Confidence Meter Debut 9.2 We are just fine….
So where do the Miami Heat stand at this point in their title defense? The review is mixed. There is definitely something to be said for leading the East, and being on a pace to threaten the Franchise’ Regular Season Win record (61), but there is still a lot left to be desired. If you go to the numbers, like I do, there are some concerns. Offensively, there really is nothing to complain about, except their effort on the offensive boards. Defensively, the Heat is still defending well in the closing minutes, although they are getting off to such poor starts. Mostly due to effort. More on that later. The most talked about aspect of their struggles, has been their rebounding, but the insertion of Udonis Haslem into the starting lineup has patched that up, since they are now 10th in Defensive Rebound Rate, while they were exactly 10th last season while winning a Championship. There is something to be said about a team that can truly turn it on as this team seems to be able to do.
While the Heat got off to a ridiculous start offensively this season, they have managed to retain some of their best characteristics while undergoing rotation changes, and a reliance on their more traditional sets. The three point shooting remains their most steady secondary offense, since Mario Chalmers has found himself slowly “heating up”. Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Mike Miller are all shooting the three ball adequately, and the spacing they have provided have the Heat in the Top 4 in Offensive Efficiency once again. I am willing to bet that won’t change. The Heat’s “corner” sets are finding more success than ever before as Chris Bosh‘ increase in Shooting efficiency demonstrates. Dwyane Wade is finding his offense in his best spots historically, and the bad shot quotient is near zero. This is one smart bunch offensively. Lebron James is Lebron James.
Effort. Seems like a cop-out, but it’s the truth. Team’s are playing with much more freedom early in games and free-shooting teams are finding little resistance versus what has been poor and uninterested Heat defense, early in games. This is breeding confidence, and making for tougher games, than there should be. The Miami Heat’s Defensive Efficiency Number is nowhere near where it should be to feel “good” about the team’s disposition going forward. But what is interesting is how they can revert to their defense in close games and close out teams on the defensive end, exactly how they did when winning the 11-12′ NBA Championship.
This suggests that Effort is what has been key all along. Namely the effort of the Heat’s Front line and more importantly, Lebron James. Ever wondered how a player that plays with the activity of a Lebron James can go at times, 6 games without a Personal Foul? Well, that’s simple. Play no defense, or play it in spurts in “crunchtime”, when officials tend to swallow whistles. This seems to be the defending MVP’s effort at “pacing” himself for this season, and when a player such as Lebron James does something such as this, you have to accept it, pending results, but you don’t have to respect it. This will be the first year in the last 3 that Lebron James has no business winning a single Defensive Player of the Year vote.
It is rosy. The New York Knicks, while being appointed the new contenders by the media, are fatally flawed in many respects. Over-reliance on three point shooting, age, poor defensive disposition, and weak rebounding stand in the way. The Chicago Bulls still remain a legitimate threat as long as Derrick Rose returns to top form, but that seems unlikely. The Atlanta Hawks matchup poorly with the Heat’s best small-ball lineups, and the Boston Celtics are nearing extinction. The Eastern Conference has really rolled out the red carpet for a third Heat Eastern Conference Championship in a row. Of the Western Conference teams, the only questions remain versus the Memphis Grizzlies, but the smart money remains on the Heat figuring it out. Health is their toughest opponent the rest of the way.