The Miami Heat had an interesting first month of the season. They finished November with a record of 13-3, with their three losses coming to teams that are currently a combined 20-38.
They underwent rotation changes, including a demotion for a widely respected Heat player (Udonis Haslem) and a promotion for the NBA's once-problem child (Michael Beasley).
Now, it's time to see what surprising and compelling storylines December has in store for Miami; we're going to make some bold Heat predictions for the remainder of the calendar year.
After playing sparingly in his first season with the Heat, Rashard Lewis became a rotation player this year due to his shooting ability. He began the season shooting 10-of-21 from three-point range and was a valuable performer for this team.
However, things have gone south for Lewis since the hot start. He's hit just two of 15 three-pointers in Miami's past nine games.
And unfortunately for Rashard, he doesn't bring much to the team other than his shot. He doesn't rebound the ball well and isn't a strong defender.
Coach Erik Spoelstra has stuck with Lewis through his struggles, but until the forward turns things around quickly, that might not last much longer.
Simply put, Udonis Haslem has done nothing this season to make himself worthy of being a rotation player for a team this good.
He struggled in essentially every aspect of the game at the start of the season and has since been shunned for the most part. He's made just two appearances since Nov. 20, only playing because of Chris Bosh having major foul trouble against the Toronto Raptors and Chris Andersen having to miss a game against the Chicago Bulls.
However, Haslem could soon get more of a chance to prove he's capable of contributing to the Heat like he used to.
The Heat are the worst rebounding team in the league by far (35.7 rebounds per game), and it was only last year that Udonis was Miami's most efficient player on the glass (10.3 boards per 36 minutes).
Haslem's not an offensive asset, but if Lewis isn't going to be either, then it's worth it for Spo to see if UD can come in and give Miami some rebounding relief.
Michael Beasley has been on fire this season. The former No. 2 overall pick in 2008 ranks fourth on the Heat in points per game, despite averaging just 17.1 minutes per game. He's shooting 54.6 percent from the floor and 50.0 percent from three and has also been one of Miami's most efficient rebounders (7.9 boards per 36 minutes).
Beasley can't keep this up...can he? This is a guy who, on a horrible Phoenix Suns team, shot 40.5 percent from the field and 31.3 percent on three-pointers last year.
While we likely will see some regression of Beasley's remarkable numbers, he's going to continue being an efficient and helpful player in December.
Beasley has fit in well with the Heat; his teammates seem to really want him to succeed, and he seems to want to play well for them.
Also, playing in the Heat's fantastic offensive system has had an incredibly positive impact on how he approaches the game. We don't see Beasley taking nearly as many ill-advised shots as we used to. He's playing much smarter basketball, and he's here to stay.
The Heat often look like they are on cruise control during the regular season.
We know the type of energy and intensity this team can dominate opponents with, but we don't see it that often until playoff time. Make no mistake, though: We're going to see Playoff Miami Heat on Dec. 10 and Dec. 18, when Miami takes on the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers (17-2).
The Heat know this is almost certainly who they are going to face again in the Eastern Conference Finals this year; they know how good Indiana is and how tough it is to beat them. Also, they've heard all of the praise the Pacers have gotten this season. The Heat are going to be motivated to remind everyone they are still back-to-back champions and the favorites to win it again this year.
And the fact that Paul George, who just won Eastern Conference Player of the Month for November, has some talking about him as a legitimate threat to LeBron in the MVP race isn't a good sign for Indiana. LeBron cares about accolades and his place in history; he is going to come out ready to show he's still the NBA's king.
The Heat haven't exactly gotten off to a blazing start in December. In their first three games, they beat the Charlotte Bobcats by just one point and lost to the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls.
But the tide is about to turn. The Big Three Heat have historically done a fantastic job of responding after undergoing some struggles. The most recent example: After an awful loss to the Celtics at home gave them a record of 4-3 in November, Miami rattled off an 11-game winning streak.