The Miami Heat have rebounded from a rocky start and found their groove. They extended their winning streak to eight games on Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers and are now on pace to win as many games (66) as they did a season ago.
What may have gone unnoticed, though, with all the recent winning is that a few individuals aren't exceeding expectations. These players need to pick up their games if the Heat are going to land the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference (the Indiana Pacers are currently on top with a 14-1 record) and ultimately win their third straight championship.
Let's take a look at these players' performances this season and determine what they need to do better going forward for the Heat to reach their goals.
Let's get this out of the way: Bosh is by no means having a disappointing season. He's actually having a very good season.
He remains a tremendous asset for the Heat's floor spacing and is shooting the ball nicely with an effective field-goal percentage of 56.9 (52.9 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from three).
As evidenced by his shot chart below, he's contributing from all over the floor:
Still, he is not contributing much on the glass. With their small-ball style, the Heat aren't built to be a team that rebounds well, which makes the work that Bosh can do on the glass much more important. He's one of the few true big men in Miami, and the team needs him to do at least a decent job of rebounding.
So much for that. Bosh is averaging just 5.6 rebounds per game (7.1 per 36 minutes).
He's on pace to have his least productive and efficient season on the glass of his career, and the Heat are suffering because of it. Miami averages a league-worst 35.9 rebounds per game (the second worst rebounding team, the Milwaukee Bucks, average 39.4).
Those rebounding woes have cost Miami, too. In the Heat's three losses this year, they've been outrebounded by a combined 27.
This isn't to say Bosh is solely to blame for Miami's rebounding issues, but he's a big part of them. One of the reasons why the Heat were a loss away from elimination in the Eastern Conference Finals last season was because Roy Hibbert dominated Bosh on the boards.
Bosh is never going to be a great rebounder or approach a double-digit rebound average again; however, it's reasonable to expect seven or eight boards a night from the center.
Also, the Heat would benefit from him being more aggressive offensively. We talked about how efficient he has been from the field, but he's just not shooting the ball enough. He's averaging just 9.9 attempts per game after averaging 12.3 last year and 14.2 the year prior.
I'm not advocating that he play outside the Heat's system, which is to constantly move the ball and look for a perfect shot. But oftentimes a jumper from Bosh is better than anything else the Heat are going to find, and he needs to start pulling the trigger more frequently.
Again, he has had a good start to the season. However, there is room for improvement.
After being an afterthought in his first year in Miami, Lewis has become a full-fledged member of the Heat's rotation this season. And he is an important member, given Udonis Haslem's struggles.
Lewis was given his improved role for his ability to spread the floor and knock down open jumpers.
He began the season doing just that. He was shooting 10-of-21 (47.6 percent) from three-point land after the Heat's Nov. 16 game against the Charlotte Bobcats. Since then, he has gone ice cold, not making an outside jumper. He's currently 10-of-30 (33.3 percent) on three-point attempts, and the area that he's struggling the most from beyond the arc—the left corner—is where he most often spots up.
Lewis has to get his shot working. He isn't a particularly strong defender, and he's a horrific rebounder for his size (he's 6'10" and averages 4.5 rebounds per 36 minutes). His value primarily stems from his shooting.
The Heat don't want to bench Lewis and turn back to Haslem, who lost his rotation spot due to struggles in just about every major facet of the game—rebounding, defending and shooting.
Miami's shooters are so valuable to the offensive system, and Lewis has the potential to be a big part of that group. Once an excellent mid-range shooter, Haslem isn't that guy in 2013.
But the Heat don't have a lot of alternatives other than seeing if Haslem can return to form (from a defense and rebounding perspective), if Lewis continues to launch bricks.