struggling to find his way, and the tight spacing Miami works with as well as the Dragic dynamic is going to make things tougher, for now anyway.

6. Hassan Whiteside is Polarizing

Every time I get ready to bash Hassan Whiteside for poor positioning in pick-and-roll defense or just getting lost, in general, he does something like this:

Every time I get ready to praise him for being a beast in the post, he does something like this:

Whiteside’s numbers feel empty, but he impacts games. Just not as well as people think he does. I don’t know, man. Sometimes I feel like I’m nitpicking, but he’s so talented and flawed at the same time.

He doesn’t defend in space well and has a pretty poor shot selection, but still manages to lead the NBA in blocks while shooting 63% from the field. The complete list of players who have ever averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, and shoot 60% from the field is  very small. Bump that up to four blocks, and you only have Whiteside.

He’s only played in 77 career games, so that’s plenty of reason to believe “hey, he’s got plenty of time to improve in the nuances of defense, post passing, and things like that.”  But then, not really because the guy is already 26 years old — which isn’t old-old, but that’s around the time most young guys are starting to really hit their prime.

Hassan Whiteside is a late-blooming stud that doesn’t truly know how to play basketball but still does so at a very high level.

Confused? SO AM I!!!

7. Luol Deng seems oddly bad at making open shots, but apparently not

There was a point a couple of games ago where Deng was shooting 28% on corner threes, which is odd because the corner three is where he earned his value as a perimeter shooter. After a pair of good games, Deng is shooting a respectable 35.1% from three and 38.4% from the corner.

The eye test looked bad, his splits still looked rough, but not as bad as it felt. So I decided to look a little more into it.

For the year, Deng is a combined 15-42 (35.7% FG) on shots outside of 10 feet defined as open (defender 4-6 feet away) or wide open (defender 6+ feet away) and is 11-33 (33.3% FG) on open or wide-open threes — which doesn’t seem good. For comparison’s sake, Deng was at 36.5% on open or wide open shots outside of 10 feet, and 35% on open or wide open threes last year.

Those numbers ended up being a lot closer than I expected. I’m expecting too much out of Deng on open threes, apparently.

8. Why is Amar’e Stoudemire here?

He’s played in one game, the Cleveland one, and looked bad on both ends. STAT has been healthy (or at least hasn’t been on the inactive list), but simply hasn’t played. Miami has him on a maintenance program of sorts, but it’d be nice to see him out there to at least see if he’ll be of any service this year.

9. The Subtleties of Chris Bosh

We know what Bosh is for the most part — a stretch-ish big man with a silky smooth touch from the mid-range that now extends to the three-point area. What may surprise some that didn’t watch him in Toronto is how good Bosh’s drive game is. When he gets the ball at the high-post, he sets defenders up with Melo-esque jab steps, and then either pulls on the jumper or pumps and goes:

Or if he gets the step and a defender overplays a side, he toggles the right analog stick in a circular motion:

Oh, and about Spo having the bigs drop back to help protect the rim? Bosh has been a beneficiary of that;

He’s been the Anti-Wade this year; he started off the year slowly but has been pretty darn good as of late.

10. Erik Spoelstra Has Done a Great Job

Between his rotations and the sets Miami has run this year, I don’t have a complaint in the world about Spo right now. The way he has tinkered Miami’s defensive philosophy is a big reason Miami’s defense is surprisingly elite so far. Talent makes it all work, but Spo’s brainpower is a big part of why Miami’s offense has been as effective as it has.

For the heck of it though, look at some of these beauties:

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