The Miami Heat have hit a bit of a rough patch lately, going 1-2 in their past three games and playing down to the level of their overmatched opponents for the past couple of weeks.
Nevertheless, it is still early, and the Heat remain among the elite in the Eastern Conference, record-wise, and there have thankfully been no major setbacks.
So, here is a review of each player's performance in the first quarter of the season, and whether the Heat's recent fall from grace in the NBA standings (they are now second in the East at 13-5) is particularly attributable to a few guys more than others.
Summary: Pittman has yet to play in the regular season, and, for a team as desperate for competent size as the Miami Heat, it should tell you something about where his level of progress has gone.
My guess is that we continue to see more of the same with Pittman, as the Heat seem destined to cut ties next summer with a guy that has simply been nothing short of a disappointment.
Summary: Facing a Wizards team two games ago that was without its star point guard, John Wall, Terrel Harris saw his biggest opportunity to make an impression on a team that was without Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole for the night.
His final stat line was three points on 1-of-4 shooting to go along with three rebounds and one assist in 12 minutes of play. The Heat ended up losing the game, and, because Harris was unable to fill the role of ball distributor that night, he may have also ended up losing any future chance he had as a rotation player.
Expect Miami to cut ties with him as well next summer.
Summary: Jones has yet to play in more than three games this season. In those games he hasn't played more than three minutes. In other words, he hasn't even been given an opportunity to crack the rotation.
Since then, the arrivals of Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis have only made it that much harder for him to crack a rotation that's more in need of size than shooting.
As a result, we don't expect him to see any newfound minutes anytime soon.
At the same time, he may also be one major injury away from being a seventh man.
All in all, only time will tell what's to come for the former All-Star three-point shooting champion.
Summary: Okay, so here is what we know about the Miami Heat: Effort or no effort, their most notable flaw is their size. They are 29th in the league in rebounding. Their offense is geared on guys who can either space the floor with their shooting or pace the tempo with their ability to create.
And yet Harrellson, who hasn't seen a minute of action since the four minutes he played against the Memphis Grizzlies, is 2-of-2 on the night (one of which was a three-pointer), collects four rebounds and has the best plus/minus rating of any Heat player in the game.
Look, maybe there is something I'm missing here, but I think it's an absolute travesty that Harrellson hasn't gotten more minutes since then.
And, although it may sound ridiculous, the most intriguing subplot of the Heat's season moving forward that no one (and I mean no one) is talking about is whether Harrellson can do more of the same in the future.
That is, assuming he gets minutes.
Summary: Anthony is officially back in the rotation, having already played three games in a row for Miami.
Apparently, the Heat have become concerned enough about their defense that Erik Spoelstra has given the offensively limited big man a second chance.
Expect to see much more of Anthony in the second quarter of the season than you did the in first.
Summary: Miller is judged on one criterion and one criterion only: Is he hitting his threes? Right now, his percentage is at 41 percent from beyond the arc.
And considering most of his shots are wide-open looks, that percentage is a bit of a disappointment.
Nevertheless, he has seen his minutes increase due to the absence of Shane Battier and has provided the timely scoring and rebounding that Miami has sought from in him.
Once Battier returns though, he'll go from the 20-plus minutes a night he's seeing now to 15 or under.
Kind of funny to think that the Heat have walked on eggshells with a player that plays the game of basketball with the same brute force you typically find in hockey or football.
Summary: Looking at his stats, Lewis seems to be having a relatively okay season, especially considering that the Heat got him for the veteran minimum.
But once again, consider that most of his offense comes in the form of wide-open looks, while his defense is nearly nonexistent.
Too slow-footed to keep up with Miami's "pace and space" game, there is no larger testament to how simple it is to be a bench player on the Heat than the 6'10" elder veteran.
Averaging six points a game, Lewis will continue to average a handful of minutes in the early half of December and January.
But my guess is that he will soon join a similar fate to James Jones once games really start to matter, i.e., as a Heat cheerleader.
I can almost guarantee that you will not see him back on this team next season.
Summary: Once again, stats don't even begin to tell the story of what Cole means to this team. Arguably the second most valuable bench player on the team behind Ray Allen, Norris' energy and ability to push the tempo of the game has been more of a gift than it's been given credit for.
His shooting is bad, especially from beyond the arc, but the dirty little secret no one in Miami is willing to admit is that Cole has outplayed Heat starter Mario Chalmers nearly throughout the season.
In fact, if Cole could display a hint of steadiness as a ball distributor, I'm really not sure whether Chalmers would even crack 30 minutes of PT a game.
Stock: Slightly Down
Summary: Haslem is the Heat's only real workhorse down low, and considering where Miami's defense and rebounding are these days, you have to wonder what the guy really has left to contribute to the team.
Look, I love Udonis. He is the first guy to defend any of the Heat's big three when an opponent starts to get chippy. He takes on the toughest defensive assignment down low every night. His job is thankless. And, he still remains a steady voice of leadership in the locker room.
Having said that, the abrupt return of Joel Anthony into the rotation goes to show you how desperate Miami is for some defense and rebounding down low.
And that falls back on the shortcomings of Udonis.
Summary: The closing moments of the fourth quarter used to be Miami's Achilles' heel; now, it's become one of their most reputable strengths. And Allen is the main reason why.
The Heat's best shooter and bench player has been nothing short of brilliant in the first quarter of the season, and if you are looking for one reason why more people aren't talking about the team's inconsistency in the early stages of the season, he's why.
Case in point: Allen makes Miami even better than the team that won last year's championship. And for that reason, it's become much easier to take any of the Heat's early setbacks this season in stride.
Summary: Erik Spoelstra loves Battier like a fat kid loves cake. From spacing the floor with his shooting to guarding players nearly twice his size, Battier has done everything Miami has asked of him.
His game against the Hornets two nights ago marked his official return from injury, and he provided more of the same consistency, hitting two of his three shots from beyond the arc and tallying 11 points in 29 minutes.
Here's the issue though: The guy is in his 30s, and Miami can't expect him to keep taking on the tough defensive assignments in a full 82-game season. This, I expect, is a big reason why Joel Anthony is now back in the rotation.
But if the Heat really want to ensure Battier's availability in the playoffs, Kenyon Martin is an option they may seriously want to consider.
Summary: Mario Chalmers has been the team's biggest disappointment of the season. He started off strong with an 11-assist performance on opening night against the Boston Celtics and has been mostly miserable since.
Worst of all, he doesn't even look like he's active on the court.
Shooting below .400 both inside and beyond the arc and averaging 4.1 assists on a team with three of the 15 best players in the NBA, I can say with utmost confidence that his future with this team is officially in danger.
Keep in mind, there are few elite big men in the NBA, and, particularly in the East, that can really exploit Miami down low.
But the East, and the NBA playoffs, will undoubtedly be loaded with elite point guards.
Simply put: there is no position on Miami's roster more in need of an upgrade than at the point.
Summary: Okay, so here's the weird part of the Miami Heat. For most of this season, Bosh has been incredible, raising his game in every facet and breaking personal records, from rebounds to points to free-throw attempts.
But, while his game was on the rise, Dwyane Wade's was on the decline. And recently, the roles have reversed between the two, as Bosh's numbers are slightly down in the last few games, while Wade's have been up.
To think, all these years we argued about whether Wade and James were stepping on each other's toes, and now it appears as though the Heat's second option(s) are experiencing the same issue.
Will we soon see the day when Bosh publicly declares that Wade is the second option of this team the same way Wade declared LeBron its first?
Summary: Here's the thing about Dwyane Wade we should establish from the get-go: Based on his health issues last season, the Heat came into the year wanting to reduce his minutes and help his game adjust gracefully with age by having him take more outside shots.
As a result, his field-goal percentage has dipped a bit, and so have his points.
Nevertheless, we have to look at Wade from a big-picture standpoint, and when the Heat go into the playoffs this year with him at full health, we will all look back at this period of the season and be thankful that he's been less aggressive than usual.
At the end of the day, this team was built for a championship, not division titles or any other regular-season accomplishments.
And even though this Heat team is currently 9-1 at home and has always played its best basketball in American Airlines Arena, would you prefer home-court advantage throughout the playoffs or a healthy Dwyane Wade?
My point exactly.
Summary: Sure, we could nitpick and say LeBron is shooting 65 percent from the free-throw line and that his points-per-game average is down two points, but he's the best player in the NBA, and I can't imagine what the team's record would be without him.
Carrying on from where he left off last year in the NBA playoffs, James has led Miami in points, rebounds and assists. He is also the undisputed leader of the team and its biggest glue guy in the locker room.
In other words, the NBA should seriously consider naming the MVP trophy the LeBron James trophy when he retires.