It's surely been an interesting start to the 2013-14 season for the Miami Heat.
A 7-3 start to the season could have been expected; the way they reached that mark couldn't have been. While Miami has won games against the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Clippers, they've dropped contests to the Boston Celtics (at home) and the Philadelphia 76ers.
But it's not just the results of a couple of games here and there that have us scratching our heads in a surprised state; it's the play of a couple of Miami's players. The "Big Three" are playing to their normal level, but some of Miami's role players aren't, and that's been both a good and bad thing for the Heat.
Let's take an in-depth look at those surprising performers!
Beasley might not just be the most surprising Heat player, he could be the most surprising player in the NBA. He has looked more than rejuvenated in his second stint with the Heat.
Beasley is absolutely tearing it up on the offensive end. The former Kansas State Wildcat is averaging 11.2 points per game in the five contests he's appeared in, which ranks fourth on Miami behind the "Big Three." And he's only playing 14.2 minutes per game, so his scoring total is even more impressive.
Beasley is averaging 28.4 points per 36 minutes, which is better than LeBron James (27.3) and every other player on the Heat.
Also, it's not as if Beasley is just jacking up shots and putting up these points as a result of a high volume of attempts.
Beasley has been an efficiency machine (That's a sentence I thought I'd never write, given just how inefficient a player he was the previous couple of seasons.) He's shooting 59.5 percent from the field and 50.0 percent in three-point attempts.
Stunning, but maybe not even the most surprising part of Beasley's season. That distinction could go to the work he's putting on the defensive end. He's exerting just as much energy on defense that he is on offense and it's really shown.
With his immense physical gifts, Beasley has always had the potential to play great defense, but he had never done so before this year.
We're still very early into the season, and Beasley isn't even a full-fledged member of Miami's rotation (yet), but to this point he's looking like one of the bigger steals of the offseason (the Heat signed him for the veterans minimum).
It's hard to be completely stunned by Cole's performance this year, given how impressive he was at the end of last season and into the playoffs.
But, given how offensively inept he was throughout his rookie year and the first half of the 2012-13 season, we're surprised at just how good of a player Cole has become in such a short amount of time.
The 24-year-old Cole has improved in nearly every aspect of his game.
Take a look at his stats from this year compared to those of last season.
|2012-13 (per 36 minutes)||10.1||42.1||35.7||3.7||2.9||1.3||2.4|
|2013-14 (per 36 minutes)||11.0||49.2||43.8||4.4||4.7||1.2||1.8|
Not only does Cole now have a reliable shot, he's a reliable playmaker as well. When he's driving to the hoop these days, he's making the right decision at a much higher rate than he used to, whether he's taking it himself (and finishing) or finding the open man.
Cole used to be fast and reckless. Today, he's fast and under control. The fact that's he's also now rebounding the ball is just a bonus. He's still the same old tenacious defender, too.
Cole has evolved into a true asset for Miami on both sides of the ball. Per 100 possessions, the Heat score 17.4 points more than the opponents do when he's on the floor, according to 82games.com.
Cole was good last year, but he's taken his game to a whole new level to start the 2013-14 season.
Now 33, Haslem is aging, so naturally his play has declined over the past couple of years. But Haslem's game hasn't just declined to start the season; it's fallen off of a cliff.
Let's begin with what has long been Haslem's greatest ability: rebounding. He's averaging just 5.6 boards per 36 minutes this season. And it's not as if his teammates are stealing his rebounding opportunities, either. Miami ranks dead last in rebounds per game (34.9) this season.
Also, keep in mind that Haslem grabbed 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes last season and we just showed you that 6'2" Norris Cole snags 4.7.
He hasn't been a help on the defensive end, either. Simply put, he's looked slow.
And offensively, he's not finishing around the basket. Haslem is averaging just three points per game on 42.1 percent shooting from the field (career 49.4 percent shooter).
Haslem has an excuse for his poor play. He told Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel this weekend he's been dealing with back spasms since before the season-opener against the Chicago Bulls and they greatly affected his play (he's missed Miami's past four games because of the injury).
"I mean, I couldn't move like I wanted to. I wasn't very mobile," he said, with scoring and rebounding numbers that reflect as much. "You just never know how much it affects you until you feel healthy again, then you see."
So, there remains the strong possibility that a now healthy Haslem (he plans to play Tuesday night) will return to form, being a rebounding and defensive helper. Still, there's no denying that it's been jarring to watch Haslem struggle to the extent he has up to this point.
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