With the Miami Heat now having played more than half of their games this regular season (32-12), it's time to hand out some grades!
We're going to take a look at all players on the roster and grade them relative to preseason expectations. If Norris Cole receives a higher grade than LeBron James that doesn't mean we think Cole Train has played better than the King, only that Norris exceeded our expectations to a greater extent than LBJ did.
Also, while we may tend to give more weight to how the players have performed recently, these are still season-long grades, so how everyone performed in November and December matters.
Sound good? Let's get started!
Note No. 1: Defensive statistics are from mysynergysports.com.
Note No. 2: All other stats are from Basketball Reference unless stated otherwise.
Udonis Haslem (Grade: F)
It's been a disappointing season for UD, to say the least. Haslem began the season as a rotation member, but that quickly changed after he struggled to rebound the ball, looked slow defensively and didn't appear confident in his mid-range jumper.
Now, the only instances in which Haslem, one of the most respected Heat players of all time, sees the floor is when another rotation player is out due to injury. Quite a fall it's been.
Roger Mason Jr. (Grade: C)
Miami brought in Mason Jr. this offseason for his shooting ability.
While he's been impressive with his jumper at times (he shot 44.4 percent from outside in November), Mason Jr. hasn't been consistent enough.
He finds himself currently shooting just 37.3 percent from the field (25-67) and 35.4 percent from beyond the arc (17-48). The Heat could benefit from Mason Jr. regaining his stroke with the uncertainty surrounding Dwyane Wade's health right now.
Greg Oden (Grade: B+)
The fact that Oden has even touched the floor at this point makes this a successful first half of the season for the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft. He's played in five games with his debut coming on Jan. 18.
While Oden's numbers aren't flashy (he's averaging 3.4 points and two rebounds in 8.4 MPG), he's moved well and made plays on both ends of the court that have displayed his potential impact for this team.
Pat Riley and Co. have to feel good about their decision to bring him aboard last August at the moment.
James Jones (Grade: B)
Jones is the epitome of a one-trick pony. But to his credit, he's great at that trick: shooting threes.
In very limited time (70 minutes total), Jones has knocked down 11 of 20 three-point attempts.
He's not skilled enough to warrant a bigger role, but as long as he can knock down his jumper he will have a spot on this team.
Toney Douglas (Grade: N/A)
Since trading for him on Jan. 15, the Heat have yet to play Douglas.
While there have been some bright moments, Rashard Lewis' second season with the Heat hasn't gone all that great.
His main asset to Miami is his three-point shot, but he's shot just 34.7 percent from outside through the first 44 games. He's been reliable from the right corner, but that's about it.
That's an issue, considering his lack of production in the game's other areas.
Lewis averages just 3.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is laughable for someone of his size (6'10'). On the defensive side of the ball, he allows opponents to shoot 41.6 percent from the field against him, which ranks 137th.
Lewis has seen his minutes reduced lately—he's averaged 17.3 MPG this season but has played less than 10 minutes in three of Miami's last four games—and it's easy to see why.
Given how low the expectations were for Michael Beasley's return to Miami, it's hard not to view his season as a rousing success.
He's been one of the Heat's more prolific scorers, averaging 9.1 points (in 16.5 MPG) on 50.9 percent shooting from the field. His ability to score points through a variety of ways—he's hitting 46.7 percent of his spot-up jumpers and 60.9 percent of his attempts within five feet of the rim, according to NBA.com—is a welcome skill to Miami's bench unit.
Beasley hasn't been all that effective defensively (opponents are shooting 36.7 percent against him). However, it's clear he's giving much more effort on that end than he has in years past; that's reason to believe he will improve in that area as the year goes along.
For the past couple of years the Heat have asked Shane Battier to do the dirty work and guard players with a side advantage over him, and it looks like at 35 the nightly pounding is starting to take its toll.
He is getting pushed around on the defensive end; opponents have converted 56.3 percent on post-up shots against him.
On the offensive end, Battier is shooting just 36.6 percent from outside, which is a sizable decrease from his 43.0 percent conversion rate last season.
However, things are looking up for Battier. He's shooting 47.8 percent from three this month and is now knocking down more than 40 percent of his threes from each corner for the season, according to NBA.com.
Chris "Birdman" Andersen is 35 but continues to play nothing like it.
Playing with an unmatched level of energy, Birdman has been Miami's top rebounder (8.7 boards per 36 minutes) and shot-blocker (2.2 blocks per 36 minutes).
And while he might not get a ton of credit for being an offensive player, his ability to finish at the rim (65.9 percent shooting from the field) is great for the Heat's offense.
Andersen has become even more valuable as of late, with coach Erik Spoelstra opting to play bigger lineups in recent weeks. With Andersen and Chris Bosh able to seamlessly play with one another, it's clear the Heat are even more versatile than we thought.
Look out, Mario Chalmers. Norris Cole might just be proving that he should be the point guard of the future for the Heat, a topic B/R's Wes Goldberg recently touched on.
In his third season, Norris has improved in just about every aspect of his game. He's developed into a valuable shot-up shooter (43.2 percent shooting in spot-up situations, according to mysynergysports.com) and has been deadly from beyond the arc (39.2 percent).
He's a better passer (4.7 assists per 36 minutes) and defender than he was in years past.
Thanks to his aggressive nature and quickness, opponents are shooting 35.3 percent from the field when Cole guards them.
At 25, Cole's future is looking awfully bright.
It would be a mistake to count out the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history. But there's no denying Ray Allen's play this season has been discouraging.
Allen's shooting just 26.0 percent from three this month and 34.6 percent from three this season, which would be the worst season-long percentage of his career.
With Allen not being a valuable defensive player at 38, it's imperative he shoot the ball well to be a plus for this team.
Erik Spoelstra recently told DeAntae Prince of Sporting News the Heat aren't going to be hesitant to feed Allen, despite his struggles.
“He’s a veteran player," Spoelstra said. "He knows how to impact a game and it’s not the first time he’s had a stretch where the ball hasn’t gone in.
"He’s know that. He’s not going to overreact to it. Our guys will continue to show faith in him. Hopefully, everyone else that we’re playing against will think this is a bigger deal than it is and maybe leave him open.”
In Miami's past four games he's hit 9 of 16 three-pointers. Hopefully for the Heat's sake, this hot streak signals the return of Jesus Shuttlesworth.
While Cole has shown great strides, Mario Chalmers is arguably having the best year of his career as well.
Chalmers is doing exactly what the Heat need from him; he's hitting threes (38.8 percent), setting up his superstar teammates (6.3 assists per 36 minutes) and playing hard on defense (opponents shooting 35.7 percent from the field against him).
Chalmers is still turning the ball over too often (2.8 per 36 minutes), but his contributions in other areas outweigh the bad of his turnovers.
Heat players still yell at 'Rio from time to time, but this is certainly isn't the same old Mario Chalmers.
Few in the NBA are playing better basketball than Chris Bosh is right now. He's being aggressive, and the Heat are much better off because of it.
In January, Bosh is averaging 18.7 points on 55.5 percent shooting from the field and 40.0 percent from three, while also grabbing 7.2 rebounds per game.
While Bosh's best play has come this month, he's been great all season long as well.
He continues to fulfill the duties of his space-creating role perfectly, as he's converted 78 of 150 shot attempts from 15-19 feet away from the basket, according to NBA.com.
The Heat have needed someone to step up this season with Wade's health woes, and Bosh has answered the call.
If these grades were done a couple of weeks ago, Wade likely would have received an "A." The Heat had been sitting Wade out of games here and there, and it resulted in some fantastic play from the three-time champion.
But that was then, and this is now. Wade has missed five of the Heat's past eight games and has scored just 24 points since Jan. 9. The concern-meter for Wade's knees has increased drastically.
Still, that doesn't completely take away all the great Dwyane did before this recent stretch. For much of the season he looked every bit like a superstar, and he is still averaging 18.5 points on 53.7 percent shooting from the field, 4.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists.
Given how average he's been on the defensive end, how he's taking fewer shots per game and how he's recording fewer rebounds and assists this season than last year, there's an argument to be made that LeBron James is coasting this season.
Yet, he's still averaging 26.0 points on 58.0 percent shooting from the field and 37.5 percent from outside, 6.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists. Simply put, he's an unstoppable force, capable of doing anything he wants from everywhere on the court.
While Kevin Durant is playing remarkable basketball right now, the best player in the league still resides in South Beach.