Final Regular-Season Grades for Every Miami Heat Player
Now the real fun begins, as we have put a ribbon on the 2013-14 NBA regular season and can start looking toward the playoffs.
The Miami Heat have plodded through the process of 82 games, proving themselves worthy of the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Heat's mantra was resting its veteran and aging roster throughout that process. This season, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have played their fewest total of minutes together—nearly 600 fewer than last season—since coming together, per NBAwowy.com.
A lot of this roster remains unknown despite 82 chances at discovery. Can the three-point shooters get going in the playoffs? Is Udonis Haslem healthy and rested enough for an entire playoff stretch? Is Wade? Will the defense flip the switch? Can Wade and Bosh pick up their games, or will James have to carry his team to a third title?
However, 82 games is a sufficient sample size to get a feel for this team. To properly look forward, we should first look back on how each Heat player performed this season.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com/Stats, unless otherwise noted, and are accurate as of April 16, 2014.
Follow Wes on Twitter at @wcgoldberg.
Season Averages: 56.7 FG%, 37.9 3FG%, 6.9 REB, 6.4 AST, 27.1 PTS, 7.72 Real Plus-Minus
Although he will likely finish second behind Kevin Durant for the league's MVP award, James has put together another stellar season. He has improved his shooting percentage for the seventh straight season, and his real plus-minus (or RPM) tops all other players, per ESPN.com.
The Heat's offense relies on James seemingly more than ever, as he brings the ball up more often now and is forced to bail out poor offensive possessions with isolations and jumpers. Wade and Bosh are being used much less frequently than in the past, posting their lowest usage percentages of the last four seasons.
With Wade missing so many games and Bosh posting his fewest points per game since his rookie season, it is really quite remarkable how James has fought off a Carmelo-esk, volume-shooter game and maintained his growth offensively.
Season Averages: 54.5 FG%, 4.5 REB, 4.7 AST, 19.0 PTS, 28 games missed
Not counting attendance toward his final grade, Wade has been impressive when he's played. His field-goal percentage is a career high and tops among all NBA guards this season.
I am reluctant to count his missed games against him, because they were not mostly a result of injury, but rather they were a part of the Erik Spoelstra maintenance program.
When rested, Wade is hyperactive on both ends of the court—timing his cuts perfectly on offense and remaining one of the team's best help defenders. With Wade on the court, the Heat are posting higher shooting percentages and playing at a faster pace, per NBAwowy.com.
While LeBron has been a long swig of an excellent craft beer all season, Wade has been a shot of Fireball in between pitchers. That's a Boilermaker, one of the most time-tested staples at the bar, and the Heat want to make it to closing time.
Season Averages: 51.6 FG%, 33.9 3FG%, 6.6 REB, 1.1 AST, 16.2 PTS
Bosh has left a lot to be desired, especially on offense. His numbers aren't bad, by any means, but the way he has settled for three-pointers is discomforting. Since the All-Star break, Bosh is taking nearly two more three-pointers per game.
He often bypasses possible drives or passing opportunities in order to take jumpers from a few feet further than his sweet spot on the elbow.
This is especially problematic since Bosh is shooting among the best in the league from mid-range and just about average from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, a below-league-average 36.8 percent of his shots come from the mid-range zone while he is shooting more three-pointers than most players in the league, according to his shot chart.
Bosh would be better served to take a step or two inward and not be so tempted by the mistress of the three-point line. After all, he is a core member of the Big Three—he shouldn't be regulated to the duties of a Heat role player by being a 3-and-D guy.
Season Averages: 45.4 FG%, 38.5 3FG%, 2.9 REB, 4.9 AST, 1.6 STL, 9.8 PTS
With Wade using up his PTO and Bosh playing passively on offense this season, Mario Chalmers has stepped up as an aggressor when needed. His 504 drives to the basket rank second on the team, and he is converting on 53.1 percent of those drives (comparable to Wade's season average of 53.5 percent).
On a given night, Chalmers could leap Bosh as the team's second or third scorer. In my most recent power rankings, I ranked Chalmers fourth on the team, behind the Big Three, writing:
What has really impressed me about Chalmers, though, is his control of the game. Like Allen, he stretches the floor. After four seasons of the Big Three era, Chalmers has a great feel for what it takes to play alongside the Big Three. He runs the fast break well, finds open teammates and knows his place.
Chalmers has quietly become one of the most important players in the Heat's rotation.
Season Averages: 50.7 FG%, 3.8 REB, 3.8 PTS
Season Averages since March 18: 62.5 FG%, 6.3 REB, 6.6 PTS
I nearly wrote Haslem off at the beginning of the season. His defensive rotations and footwork were slow, he couldn't shoot a lick (38.6 percent from the floor before the NBA All-Star Game), and he was Velcroed to the end of the bench.
Then, on March 18, Erik Spolestra experimented with Haslem for eight minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He provided a spark; he didn't score any points, but he grabbed six rebounds and played good defense.
His fresh legs were needed, and he was inserted into the starting lineup the night after against the Boston Celtics, when he made seven of his eight shots for 14 points to go along with five rebounds and two blocks.
In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, Haslem has been one of the Heat's best players since the mid-terms.
Season Averages: 44.2 FG%, 37.5 3FG%, 2.8 REB, 2.0 AST, 9.6 PTS
We know what Ray Allen is capable of.
Now recovered from a stomach virus that put him in bed for days and shed a couple of pounds off his frame, Allen is starting to find his rhythm again, hitting 42 percent of his three-pointers since returning to the team.
Allen's season hasn't been remarkable, but his 9.6 points per game is good for fourth on the team, a hair below Chalmers at 9.8.
But Allen was brought in for what he can do in the playoffs, not the regular season.
Season Averages: 64.4 FG%, 5.3 REB, 1.3 BLK, 6.6 PTS
Chris Andersen has been one the Heat's most consistent performers this season. You know he will give a hoot on defense, fight for rebounds, give a few good fouls and play within himself on offense.
Defensively, Andersen can devastate an opposing offense by blowing up pick-and-rolls. His recovery time on defense is great, as he is hardly ever out of position despite always moving.
There is a reason why, in an ever-changing lineup, Andersen's position as one of the first guys off the bench has remained unchanged.
Season Averages: 41.5 FG%, 34.3 3FG%, 1.8 REB, 1.0 AST, 4.5 PTS
Rashard Lewis has earned himself more playing time this season by: (1) playing better defense, (2) hitting three-pointers and (3) being a default forward while Shane Battier has struggled.
With a full year in Miami under his belt, it seems that Lewis has gotten the hang of the Heat's blitz-and-help defense. It doesn't hurt that Miami has played a more standard version of defense—sagging on pick-and-rolls and not trapping ball-handlers—for long stretches this season either.
With Battier struggling to hit his three's, and with Haslem giving the Heat a viable reason to move Bosh to the 4, Lewis has recently been getting the nod over Battier.
Season Averages: 38.2 FG%, 34.8 3FG%, 1.9 REB, 0.9 AST, 4.1 PTS
Battier's final season hasn't been his best in a Heat uniform, posting his lowest marks in field-goal percentage, rebounds, assists and points since joining Miami. His recent struggles have gotten him benched in favor of Lewis and Haslem, and Battier will have to compete for playing time in the playoffs.
Battier is still among the team's savviest when it comes to defense, constantly drawing charges and spacing the floor. If he gets his three-point shot going in the playoffs, there is little doubt we will be seeing a lot more of him before he rides off into a Denny's.
Season Averages: 41.4 FG%, 34.5 3FG%, 2.0 REB, 3.0 AST, 6.4 PTS
Here is everything you need to know about Norris Cole's season:
- Pre-All Star Break Averages: 44.7 FG%, 38.3 3FG% 2.3 REB, 3.2 AST, 7.6 PTS
- Post-All Star Break Averages: 34.3 FG%, 27.1 3FG% 1.4 REB, 2.7 AST, 4.4 PTS
One could say Cole Train's season came off the tracks after the All-Star Break.
Cole, who was among the team's best three-point shooters early in the season, has regressed throughout the year. His offensive game has devolved from being able to create drive and mid-range opportunities to shooting contested three-pointers and doing that thing where he drives to the basket and curls out to find someone to pass it to.
Cole's contributions are limited when he isn't hitting jumpers. Until he begins doing so again, expect to see more of the next guy on this list.
Season Averages: 39.4 FG%, 27.9 3FG%, 2.3 REB, 1.8 AST, 4.2 PTS
It took a while for Toney Douglas to get acclimated after being traded to Miami from the Golden State Warriors in January, but he has since started games in place of Wade and has had some impressive moments, especially on defense.
He isn't as used to playing with James, Wade and Bosh as Chalmers and Cole are, but there is something to be said about a guy starting games so soon after being introduced to a system that kept Lewis on the bench for the year and has forced Michael Beasley to the bench as well.
He tends to dribble too much, which hurts the flow of the offense, but playing him at the 2 has helped to curb that. Regardless, his defense is very good, as he is great at badgering ball-handlers and baiting for steals.
In some ways, Douglas is the Haslem of the guard spot for the Heat, as his game is predicated on hustle, good defense and getting rebounds.
Season Averages: 45.6 FG%, 51.9 3FG%, 1.2 REB, 0.5 AST, 4.9 PTS
James Jones is hitting on more than half his three-point shots, but his poor defense is what keeps him on the bench. If it wasn't for his tendency to get his legs shook out from under him when guarding almost anybody, Jones would be getting a lot more playing time.
Still, Spoelstra has been willing to put Jones in when he really needs a three-pointer to space the floor. Should Spo get that itch again, Jones could be a dark horse in the playoffs.
Season Averages: 49.9 FG%, 38.9 3FG%, 3.1 REB, 0.7 AST, 7.9 PTS
Much like the regular season, the Beasley experiment is over. He could still find some time in the playoffs, but that would be a drastic change of direction by Spoelstra.
Not counting the final two games when James and Bosh were resting and Wade was on minutes restriction, Beasley has played just 15 minutes since March 28.
Beasley tends to stop the ball on offense and get lost in defensive rotations. The effort is there, but in his first year under this current system, Beasley has struggled to comprehend everything.
Still, it has less to do with Beasley and more do to with Spoelstra having better options. Lewis, as I wrote before, is playing well and has been given some of Beasley's minutes. In fact, Spoelstra told Ira Winderman of the South-Florida Sun Sentinel, "I feel very secure with Rashard in the lineup, because we can play our game."
Season Averages: 55.1 FG%, 2.3 REB, 0.6 BLK, 2.9 PTS
It's hard to give Oden anything less than a "C" considering he is coming back after a four-year absence and a bazillion knee surgeries.
However, if this wasn't Oden and just someone else who played the way Oden played during his brief time on the floor, I would probably give that player a "D."
So let's pretend Oden isn't Oden. Let's name him Nedo.
Nedo can get a block here and there and alter shots with his shear size, but he is constantly out of position on defense. Whether he is taking a step in the wrong direction or getting turned around by ball movement, he seems slow to adjust to the game as it happens.
On offense, Nedo doesn't contribute much. His scoring move is basically a standing dunk. Even at 7'0", 270 pounds, he consistently gets beat on the glass, grabbing just 40.8 percent of contested rebounds (Battier comes down with 42.3 percent).
But that's Nedo; Oden's story is still one of success.