State of the Franchise: Miami Heat
March 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Last Season: 47-35 (5th in Eastern Conference, lost 1st Round to Boston Celtics)
Ah, yes. We’ve come to this point. The State of the Franchise: Miami Heat edition. What more is there to say that hasn’t already been said? One week, this team is celebrating NBA Championships they haven’t won yet. The next week, they’re struggling mightly and people are saying their a fraud and will never win. The next week, they seem utterly unbeatable and people put them back up on their pedastol.
Well, let’s see what we’re dealing with. Starting with “The Big Three”.
It might be time we change the title of this trio from the “Big Three” to “Two and a Half Men” (heard their looking for a new guy on that show anyway). LeBron James is showing everybody that he is arguable the best talent the NBA has to offer its fanbase night in and night out. This year, King James is averaging 26.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.1 assists while leading the Heat offense. Yes, he is averaging roughly three points less per game this year then last, but he simply doesn’t have to do all the scoring now when compared to the 2009-10 Cleveland Cavaliers.
That’s because the second man in this scenario is Dwayne Wade, former NBA Finals MVP. Wade is averaging 25.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Again, his points-per-game are low in comparison to previous totals, but he doesn’t have to carry the load offensively for this team anymore, thanks to LeBron.
However, the Miami Heat gave out three huge contracts last off-season, not just two. That third contract went to former Toronto Raptors All-Star forward, Chris Bosh. Bosh does lead the Heat in rebounds per game with 8.2, but, aside from his rookie season when his playing time was limited, that’s a career low. He’s also averaging less than 22 points per game for the first time in five seasons, and shooting under 50% from the field for an inside player. His 18.2 points are nice, but I wouldn’t say their what the Miami Heat thought they were paying for.
Bosh creates another problem that is holding this Miami Heat team back: size in the middle. Since the “Two and a Half Men” are all commanding large salaries, the team had to clear out much of what they had last season on their bench and replace them with over-the-hill veterans or unproven young players. Thinking Bosh would provide all the support they would need in the middle, the team signed wingman Mike Miller to a hefty five-year contract to compliment the slashing styles of James and Wade. This year, Miller has been hard to find, battling injuries the majority of the season. When he has been healthy, he’s been averaging a career-worst 5.9 points and a career-low 40.5% from the field (he’s a career 46.3% shooter).
Also, two of the players the Heat kept on roster when they brought in James and Bosh to play with Wade have either underperformed or have been hurt. Forward Udonnis Haslem was supposed to provide the physicality the Heat needed off the bench, and was doing just that, averaging 8.0 points and 8.1 rebounds. But, he proceeded to break his foot, and has been limited to 13 games this season. The Heat hope that by playoff time, Haslem will return to their regular rotation, easing the burden on the bench. Also, point guard Mario Chalmers has continued to regress after a strong rookie campaign in 2008-09, when he averaged 10.0 points, 4.9 assists and 2.0 steals. This year, shifting constantly between the starting line-up and the bench, Chalmers is down to 6.9 points, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals.
The Heat have done all they can trying to add veteran talent to provide balance to their stars, but the production just hasn’t been there consistantly. Recently, the team added point guard Mike Bibby off the waiver wire after he was traded from Atlanta to Washington. But, Bibby has remained ineffective in the line-up. appearing seven times off the bench and averaging just 5.1 points.
What’s more concerning for the Heat is their apparent inability to hit clutch jumpers or beat teams with better records than theirs. Two different times this season, the Heat have lost 4+ games in a row, including their most recent five-game skid that ended with the “CryGate” controversy, when head coach Erik Spolestra informed the media that players were in tears after failing to hit yet another game-ending jump shot. The team has also dropped every game this year in which they’ve played the top two teams in the East, the Chicago Bulls or the Boston Celtics.
However, when things are looking their worst, the Heat always find ways to respond. Recently, the Heat have knocked off the Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs, all playoff teams, at home. They beat the Spurs, holding onto the NBA’s best record, by 30. Tonight, they face off against Kevin Durant’s youthful Oklahoma City Thunder in yet another tough test at home.
No matter how mercurial this Heat team plays this year, the true test will be how they perform in the playoffs. If the playoffs were to start today, they’d match up with the New York Knicks, a team in which they split their season series with and have a long history of playoff battles from the early ’90s. This team will not be able to get over the hump unless Chris Bosh starts playing up to his contract, or the team is able to import a big body to defend the low post. Also, this team will need a true point guard to help steady the ship and distribute the ball to the big-time threats of James and Wade. The matter in which this team is built this year, it would be difficult for them to come out of the East and win the NBA Title.
Until any of that happens, the story of “Two and a Half Men” will continue on to be a preplexing saga.
Oh, and so will the Miami Heat.