Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Why are the Miami Heat on this list, you ask? After all, at 12-5, they're only behind the Knicks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. LeBron James is enjoying another MVP-caliber campaign and has been supported rather sterlingly by the trio of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and, off the bench, Ray Allen.
Collectively, they're scoring at the third-highest clip in the league, hitting threes at a 41.3 percent rate (second best) and are tops in field-goal percentage at 49.3 percent.
So their recently-fangled small-ball arrangement must be working to perfection, right?
Not exactly. As devastating as the Heat are and have been offensively, they ultimately fought their way to the 2012 NBA title with a smothering pressure defense that created turnovers and fueled a fleet-footed fast break.
If King James and company want to keep their crown for another year, they'll have to get back to their defensive roots before long. They're 20th in defensive efficiency and 18th in opponent turnover percentage thus far, and, on the other end, are only the 13th-most frequent visitors to the free-throw line in the league.
Miami's issues on the boards are to be expected given Erik Spoelstra's undersized machinations. So, too, are early-season inconsistencies from a defending champion.
It's not at all unusual for a team in the Heat's position to be more interested in future outcomes in April, May and June while their opponents, motivated by the opportunity to upend the NBA's top outfit, push them to the limit in the meantime.
It's no wonder, then, that they've needed miraculous finishes to avoid defeat against the Denver Nuggets (twice), the Houston Rockets, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the shorthanded San Antonio Spurs, and that their lack of interest caught up to them in recent losses to the Washington Wizards and New York.
Simply put, the Heat haven't gotten up for all (or even most) of their games, and it's shown. They seem to take their own superiority for granted at times and have hardly given the proper effort and energy to make Coach Spo's defense hum as it once did.
Come spring, the Heat figure to have these beats turned around. Otherwise, they'll have more than ring sizes to worry about.