They stand at a relatively modest 34-13, three games off the Indiana Pacers' lead in the East.
But even the best can get better, which is why the reigning champs should be active at this season's trade deadline.
What's Left to Improve?
Like last season, Miami is suffering a bit on the boards, where they rank 19th in defensive rebounding percentage and dead last in offensive boarding percentage.
Clearly, those similar rankings last year didn't stop them from taking home a second consecutive ring.
Though facing an even tougher Indiana Pacers team this season in a likely quest for the Finals, strength up front will be even more crucial than it was last season.
Another potential championship hindrance that has only grown stronger lies within Dwyane Wade's ambiguous health situation.
Wade's knees have been a reason for concern in Miami for some time now, but even Wade himself has admitted, for the first time, that the situation may need some sort of action.
While mainly dismissing the topic, Wade briefly took it a step further than usual by telling the Sun-Sentinel, "I'm not going to make a bigger deal out of it than it is, and I'm not going act like it's nothing. It's very well documented."
This coming after he was quoted before the season by USA Today, saying, "When the season starts, I won't be where I want to be. But as the season goes on, I'll get stronger and stronger and better."
Watching the former All-Star play recently tells half the story.
He's been great over his last three games, averaging 22 points per game on 65 percent shooting. But looking back to when he missed five of the team's seven games from Jan. 10-23, Miami has to start questioning if Wade is, in fact, getting stronger.
Replacing Wade within the offense will be impossible, but the team has been on the lookout (via ESPN) for another ball-handler to provide him with sufficient rest without giving up much in terms of performance.
What Trade Chips do they Have?
Miami's three highest-paid players are going nowhere.
It's hard to imagine a deal where they move 38-year-old Ray Allen, starting point guard Mario Chalmers, the easily distracted Michael Beasley or reclamation project Greg Oden.
This leaves roughly half the roster reasonably expendable, most of which have salaries in the million-dollar range.
|Heat Trade Candidates|
As far as draft picks go, between 2014 and 2016, the Heat are permitted to trade their 2014 second-rounder, 2015 second-rounder and 2016 first-round selection.
Shane Battier would certainly bring value to any contender, but it's hard to imagine a deal where Miami agrees to part with his defense and three-point shooting, which fill his current role perfectly.
Little used players, like Roger Mason, Rashard Lewis, James Jones and Toney Douglas are candidates, but all have minimal value.
Lifetime Heat vet Udonis Haslem has fallen completely out of Erik Spoelstra's mix this season at 33, but his contract is so unfavorable that Pat Riley would have trouble moving it if he tried.
So What's the Deal?
|Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers & Houston Rockets Potential Deal|
|Miami Gets||LA Gets||Houston Gets|
|C Chris Kaman||SF James Jones||SF Wesley Johnson|
|PG Jordan Farmar||PF Rashard Lewis||2015 2nd-Rounder from MIA|
|SF Omri Casspi|
|ESPN Trade Machine|
Why Miami Does It
It's a fairly complex trade, but it's simple from a Heat standpoint.
It covers their two main needs: a rebounding, all-around big, and an experienced ball-handler who can log minutes at both guard spots.
They'd be losing James Jones—whose best asset in this deal is his salary to make it work financially—Rashard Lewis, whose career is on its last legs, and a second-round pick in 2015. None of the three assets are particularly valuable right now while Miami is trying to nail down a three-peat.
Chris Kaman is a traditional, post-up center who hasn't exactly seen eye-to-eye with Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni this year.
The 31-year-old is averaging just 17 minutes per game this year—more than 20 below his career average. On just a one-year deal, a change of scenery is definitely in store. This just hastens the process.
Kaman has averaged eight boards per game over his 11-year career, and despite limited minutes with the Lakers, he's posted his best rebounding percentage numbers in six years.
The 7-footer has a jump shot that extends out near the three-point line. He's shooting 50 percent on Js in between 16 feet and the three-point arc.
In Jordan Farmar, the Heat won't be getting anyone flashy, but will get a seven-year veteran with playoff success in his background. He's averaged just 20 minutes over his career, and has been a reliable backup guard in the past which is what Miami is looking for.
This season, over 22 games, his stats normalize to 15 points and eight assists per 36 minutes. He's also a career 37 percent shooter from three.
The move would also allow Norris Cole to play a bit more naturally at the 2-guard position and focus more on creating looks for himself rather than forcing facilitation.
Farmar would, obviously, in no way be replacing Wade's production, but rather assuming some point duties so that Cole, and even Mario Chalmers, could spend some time in scoring positions, helping shoulder any potential load left if Wade misses time.
Why Los Angeles Does It
The Lakers have no real use for Kaman under D'Antoni's system.
According to Synergy, the team runs post-ups for just 11 percent of its offense plays. Post-ups have made up at least 25 percent of Kaman's offense every year since at least 2009-10 (probably longer than that, but that's as far as Synergy's data dates back to).
So, yeah, you can see why the two aren't exactly getting along.
Parting with Farmar would hardly be noticeable either, now that Steve Nash and Steve Blake have both returned, and Kendall Marshall has emerged as a rotation-caliber point. Farmar is the odd man out of the point-guard rotation at the moment, so he'd surely welcome a move, too.
In James Jones and Rashard Lewis, Los Angeles is receiving two guys they may as well waive upon acquiring. Their combined $2.9 million of expiring salary helped match Kaman's number. That's about the extent of their contributions here.
However, from the Houston Rockets, LA is getting back a productive, D'Antoni-style power forward in Omri Casspi.
The Israeli forward has shot 36 percent from three this season but up near 40 percent over his last 12 games.
At the 4, he's struggled to defend stronger players, according to 82games.com, but has held small forwards to a PER under 10 and an effective field-goal percentage of 40.6. Not that D'Antoni would really care either way, but still.
Most important from the Lakers' viewpoint than any of this is that all three players' deals can be wiped off the books before this summer when the team plans on making its pitch to LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
James and Lewis are expiring contracts, while Casspi's $1 million salary is not guaranteed for 2014-15 if waived by August 5 (via ShamSports).
Why Houston Does It
In Francisco Garcia, the Rockets already have a type of stretch-4 that they like coming off the bench.
He's sidelined at the moment with a knee ailment, but looks to return in the coming days, so the injury doesn't weigh into the deal all that much.
Garcia has started four games and is shooting around 34 percent from distance this season, though he's a career 36 percent maker from that range.
The collection of a future pick in the deal would surely work for Daryl Morey, who has never been one to turn down a young, inexpensive asset.
The acquisition of Wesley Johnson would be a fine replacement in the short term for Casspi, along with Garcia, on the depth chart.
He's shot 42 percent from the field this season and 36 percent from three in 27 minutes this season. Like most other players on the Lakers, his deal expires at the end of the season.
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