4 Solutions for the Miami Heat's Biggest Flaws
The only thing more important than identifying and addressing the Miami Heat's biggest flaws this season is assessing their level of severity.
And, considering Miami owns the best record in the Eastern Conference at 10-3, are currently unbeaten at home and on a four-game winning streak in a season that has barely begun, there is no reason to reinvent the wheel.
Not after the Heat's new pace-and-space, small-ball attack pushed them over the top last year while simultaneously reviving the career of Chris Bosh.
Against the lower-level teams that comprise the majority of the league, Miami is 10-0.
However, its three losses have come against teams that are, at the very least, expected to make it past the first round of the NBA playoffs.
So, depending on how you look at the glass, Miami's first 13 games can provide a reason for optimism towards the road ahead or a cause for concern at the destination it hopes to arrive to.
Be that as it may, all of Miami's flaws start and end on defense.
And if the Heat plan to improve on that category, they'd be best served tending to four specific areas of concern.
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Problem Area No. 1: The Miami Heat rank 28th in rebounds per game.
Cause: Because Miami chose to shift the makeup of its lineup to accentuate the strengths of the big three, the Heat have supplanted the importance of size with perimeter shooting. As a result, their front-court players are often left over-matched on the glass.
Solution: The easiest way for Miami to address its shortcomings on the glass is to reinstall Joel Anthony back into the rotation. Keep in mind that Miami was still a dominant team when Anthony was in the starting lineup, ranking sixth in offensive efficiency and fourth in defensive efficiency. Furthermore, it also finished 21st in rebounding last season, which is seven slots higher than it currently ranks now.
Ultimately, Erik Spoelstra will have the early part of the season to mix and match the rotation until he finds a formula that works. And, with the stage of their careers that Udonis Haslem and Rashard Lewis are at, his options are remarkably limited beyond Joel.
Unless, of course, he decides to pursue Kenyon Martin on the free-agent market.
Ray Allen: Defensive Liability?
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Problem Area No. 2: With Ray Allen on the bench, Miami surrendered 97.7 points per possession. When he is on the court, it's surrendered 109,0 points per possession.
Cause: Between having to learn a new system and the blitzing nature of Miami's defense, Ray Allen hasn't fit nearly as well on on one side of the floor as he has the other.
Solution: Typically, teams like the Los Angeles Lakers can make up for the defensive inefficiency of their perimeter players (Steve Nash) with a shot-blocking big man down low. But alas, there are no Alonzo Mournings on this roster. And even less on the free-agent market.
As a result, Miami will need to be patient with Allen and continue to work on its weak-side defense.
The 3-Point Parade
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Problem Area No. 3: The Miami Heat's opponents are averaging 39.4 percent from beyond the arc, which is the third-highest in the league.
Cause: Most of the Heat's defenders collapse the paint to help out their undersized teammates, which has left shooters open from the perimeter.
Solution: The Knicks, Grizzlies and Clippers all made it rain from three-point lane in all three of Miami's losses. Most recently, the Heat gave up 10 three-pointers to the Cleveland Cavaliers by halftime in last night's game and barely eeked out a win.
Once again, the Heat's lack of size is the root cause of the problem.
And whether your vote is for the offensively-limited Joel Anthony, inexperienced newcomer Josh Harrellson or someone like Kenyon Martin in the free-agent market, the Heat's rotation appears desperate for more bulk in the middle.
The Wear and Tear of Playing Small Ball for 82 Games
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Problem Area No. 4: Whether small ball will literally hurt Miami down the line.
Cause: Yesterday's game against the Cavaliers provided a showcase for the shortcomings of Miami's small-ball approach. It shot 45 percent from beyond the arc, power forward Tristan Thompson shot a perfect 4-4 from the field against the undersized Shane Battier and Battier eventually left the game with a sprained right knee.
Solution: In a nutshell, the Heat would be best served over the long run by using the small ball approach in doses. An 82-game season is long, and the risk of injury will eventually increase over time if the team's undersized players continue to guard guys bigger and stronger than they are.
Besides, if there is a common theme to most of Miami's flaws, it's that its lack of size is hurting it in games.
And the only reason it is still winning most of its games is because it has Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and the best player in the NBA.
Now, just to be clear, I'm not saying that Miami should pull the plug on what it's been doing.
Rather, I think it's time to mesh what got it to the NBA Finals in 2011 to what helped it win it in 2012.
If for no other reason than to preserve the health of its players.