Analyzing the Surprise Teams Part II: Miami Heat

The next surprise team I’ll take a look at is the Miami Heat. Through 26 games, the Heat are 14-12, just one win shy of their total from last season. They are around the middle of the pack in both offensive and defensive efficiency, ranking 16th and 18th, respectively. For most teams, that would be a disappointment. Considering how bad the Heat were last season, they’ll take it. There are two causes for concern, however: they have a low expected win percentage because of some close wins, and the schedule thus far has been very favorable.

Breaking down the team into the Four Factors, you can see that the Heat makes its living through turnovers, both offensive and defensive. Although they no longer rank first in both categories, Miami is still tied for the lowest turnover rate on offense and is third in creating turnovers on defense. Besides that, they are not special in any of the other factors and rank particularly poorly in defensive rebounding and fouling shooters. The addition of shot-blocker Joel Anthony into the starting lineup has helped, but as always, Miami could use some size in the middle.

Reason numero uno for the Heat’s success is Dwyane Wade, a legitimate MVP candidate. Wade is back to his 2006-07 form (before he got injured at Houston). His PER is over 30, at 30.4, and he does so many things well. His true shot percentage is a high 57.2%. His assist rate is a solid 19.3, and he’s among the league leaders in steals. Based on his athleticism, however, he could be a better rebounder, but that’s a very small complaint. As always, Wade’s two biggest weaknesses are outside shooting and turnovers. However, he’s been able to make the mid-range shot for years and his three-point shooting is improving. In addition, his turnovers are overstated because of the amount he handles the ball. Make no mistake, he turns the ball over too much, but he’s not among the league’s worst in terms of turnover rate.

After Wade, there’s a steep drop-off in terms of talent for the Heat. The next highest PER on the team is Shawn Marion, who is only slightly above the league average at 15.6. Marion is a solid rebounder who does a lot of the little things well, but he shoots a very low percentage. Rookie Michael Beasley may not be meeting some people’s expectations, but he’s learning the hard way. Miami is forcing him to focus on defense and coach Erik Spoelstra is not afraid to bench the rook if he messes up. In addition, he’s playing with solid players that play his position in Marion and Udonis Haslem (PER of 14.3). Beasley’s PER of 14.7 isn’t terrible. He may not be having a year like Derrick Rose, but he’s not as big of a bust as has been reported.

Speaking of rookies, Mario Chalmers has been a solid point guard for the Heat and has a lot of room for growth. He’s a good shooter from long range, runs the offense, and plays solid defense (including getting a ton of steals). All three of those things are key for point guards that play next to Wade. Miami has probably found its point guard of the future.

The Heat’s success for the rest of this season is difficult to predict for a number of reasons. A big trade may be looming. Marion’s name has been thrown around in trade rumors for months, but he does have some value to the team. The question is whether or not the team can move him for someone with more value. A big man who can defend and also take some of the workload off Wade would be ideal, but those guys don’t just grow on trees. In addition, because the Heat rely pretty heavily on a couple of rookies, some improvement should be expected as Chalmers and Beasley get accustomed to the big leagues, but you never know.

Information from the KnickerBlogger.Net stats page was used for this report.

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Oklahoma City at Atlanta: Hawks
Houston at Cleveland: Rockets
New Jersey at Indiana: Pacers
Washington at Charlotte: Wizards
Philadelphia at Boston: Celtics
Golden State at Miami: Heat
L.A. Lakers at New Orleans: Lakers
Chicago at Detroit: Pistons
Utah at Milwaukee: Jazz
Memphis at Dallas: Mavericks
Minnesota at San Antonio: Spurs
Denver at Portland: Trail Blazers

Prediction Record: 240-107

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