After 52 games of basketball, it is no longer a question that the Miami Heat have officially made a one year turnaround. At the end of the All-Star weekend, the Heat stand at 28-24 and have the East's fifth seed. They are a playoff bound team and stand as one of the NBA's better teams as they head into the second half.
The team made big news before the trade deadline by acquiring six-time All-Star Jermaine O'Neal from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Shawn Marion. The Heat also dealt seldom-used Marcus Banks and received small forward Jamario Moon and a future first round draft pick.
Now, I am going to grade the Heat in every category before the trade for O'Neal and with the team that got them to 28-24 and the fifth spot in the East at the All-Star Break.
The Heat have had a pretty decent turnaround from last years horrific offense that ranked last place in the league at 91.4 PPG. This year they still are at the bottom, but have improved to 96.3 PPG. And that number is only so low because the team has been going through a recent offensive drought.
Overall, their offense runs through Dwyane Wade, who is averaging 28.3 points per game. But, they can still get scoring from rookie Michael Beasley, Shawn Marion (before he was traded), Udonis Haslem, and Daequan Cook. They will now benefit from O'Neals offense, who is averaging 13.5 PPG.
The Heat had six players averaging in double figures in scoring at the break, which shows there offense is at least decent and has the ability to do damage. But, the fact is that Wade shoulders most of the scoring load for the team and without him, there would be no offense. Grade: B-
The defense has really been the surprise story of the year. Head Coach Eric Spoelstra has really enforced defense. Miami allows 96.2 points a game, which is good enough for 11th best in the league. The Heat have gotten outstanding defense from Wade, who has become one the league's best shot blockers.
Wade is averaging 1.4 blocks a game and 2.1 steals per game. Rookie Mario Chalmers is averaging 1.9 steals per game. The backcourt has done a very efficient job on defense.
As for the frontcourt, Marion and Haslem portrayed very respectable defense. Haslem, who stands at 6'8" was asked to play center on many occasions and was still able to hassle top big men at times. Joel Anthony has been decent on defense as well, averaging a team-leading 1.6 blocks per game.
With the acquisition of O'Neal, the Heat will get even better on the defensive side. O'Neal is a great shot blocker and can guard the league's top big men. It will also allow Haslem to move to his natural power forward position and his defense will improve.
The Heat are also an impressive 24-11 when they hold teams under 100 points. They have played great defense on top teams such as Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Orlando. They held the Lakers to a season low 87 points in their 89-87 victory over them. Grade: B+
Rookie Head Coach Eric Spoelstra has done a fantastic job this year after inheriting a team with the league's worst record last year. He has made the Heat a playoff team and improved them greatly. He has made them a defensive-minded team that hustles for every loose ball. He has also helped the team's chemistry and has used effective lineups.
If you turn around a 15-67 team to a 28-24 team, you have to be mentioned in the Coaching of the Year talks. I suspect he has a great chance to win that honor. Grade: B+
The Heat's bench has been another good surprise for the team and is still very underrated. The emergence of Daequan Cook has been a huge boost to the team's offense, as he comes off the bench and knocks down three-pointers on a nightly basis.
Rookie Michael Beasley's offensive production has been huge for the team, as he is second on the squad in scoring with 13.3 PPG. James Jones recently returned from injury that has kept him out the entire season and he is slowly starting to contribute.
Miami also gets nice bench play from point guard Chris Quinn and Yakhouba Diawara. Grade: B
Overall, the Miami Heat are a good team that will have the ability to make some noise in the East. With the recent deal for O'Neal, they become an even better team. They have a very good defense, an average offense, and great coaching. They are a young, hungry team that is athletic and scrappy.
They also have a superstar in Wade and a great court leader. The combination of Wade and O'Neal with role players such as Haslem and Beasley contributing on a nightly basis, the Heat will be a very good team. Grade: B
Miami will have a strong second half, surging to a 20-10 mark over their final 30 games. The Heat finish with the East's fourth spot with a respectable 48-34 record with homecourt advantage in the first round.