The Miami Heat currently top the Eastern Conference standings at 18-6 and appear to be a strong bet to win another NBA title this season. So, the Heat wanting some gifts for Christmas this year might seem a bit greedy.
However, there actually are a few gifts the Heat should greatly desire: gifts that will greatly improve those odds for a championship repeat.
Let's take a look at three of them.
Note: Statistics are accurate as of December 23
Dwyane Wade Continues His December Play for the Rest of the Season
November wasn't too kind to Heat superstar Dwyane Wade. Injuries were a big problem for him; Wade missed three games and his play wasn't up to his normal top-ten player in the league standards.
Twice in the month, Wade scored under 10 points in a single game. To put that in perspective, Wade only scored less than 10 points in one game last season: a game in which he only played three minutes. He finished the month with good but not great per game averages of 17.1 points on 46.6 percent shooting from the field and 4.8 assists.
However, Wade has played fantastic in December. His leg issues haven't been a problem, as Wade has been explosive going to the rim and successful in converting when he gets there.
His shot has been much improved. He's shooting an eye-popping 57.7 percent from the field and 33.3 percent on his three-point attempts. His field goal attempts per game are down from last month (14.6 in November and 13.7 in December), yet Wade is scoring a bit north of four points more per contest this month (21.4 points per game in December).
Wade has cut down on forcing the action and instead is picking his spots when they're available and spreading the ball when they're not. He's spent December playing the type of efficient offense that led to him finishing in the top three in PER in each of the last two seasons.
With all the talent on the Heat roster, that's exactly the type of play the Heat want out of Wade, so they better hope this keeps up throughout the year.
LeBron Keeps Shooting Threes Well
It's no surprise that LeBron James, the NBA's greatest player, is having a dominant start to the 2012-13 season. What is a bit surprising, though, is that LeBron is doing a portion of his dominating from the three-point line. Through 24 games, LeBron is shooting an astounding 44.2 percent on attempts beyond the arc.
In terms of three-point shooting efficiency, LBJ ranks 13th in the league overall and fourth among players who see the court more than 30 minutes per game. A 33.4 percent career three-point shooter, not only is LeBron on pace to finish with the highest three-point shooting percentage of his career, he's on pace to eviscerate his previous career best (36.2 percent in 2011-12).
If you want a closer look of how efficient LeBron has been from long-range, take a glance at LeBron's 2012-13 season shot chart:
Other than the fact that getting three points is better than two, there are multiple reasons why LeBron adding a long-range game to his arsenal is beneficial to the Heat.
First of all, LeBron is much less likely to get injured at the three-point line than he is barreling down the lane. The Heat need LeBron to stay as fresh as possible entering the postseason both in energy and health. Shooting from downtown, LeBron is able to score extremely efficiently and isn’t a great risk to get injured.
On top of that, having a strong three-pointer makes LeBron an even bigger offensive threat than he already was. It forces defenses to pay more attention to him, which can lead to easy scoring opportunities being created for his Heat teammates. And considering how skilled of a passer LeBron is and the type of court vision he has, that's a huge advantage for Miami.
The Heat should hope LeBron continues being money from downtown because they obviously need him to win (Heat have scored 9.2 points more per 100 possessions this season when he's on the court compared to when he's not on the court, according to 82games), so wanting him to stay healthy is a no-brainer.
And at the same time, having a three-pointer makes the game's most dangerous player even more dangerous.
Udonis Haslem's Fixes His Jumper
Along with his rebounding skills and the toughness he plays with, Udonis Haslem's jumper is what has made him such a valued player on the Heat over the years.
Not too long ago in the 2010-11 season, Haslem shot 53.8 percent on attempts from 10-15 feet away and 48 percent on attempts 16-13 feet away, according to Hoopdata.
However, out of nowhere, his jumper was broken last year. He shot 39.0 percent on attempts from 16-23 feet from the basket, which while not an atrocity was below the league average for power forwards from that range last season, making it no longer an asset of Haslem's game.
But where things get really bad for Haslem is that he shot 25.9 percent on attempts from 10-15 feet from the basket. Now that is atrocious.
It now seems that last year's poor performance is carrying over to this season. Haslem is shooting 50 percent on his attempts to 10-15 feet away; however, he's only attempting .3 shots from that range per contest (1.0 per game in 2010-11 and .8 per game in 2011-12).
On top of that, his struggles from 16-23 feet away have worsened, down to 32.0 percent from that range. And again, he's also not looking for his shot as much anymore, taking 1.3 attempts from that range per game (3.7 per game in 2010-11 and 2.3 per game in 2011-12).
Haslem's jumper can be of such value in terms of spacing when it's working. The Heat should really wish that UD's performance against the Washington Wizards on December 15—in which he hit four of five shots attempted away from the rim—is a sign that his jumper might be getting fixed.