What We Learned from the First Quarter of the Miami Heat's Season
As of Dec. 11, the Miami Heat are sitting close to the top in the Eastern Conference with a 14-5 overall record.
We've learned valuable lessons about the Heat and what the rest of their 2012-13 season may have in store for them.
Read on to find out what the first quarter of the 2012-13 season has taught us about the 2012 NBA champion, Miami Heat.
The Miami Heat Are Still the Team to Beat in the NBA
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Yes, I'm aware that the Miami Heat lost both matchups to the New York Knicks by a combined 40 points.
All of that doesn't mean much when you consider two major factors. First, the Heat are the same team as they were last season, with two upgrades off the bench. Second, the Heat were at this exact same point last year after 19 games.
Even with losses to top competitors across the league, the Heat are still in the driver's seat for the 2013 Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.
Are there things the Heat need to work on?
There certainly are, like post defense and rebounding the ball. There is a significant amount of time left in the season though, and when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are rocking the same jerseys, there's no reason to fear.
We've all seen what happens when those players decide to turn up the heat.
Signing Rashard Lewis Instead of a Veteran Center Is Hurting the Heat
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Rashard Lewis isn't having a terrible season. He's averaging 5.8 points on 50 percent shooting, which is quite impressive considering he shot just 38.5 percent from the field last year.
The problem with Lewis is that the Heat don't really have a true need for him coming off the bench.
With Norris Cole, Ray Allen, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, the Heat are deep enough to provide their star players with significant rest night in and night out.
What the Heat truly need is a veteran center who can add a level of intensity to the defensive side of the ball.
There are free agents still available like Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin, and the Heat would be extremely wise to cut some dead weight to clear a space for one of them.
Going after Lewis this offseason wasn't a terrible move, but it wasn't the move the Heat needed to make, and we've seen that throughout the first quarter of the season. Perimeter offense isn't an issue for the Heat. Their real weakness is interior defense, and that's something Lewis just can't help.
LeBron James Is Still the NBA's Most Valuable Player
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LeBron James (through Dec. 11)—25.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1.4 STLPG, 29.11 PER
No matter what your opinion is on the Heat this season, there's no denying that LeBron James is dominating the NBA on a different level than everyone else.
Not only has he led the Heat to one of the top records in the NBA. He's also the most well-balanced player in the league.
If the season ended today, LeBron would be well on his way to winning his fourth league MVP trophy, and deservedly so.
Some argue that LeBron—with Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh beside him—has too much help. But the fact that he's able to alter his game to complement those around him and still put up Hall of Fame numbers is impressive to say the least.
The Heat will need to end the regular season with the NBA's top record for LeBron to hoist his fourth NBA MVP trophy in five years. Expectations are high for LeBron, but based on his performance this far, he's more than up for the challenge.
There's a New Clutch Man in Town and His Name Is Ray Allen
Enter your "LeBron James isn't clutch" joke here, because it doesn't matter anymore.
No matter what your opinion is on LeBron's clutch skills, there's no debating that he doesn't have that responsibility all to himself anymore—thanks to Ray Allen.
Allen has already hit two game-winners this season, and his late-game heroics have helped the Heat escape some close matchups with wins.
Now that Allen is roaming the perimeter, LeBron has more freedom to get into the paint in clutch situations and either finish at the rim or find an open teammate beyond the arc.
Thanks to Ray Allen's sharp-shooting talents, the Heat have transformed into one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA with the game on the line.
Winning close games is an integral part of being a championship-caliber team, and thanks to Allen, the Heat have no problem doing just that.
Interior Defense Is the Main Obstacle to a Miami Heat Repeat in 2013
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As of Dec. 11, the Miami Heat are giving up an average of 99.6 points per game, which ranks 22nd overall in the NBA.
That's not going to cut it for a team looking to repeat as NBA champs.
The Heat are absolutely weak in the paint, and it's a major reason why their defense has been atrocious so far this season.
While the Heat aren't necessarily giving up an obscene amount of points in the paint, the fact that they have to double down on legitimate post players nearly every possession opens up the perimeter for their opponents.
A lack of interior defense led to the Knicks blowing out the Heat twice by an average of 20 points per game. The Knicks used their size in the paint to open the perimeter, and other teams are catching on to that as well.
Unless the Heat find a way to add legitimate interior defense, a repeat is going to be a very, very tall task.