The Miami Heat are the best team in the NBA. They feature the two best players in the NBA in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Certainly they have their strengths—their team speed and athleticism is outstanding, as good as anyone in the league.
That doesn't mean they are flawless, though. Admittedly, this is a little bit of nitpicking. Through their first three games, and based on last year as well, there are three primary weaknesses that could be exploited to beat them.
For each comparison I'll be using efficiency in lieu of scoring. Why? Because to use just scoring would be unfair to the Heat. They aren't looking for scoring from everyone. The rest of the teammates beyond the Big Three are role players.
Efficiency differential is a good way to measure the overall role playing because it includes not only the other aspects of the game—like blocks, steals, rebounding and assists—but it also shows how well the defense is performing by comparing it to the opponents'.
For example, the Heat were the lowest-scoring bench in the NBA last year, but they were a long way from being the worst bench in the NBA. They made up for the lack of scoring in other areas. However, it remains true that their bench, overall, is a weakness.
Now granted, there's not perfect shoe size here, but when doing comparisons there's a point where the amount of work needed to do a complete comparison isn't worth the effort it would take. The overall impact would essentially be the same but 30 minutes of research would become five hours of research.
I'm using efficiency because it's easily available, not because there's a deep, dark, ulterior motive.
According to hoopsstats.com, the Heat were 18th in the league in efficiency differential last year, averaging a net negative-2.3 in efficiency. So far this season, while they've acquired Shane Battier, drafted the much-hyped Norris Cole and had a healthy Udonis Haslem, they've been outperformed by a margin of 2.0.
Bear in mind this is against competition that is a combined 1-7. The Heat bench is getting outperformed by marginal benches. Yes, Mike Miller is out, but that's offset by the "strength" of their competition. Opponents are getting 21.4 percent more production from their bench.
Miami is supposed to have resolved this issue with the drafting of Norris Cole. His 20-point outburst against the Boston Celtics proves that, right?
Well, not so fast. Last year the Heat's point guards had an average of 17.0 efficiency, which was 27th "best" in the NBA. This year they've improved—barely—to 18.7 per game.
The real problem, though, is on the other end of the ball. Opposing point guards have been shredding the Heat. At least last year the Heat kept their opponents in check, more or less, yielding just 18.4 per game, second only to the Chicago Bulls.
This year they're giving up 32.3 efficiency points per game. They are getting pulverized at the 1. It's early in the season, but considering how much the Heat are getting beaten by the opposing point guards, it's a legitimate weakness. Opponents are getting 73.2 percent more production from the position.
Last year the Heat were outperformed at the center spot by an average of 4.2 efficiency points. That was 27th in the league.
From their centers the Heat garnered only 8.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. That was 30th and 28th in the NBA respectively. Their overall production was just 17.2, worst in the NBA by a wide margin. The next worse was 20.3.
Defensively they were good, though, yielding the third-fewest efficiency points per game, which covered up some of the limitations.
On the whole they were 27th in the NBA in differential. That's pretty bad.
The problem is that this year they've gone from worst to even worse. Their production from the 5 this year is abysmal, just 6.7 points per game. Defensively they've given up just 17.3 points per game, but they've gone up against teams that aren't very strong at the center spot.