Year-End Grades for Every Key Miami Heat Player

Wes GoldbergContributor IIDecember 24, 2013

Year-End Grades for Every Key Miami Heat Player

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    By now everyone knows who the Miami Heat are, a space-and-pace team revolving everything they do around LeBron James. James, the reigning MVP and two-time NBA Champion is backed up by Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and a slew of three-point shooters.

    The Heat have one of the best records in the NBA, and yet people are already casting red flags, killing off Wade's knee like a Twitter epidemic and elevating the Indiana Pacers as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. 

    Unlike the improved Pacers, there are no surprises with the Heat. Maybe that's why they have been, in some ways, overlooked. Regardless, 2013 has been a good year for Miami, and at year's end, I'll get hot as a  teacher and grade them on their individual performances this season.

    I won't be naughty and hide my formula, either. Here is the rubric:

         

    Poor (0 points)

    Average (1 point)Great (2 points)
    Offense   
    Defense   
    Improvement/regression   
    Fit in system   
    TOTAL   

     

    A=8; B=6-7; C=4-5; D=2-3; F=1

    Improvement, or regression, will be judged by the player's year-to-year performance from the 2012-13 season to this one. How the player fits in Erik Spoelstra's pace-and-space system will be the final category (sorry Udonis Haslem).

    Each key player will be judged according to this rubric. Offense will take into account the player's offensive duties and his efficiency and impact in regard to those duties. Defense will measure how that player guards his position, plays in space and his consistency on help defense.

    So sit down, shut up and listen. No texting. Class has begun.

     

    All statistics are accurate as of December 24, 2013.

LeBron James

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images
     

    Poor (0 points)

    Average (1 point)Great (2 points)
    Offense   X
    Defense   X
    Improvement/regression   X
    Fit in system   X
    TOTAL   8

     

    Grade: A

    LeBron James has been sensational all season. The best two-way player in the NBA has kept up his cyborg-like efficiency and is hitting his spots and shots more consistently than Arvind Mahankali sounding out words in Yiddish. 

    His defense? That has been spot-on, too. Heat fans can hardly predict who will be playing on a night-to-night basis and who will be calling in sick, but they can always count on James to guard whomever he needs to in order to give his team a chance.

    Has James improved? Well, I would be willing to exempt Mr. James from this category. Except he has. His field-goal percentage is up to .601 for the season, and his three-point shooting, now at a .413 clip, continues to improve. 

    As for his fit in the system—he is the system.

    James skipped four grades on his way to the NBA and hasn't looked back since. You get an "A," Mr. James.

Dwyane Wade

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images
     

    Poor (0 points)

    Average (1 point)Great (2 points)
    Offense   X
    Defense   X
    Improvement/regression  X 
    Fit in system   X
    TOTAL   7

     

    Grade: B 

    Dwyane Wade has spotty attendance, but when he is present, he is at the top of his class.

    Wade made the honor roll, winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week. From December 16 through December 22, he averaged 25.3 points per game on 60.6 percent shooting.

    For the season, Wade's averages are down, but his efficient shooting continues. Off rest, he looks explosive and willing on both ends of the court. He is arguably the teams best help defender, and his dynamic cutting takes the Heat offense to the next level. 

    That extra gear people talk about is directly related to Wade's performance. Because he cannot give that performance on a nightly basis, he gets a "B."

Chris Bosh

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images
     

    Poor (0 points)

    Average (1 point)Great (2 points)
    Offense   X
    Defense  X 
    Improvement/regression X  
    Fit in system   X
    TOTAL   5

     

    Grade: C

    He hasn't been any better than last season (in fact, many of his basic stats have dropped off), but that doesn't mean Chris Bosh isn't still one of the more efficient offensive players in the game. Bosh is still shooting better than 52 percent and is continuing to stretch the defense to make room for James to work in the post and Wade to make his cuts.

    Bosh is still overmatched in the paint, and early games against Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers haven't helped him look any better.

    That said, Bosh is the guy Spoelstra refers to as the most important piece to the offense. Even if that might be a tad over stated, Bosh is a major part of what the Heat do. He may be playing out of place, but he fits in perfectly with the Heat.

    I'll give him some extra credit: C+.  

Shane Battier

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images
     

    Poor (0 points)

    Average (1 point)Great (2 points)
    Offense  X 
    Defense  X 
    Improvement/regression X  
    Fit in system   X
    TOTAL   4

     

    Grade: C

    Shane Battier has been like the kid who starts hanging out with the wrong crowd and lets his grades slip. I mean, just look at his shot chart.

    I would take my red pen and mark it up, but it doesn't look like I'll need to do that. Benefit of the doubt says that Battier will revert back to the mean and become a reliable three-point shooter out of the corner again. We have seen plenty of Battier cold streaks in the past to know that he, at some point, comes out of it. 

    Battier's defense has not been up to Battier standards this season. Age is catching up to him as he seems a step slower this season. Battier is on the decline, but he is still a great fit with what the Heat are trying to do and figures to remain a key member of the team for at least the rest of the season.

Mario Chalmers

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
     

    Poor (0 points)

    Average (1 point)Great (2 points)
    Offense  X 
    Defense   X
    Improvement/regression  X 
    Fit in system   X
    TOTAL   6

     

    Grade: B

    Mario Chalmers' role on offense, by design or not, is to hit his threes and be aggressive when Wade or the others can't. 

    Chalmers has been on fire from the corners—the spot many teams, including the Heat, are targeting—hitting 18 of 39 corner threes this season. From everywhere else on the floor, however, not so much. Along with Allen and James, Chalmers is the only other player on the Heat to make at least 30 three-pointers.

    Chalmers has been a good defender and leads the team in total steals this year. 

Ray Allen

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    Ron Hoskins/Getty Images
     

    Poor (0 points)

    Average (1 point)Great (2 points)
    Offense   X
    Defense  X 
    Improvement/regression  X 
    Fit in system   X
    TOTAL   6

     

    Grade: B

    Something funny has happened with Ray Allen this season. Opponents are chasing Allen, arguably the greatest three-point shooter of all time, off the line. Allen has responded by efficiently getting to the rim.

    And he's even dunking.

    Allen is attempting about 25 percent of his shots from the basket area this season, compared to 21.23 percent in his 2013-13 campaign, per NBA.com statistics. With the erratic attendance of Wade, Allen driving to the rim has been a welcomed additional threat.

    His approach to the game is hallowed, and Allen's understanding of what is needed and when is well on display most every night. 

Chris Andersen

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
     

    Poor (0 points)

    Average (1 point)Great (2 points)
    Offense  X 
    Defense   X
    Improvement/regression   X
    Fit in system   X
    TOTAL   7

     

    Grade: B

    It seems like Chris "Birdman" Andersen has been with the Heat forever, doesn't it? But this will be Andersen's first full season with the Heat. It is tough to comprehend Miami winning the title last season without his contributions and toughness off the bench.

    This season, Andersen started where he left off but with a new beard—that beard, though. 

    Andersen's willingness to get as physical as the game dictates is sorely needed on the finesse Heat team. His offense is underrated, and his defense and rebounding abilities in the paint are tops on the team. 

    Quickly a fan favorite, Andersen earns good marks across the board.

Norris Cole

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    Poor (0 points)

    Average (1 point)Great (2 points)
    Offense   X
    Defense   X
    Improvement/regression   X
    Fit in system  X 
    TOTAL   7

     

    Grade: B

    Norris Cole gets "Most Improved Player" honors for the Heat in 2013. He has been more aggressive on offense and has improved drastically in regard to his on-ball defense. 

    What has been the most impressive development, however, is Cole's passing.

    Spoelstra has continued with his strategy of going with the hot hand at point guard, and it is no coincidence that Cole's minutes have increased. (Although Spoelstra has used the combination of Cole and Chalmers in more than 70 minutes this season, which should account for some of the bump in playing time.)

    Cole, who signed an extension before the season, has earned it. 

Michael Beasley

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
     

    Poor (0 points)

    Average (1 point)Great (2 points)
    Offense   X
    Defense  X 
    Improvement/regression   X
    Fit in system   X
    TOTAL   7

     

    Grade: B

    It is almost as if Michael Beasley got held back and is repeating the same grade.

    His second stint looks more promising than the first. His Heat comeback has doubled as a resurrection of sorts. Beasley is not asked to be one of his team's top scorers, like he was in during his first lap with the Heat and with Phoenix and Minnesota. His role now is to be a shot-creator not only for himself but also for his teammates. 

    This quote, via Christina De Nicola of Fox Sports, sums up Beasley's new role.

    The second group kind of thrives off me being aggressive. We got a lot of shooters out there. The dump-down pass for (Chris Andersen) is open a lot, but those shots are only open if somebody's aggressive. Just making it a point trying to get the team going and get the offense running.

    From last season's team to this one, Beasley is the only significant difference. He gives the Heat something they have been missing during the Big Three era—someone who can come off the bench and create his own shot. 

    His defense can still improve within the confines of the Heat's system, but he is already better on that end than James Jones, who has been on the team for this entire process.

    Beasley gets an "A" for effort and a "B" overall. 

Udonis Haslem

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
     

    Poor (0 points)

    Average (1 point)Great (2 points)
    Offense X  
    Defense X  
    Improvement/regression X  
    Fit in system X  
    TOTAL   0

     

    Grade: F

    Loyal, fierce and one of the best even in Heat history, Udonis Haslem is also aging. His minutes are down significantly, and he does not enter some games even with the Heat's obvious weakness in the front court.

    Haslem showed signs of slowing down last season. A step slower, he was often out of position on defense and could not content rebounds he once grabbed. Never a major threat on offense, Haslem has become a liability on both ends of the court. 

    This is like your dad going back to high school and trying to be cool. The jacket with patches just doesn't work anymore. Haslem is a jacket with patches.