Week 2 Progress Report for Each Player on the Miami Heat
Since the last weekly progress report, the Miami Heat went 3-0, Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian officially exchanged reproductive organs on the TV show X-Factor and the Los Angeles Lakers threw a vicious elbow to the Nielsen ratings of Oklahoma City's newest soap opera, "As the Beard Turns," by firing their head coach five games into the season.
Oh yeah, and there was a presidential election that took place somewhere in between.
Other facts worth mentioning?
1) The Heat are still first in team offensive statistics.
2) They are 26th in team defensive statistics, which is based on a team's rebounds, blocks and assists.
3) They are 26th in the league in team rebounding.
All in all, the team currently stands atop the Southeast Division in first place and possesses the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Which is why, for whatever the Heat's shortcomings, it is still very early in the season, and its single biggest development (the addition of Ray Allen) has been nothing short of a success thus far.
The Juvenile Delinquent
What He's Doing Right: Unlike Udonis Haslem, Rashard Lewis and Josh Harrellson, Dexter Pittman is the lone backup big man who has done an impeccable job managing his facial hair.
What He Could Do Better: Outside of being well-groomed, I'd say the biggest thing Dex needs to work on is...how he plays the game of basketball.
Summary: Pittman is the only player on Miami's roster who has not played a single minute on the court this season.
Surpassed in the depth chart by Josh Harrellson and those seated in rows one through eight on level 117 of American Airlines Arena, it should be a troubling sign for young Pittman that Miami blew out two of its opponents this week, and he didn't merit a single minute of garbage time.
Borat's Brother Bilo
What He's Doing Right: In six minutes of play in garbage time against the Phoenix Suns' bench-warmers, Terrel Harris netted two rebounds (both offensive) and two points on 1-of-2 shooting. So, the fact that he remains productive is a sign we will see him play more inconsequential minutes in the near future.
What He Could Be Do Better: Besides going to the U.S. Social Security Administration to petition that his name be changed to Bilo, Harris should continue working on his outside shooting to complement what he brings to the team in rebounding and other defensive intangibles at his position.
Summary: Heat fans have seen journeymen like Harris come and go through the system without making so much as a difference on the court. But for every Mark Strickland or Rodney Buford, there were also guys like Bruce Bowen and Ike Austin who came from nowhere to make a difference because they were able to provide one elite skill to the team—something which cannot yet be said of Harris.
What He's Doing Right: Because Josh Harrellson is a big man who can shoot, he will have plenty of opportunities throughout the season to prove he qualifies for more than just garbage minutes on this team.
What He Could Do Better: It's still early into the season, and Fat Wolverine only saw a handful of minutes in the two games he played for Miami this week, but he still looks a bit tentative on the court. A little more aggressiveness could go a long way for him.
Summary: The fall from grace we've witnessed Joel Anthony take on this team could be antithetical to the kind of leap Harrellson could make. Miami has almost no size down low, is getting killed on the glass on most nights and has moved away from giving minutes to big man who can't score.
In other words, the fast track to success is there for him if he could just show a glimpse of productivity.
Are You Smarter Than a Trade Exception?
What He's Doing Right: Until Fat Wolverine can emerge, most of the spare minutes Miami needs filled putting a big body on someone will go to Joel Anthony. And in that time, he'll continue to collect rebounds and be a defensive presence.
What He Could Do Better: Ultimately, Anthony did nothing wrong to merit his demotion. The team just moved in another philosophical direction with its attack—one that won't allow for players who can't be effective on both sides of the court.
Summary: At this point, the most useful contribution Anthony could make to this team would be via a trade. The only question is whether he still holds any value in a league that continues to grow smaller and less tolerant of players who handicap them on either side of the floor.
The Lost Beastie Boy
What He's Doing Right: Staying healthy.
What He Could Do Better: Mike Miller's shooting from beyond the arc has been sub-par from what we normally expect of him, but his virtuoso performance in the closeout game of last year's NBA Finals has fans more concerned with his health than his production.
Summary: Because of all the health issues that have marred his playing time in Miami over the past two seasons, he is clearly on an "in case of emergency, break open glass" basis with this team. As a result, we will only see him play heavy minutes on nights when either one of the Big Three is out or the Heat are playing a legitimately good opponent.
Other than that, Ray Allen will be playing most of the minutes he saw last year, with the intent that he remains fresh for the playoffs.
On Academic Probation
What He's Doing Right: Playing tenacious defense, forcing turnovers and keeping the team abreast on all the latest news from the front-page headlines of the New York Times.
What He Could Do Better: Shane Battier's shooting has been woeful this season, highlighted by his 1-of-4 performance against Atlanta on Friday night.
Summary: Simply put, his offense needs to be good to offset the rebounding disadvantage that results when he is on the floor with LeBron and Chris Bosh. And until it does, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra should temporarily suspend his subscription to Good Housekeeping.
The Minimum Veteran
What He's Doing Right: Shooting .500 from beyond the arc and giving Miami steady bench production with nine points a game.
What He Could Do Better: Rebounding. As of right now, Rashard Lewis is averaging 2.8 rebounds a game. Miami will need that number to improve to about five a game as the season moves forward.
Summary: Lewis was Miami's bargain-bin free-agent signing, coming onto the team for the veteran minimum. For this reason, expectations have been very low. But on a team expected to defend its title, Miami will certainly need more from its seventh/eighth man than just shooting—especially from one of the team's taller players.
Resident Tough Guy
What He's Doing Right: Providing toughness, defense and rebounding on a team that sorely lacks size.
What He Could Do Better: Udonis Haslem is only averaging 3.3 PPG and continues to struggle knocking down the open shot consistently when LeBron or D-Wade are getting doubled. His free-throw shooting has also dipped to 67 percent, down from his career average of 77 percent.
Summary: Haslem had his best game Friday night against Atlanta, bringing down 10 boards for Miami. In the process, he also scored only two points.
A case could be made that Miami should consider bringing in a Kenyon Martin to replace him, but it appears the team isn't willing to discard Haslem that quickly. Given all that he has done and meant to this franchise over the years, it's hard to blame them.
What He's Doing Right: Norris Cole posted four assists in Miami's last two games, and his turnover rate has slightly declined to 1.2 a game.
What He Could Do Better: Cole's shooting percentage has dipped since the preseason, and he is at .286 from beyond the arc.
Summary: Cole continues to be a work in progress on a team that needs all the bench production it can get. But a case could also be made that improvements in areas like ball-handling and distribution will serve this team more in the long run than whatever strides he can make as a shooter.
The Three-Point Specialist
What He's Doing Right: Shooting .500 from beyond the arc.
What He Could Do Better: Improve defense and rebounding.
Summary: James Jones is among the low-profile players on the Heat who have only seen a handful of minutes thus far this season. Nevertheless, he continues to provide the one thing Miami asks of him: outside shooting. It's just a shame that he provides little else at this point in his career.
What He's Doing Right: Mario Chalmers came out the gate strong this year with two 11-assist performances. On top of that, he is still making big shots in crunch time (nailed a huge three in Atlanta) and pestering opposing PGs with his defense.
What He Could Do Better: Work on his confidence. Just kidding.
Summary: Bill Simmons has a theory that every successful team needs to have one "Irrational Confidence Guy." Just as the name implies, the Irrational Confidence Guy is someone who thinks he has more going for him than he really does.
Well, that just about defines Mario Chalmers to a T.
Earlier this summer, Chalmers stated that he's a top-10 point guard in the NBA. Now, I'm not saying he is or he isn't. I just think rankings are something most great players leave for the critics to decide.
In any case, Chalmers' confidence has been an asset (in crunch time) and a liability (when he takes one-on-one battles personally, like he did with Jeff Teague on Friday). And I honestly wouldn't want him any other way.
What He's Doing Right: Single-handedly boosted the team's bench production eleven slots higher than it ranked at the end of last season.
What He Could Do Better: A remix of "Hit 'Em Up" by 2Pac Shakur dedicated to the Boston Celtics.
Summary: Allen continues to shoot lights-out for Miami, averaging nearly 60 percent from behind the three-point line. In addition, his field-goal percentage is at .56, and he is adding three rebounds a game.
At the end of the day, this Heat team is better than the one that won the championship last year. And outside of LeBron's growth as a player and the Heat's position-less philosophy, he is the biggest reason why.
By the way, Doc Rivers wasn't fooling anyone this summer when he said the Celtics current backcourt is the best one in the NBA. He knows he lost a gem in Ray and basically hand-delivered him to us. On behalf of South Florida, we thank you Doc!
What He's Doing Right: Scoring. Scoring. Scoring.
What He Could Do Better: Rebound! Rebound! Rebound! And stop shooting three pointers! His shooting percentage beyond the arc is a staggering .11 percent.
Summary: After starting off the season averaging nearly 10 rebounds per game, Bosh's rebounds have dropped down to 6.8 since. Now, the Heat are still winning games, but let's all keep their victories in perspective. Outside of Boston, Miami may not have beaten a single team good enough to make it to the second round of the NBA playoffs. And considering that they rank near the bottom of the NBA in rebounding and team defensive statistics, this is something that will have to improve down the line. And it starts with Bosh.
What He's Doing Right: Scoring efficiently, providing rebounds and assists, playing great defense and deferring to LeBron when need be.
What He Could Do Better: Continue on the trend that he started by sitting out the Heat's game in Atlanta and rest his body more.
Summary: Perhaps I'm biased, but I continue to believe the biggest obstacle to Miami repeating is a healthy Dwyane Wade come playoff time.
Apparently, the organization agreed and took steps to actualize that goal by planning to reduce Wade's minutes and work with him to improve his mid-range game.
Thus far, things are going according to plan as he appears to be resting more, maintaining a high field-goal percentage and taking more shots from outside the paint than he has in the past.
What He's Doing Right: Everything. Did I mention he's leading the team in points, rebounds and assists?
What He Could Do Better: Outside of playing inside the post more, he could end world hunger, find a cure for cancer and stop the spread of disease in Africa.
Summary: LeBron is picking up right where he left off last year and is the single biggest reason why Miami has started the year off with one of the best records in the NBA.
At this rate, the NBA may need to come up with an award called the Most Improved Valuable Player because there is no one player that does more for his team than LeBron does for Miami.