The Miami Heat have had a rough start to the season, relative to their appropriately high expectations. The back-to-back defending champions are 4-3 and have two horrible losses (Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics).
You can't blame the offense, though. The Heat have been the NBA's top offensive team, ranking first in points per possession.
The reason for the team's struggles comes at the defensive end; the Heat rank 28th in points allowed per possession. It's pretty unbelievable, given how Miami has been a superb defensive team throughout the Big Three era.
So, at this strange time of Heat basketball, we're going to grade every Miami player's performance to this point of the season.
While some players have certainly been disappointing, there have been some bright spots as well.
We're going to get into it all: the positive and the negative. Let's get started!
Stats from Basketball-Reference.com.
Michael Beasley: A-
Beasley has played just 12 minutes this season. But, boy, has he been impressive in that limited time. He's getting to the rim and shooting well.
While inefficiency has been one of Beasley's key issues throughout his career, he's shooting 63.6 percent from the field and 66.7 percent on three-point attempts. Believe it or not, he leads the Heat with an absurd 36.0 PER.
He's scored 16 points on the season, giving him a team-best 48.0 points per 36 minutes (LeBron James is ranked second with 23.6 points per 36 minutes).
While these incredible stats are largely a product of a very, very small sample size, there's no doubt that Beasley has exceeded expectations up to this point.
Joel Anthony: C-
Anthony has also played 12 minutes this season, but unlike Beasley, he hasn't done anything noteworthy in that time.
He hasn't scored a point, nor has he attempted a shot. He's blocked a shot and grabbed just two rebounds, which gives him the worst rebounding rate of any Miami player that's recorded a board.
Anthony just doesn't give Miami much value at this point of his career.
Roger Mason Jr.: C
Mason Jr.'s only court time this season came when Dwyane Wade needed to miss a game against the Philadelphia 76ers due to a sore knee.
Mason Jr. started but wasn't all that impressive.
In 15 minutes of action, he scored just three points on 1-of-3 shooting from the field. He knocked down one of his two three-point attempts, which is a good sign, considering his outside shot is why Miami signed him this offseason. However, he also turned the ball over twice and appeared to need more time getting comfortable with his new surroundings.
Considering how they are built, the Heat are never going to be a good rebounding team. But Udonis Haslem is supposed to make that less of a problem. He accomplished that last year, as he grabbed 10.3 boards per 36 minutes.
Unfortunately for Miami, though, Haslem is only making the Heat's rebounding woes more woeful this year; he's posted 5.6 rebounds per 36 minutes through the first seven games.
He's also looked a step too slow on the defensive end. And while Haslem's never been looked at as a big contributor on the offensive end, he's having an especially poor season on offense. He's shooting just 42.1 percent from the floor (career 49.4 percent shooter).
While it's too early to write off Haslem, his early-season play is troubling.
Chris "Birdman" Andersen isn't having the type of impact he had on Miami a year ago, but he's still having himself a decent start to the season.
Andersen has been the Heat's best rebounder. Although, that's not as impressive as you might think; he's still just posting 7.6 boards per 36 minutes (9.9 last season).
He's doing what other Heat big men other than Chris Bosh struggle to do, and that's finish at the rim (66.7 field-goal percentage). He's also continued to be one of Miami's top shot-blockers (1.9 per 36 minutes).
Andersen is another one of these older Heat veterans who's looked a bit slow to start the year. He's looked better in that respect as the season's gone along, so there is reason to believe he can pick things up and return to his 2012-13 level.
With all the great shooters on this Heat team, it says a lot that Shane Battier was Miami's most efficient three point-shooter last season (43.0 percent). So there's no getting around the fact that the 12-year veteran has been a disappointment through seven games.
While he's picked things up in the past couple of games so he's shooting a not-abysmal 32.0 percent from outside now, there was a stretch in Games 2-4 that Shane missed 13 straight three-pointers.
Miami's offensive is built around being able to rely on shooters to knock down open looks created by the team's slashers, and Battier simply hasn't been someone the Heat can trust this year.
At the same time, even great shooters have slumps. So expect Battier to start proving his shooting worth shortly.
Regardless, he's still a defensive asset, which means he always has some value even if the shots aren't falling.
Norris Cole just keeps on getting better. The 25-year-old point guard was tremendous throughout the 2013 postseason and has built upon that play to start this season.
There might not be an area of his game that he hasn't improved upon. He's knocking down his threes (41.7 percent, .05 percent better than last year). He's making more plays for his teammates (4.7 assists per 36 minutes, one assist more than last year). He's even rebounding the ball now (4.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, 1.6 more rebounds than last year).
There was a time when Norris Cole driving to the hoop was a bad thing; now there's a good chance he's either going to finish at the rim or find the open man. The transformation is pretty incredible.
And on top of all of this, he continues to cut down on his turnovers (three per 36 minutes in his rookie year, 2.4 in Year 2 and 1.6 to start Year 3).
It continues to look as if Cole has a very bright future in the NBA.
While Ray Allen hasn't been as proficient from outside as he was in his first year with Miami (41.9 percent last year, 36.7 percent this year), he's stepped up in other areas of the game.
Allen's rebounding the ball better, dishing out more assists and is driving to the rim more often—and succeeding. Allen is shooting a ridiculous 70.8 percent on two-point attempts this year.
Ray's defense is still an issue; at 38 years old, he just can't move or keep up with younger guards like he used to be able to.
But Allen finding other ways to contribute when he's not dominating from downtown still makes this an encouraging seven games.
Norris Cole isn't the only Heat point guard who's had a hot beginning of the season; Mario Chalmers has been impressive too.
Following up the first season of his career in which he topped 40.0 percent from outside, 'Rio is lighting it up even more this season by draining 58.3 percent of his three-point attempts. Like Cole, he's also done a better job of feeding the Heat's superstars, and that's reflected in his improved assist rate (6.3 per 36 minutes).
Chalmers has been a thief on the defensive end, stealing 2.9 balls per 36 minutes (2.1 per game). Not surprisingly, this has led the always confident Chalmers to say he's going to try to make a run at the record of 3.67 steals per game, according to Bleacher Report's own Ethan J. Skolnick.
From an individual play standpoint, this has been a dream start for Super Mario.
Coming off a dominant preseason, Chris Bosh has continued to play some excellent offensive basketball.
He's continued to stake his claim as one of basketball's best shooters, converting 57.8 percent of his shots from the field and 50.0 percent of his three-point shots. His 18.5 points in 32.0 minutes per game gives him the best scoring rate he's had for a season in his Heat career.
But Bosh has struggled on the defense end at times, notably against the Brooklyn Nets, and his rebounding remains a weak part of his game. On a team that desperately needs rebounds, Bosh is on pace to average a career-low 6.7 boards per game.
In a season in which Dwyane Wade has a lot to prove to his critics, the Heat legend has been pretty good.
He's put together some really impressive performances, notably against the Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto Raptors, in which he did whatever he wanted to do on the offensive end (hit jumpers, got to the rim, made plays for others, etc.) and was valuable on defense as well.
However, he's also had a couple of disappointing games (against the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics). The Boston game was especially tough, as Wade missed two late free throws that could have won Miami the game.
His per-game averages of 20.2 points, 5.2 assists and 4.5 rebounds are impressive, though, considering Wade admitted his conditioning isn't where he would like it, according to Michael Wallace of ESPN.
Also, his worrisome knees haven't been a major issue, other than him needing to miss Miami's game against the 76ers. However, the decision not to play Wade seemed to be more for rest than anything.
LeBron James has been spectacular in the season's first seven games, yet slightly less spectacular than he's been in the past. That's not James' fault, by the way. A back injury has hindered James' activity and explains why he's averaging 5.9 rebounds per game after averaging 8.0 last year. He's also on pace for his lowest points-per-game and shots-per-game averages of his career (24.6 and 15.3, respectively).
He's still putting up video game-like numbers in some areas (57.9 percent from the field and 47.6 percent from three), but this isn't the James we're used to seeing. He's simply not moving all that well, which was especially evident in the Heat's victory against the Clippers.
Again, he's still having a fantastic season. And when he's healthy, he'll get right back to dominating games to the extent we're used to seeing.