South Beach Static: 5 Recurring Miami Heat Problems and Their Solutions
Take a look, Heat fans. It's not a pretty sight and it sure isn't what you expected coming into the season.The last time you thought you'd see the Heat one game above .500 was supposed to be 2-1, but after two extremely upsetting home losses against the Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics, the Heat find themselves only at 5-4 two weeks into the season.
With a number of opportunities to make their statement and presence felt among the NBA elite, the Heat have yet to defeat anyone of the sort aside from their 26 point victory over the Orlando Magic. They fell to the Celtics twice already, blew a 22 point lead against the Jazz, and played catch-up all night with the New Orleans Hornets before falling.
Those aren't losses to be disappointed over considering each team are extremely competitive, but this Heat team has the potential to be 8-1 with the season opener being the lone loss. On a team equipped with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, nobody expected the team to start off this slow and it has brought gallons of hatorade out.
Chemistry and cohesion are two key factors on a championship team and it's a large problem amongst the Heat and their slow start. Ever since the Celtics big three joined together and got off to a quick start, critics now expect Miami and their big three to perform above and beyond expectations. For people to say this team is a disappointment or is overrated, don't exactly know what it takes for a team to work.
Talent and athleticism can only get you so far, but it doesn't beat chemistry. A core built on chemistry rather than talent will always win in the end and it's why the Celtics have been championship favorites over the past five years and why the Detroit Pistons were Eastern Conference perennials despite having no true superstar.
The Miami Heat will come together and will be the team we expect them to be, but for now they are held back by a few recurring problems. If they want to become the elite powerhouse, then these five problems are going to need to be fixed.
Erik Spoelstra's Offensive System.
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If there has been anyone under a great deal of scrutiny on the Miami Heat the most, it has been their young coach in Erik Spoelstra. The teams slow start has been blamed on their coach for a variety of reasons from inexperience to a lack of leadership. Spo has coached the team over the past two seasons prior and led them to a 43 and 47 wins with a number four and five seed to show for it.
Those teams however was made up of Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley, and a countless number of scrubs. This team is completely different as it has actual pure talent with players that don't sheerly rely on Wade for scoring and just about every other aspect of the game. Now that he has a team, it appears that coach Spo might be struggling to gain control of his team.
With frustration building already, Spo might begin to be feeling the pressure from his All-Star and veteran laden roster. Erik has been greatly criticized by the Heat fanbase for his inability to run a suitable offense for this team to work on. Spoelstra has claimed that he runs little offensive sets and has basically let the team run off of talent and athleticism alone.
Coming into the season, nobody expected Spoelstra to run into problems like this. With a team like this where All-Stars and veterans have come together for one sole purpose, there needs to be a sideline leader to help the team gel by running set plays and developing a chemistry with each other. By running set plays and schemes, players begin to know each others strong suits and become better well-acquainted with their teammates style of play.
The system that Spoelstra has instituted is also greatly limiting the Heat's offensive production to a modest 12th in the league in scoring per game. The half-court game might have worked for a team like last year when they needed to work slowly, but on a team with two slashers, it doesn't work. There has only been a few cuts to the basket and few open opportunities for LeBron or Dwyane to drive.
The half-court system basically restricts players from driving and forces the team into jump shots that only two players on the team can take. Not one player in the starting lineup has a strong suit in shooting and until Spo implements a system that benefits the driving abilities of LeBron and Dwyane, then they will be a jump shooting team until it is changed.
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It may be hard to believe, but did you know Chris Bosh averaged 11 rebounds per game last season?
It's tough to believe that considering he's 6'10", is the teams sole rebounder on the starting lineup, and is averaging a dismal six rebounds per game. Chris has always been criticized for his weakness in the paint and on the defensive end, but he has taken a turn for the worst with Miami so far as he, among the other Heat big men, have shown up as completely inept in the paint when it comes to rebounding and defense.
It's a sad sight for Udonis Haslem to be leading the team in rebounding off the bench, but it's a fact that the Heat must face and deal with. No matter how good of a defender and rebounder Haslem has become over his past seven years in the league, there is no way he should be leading the team in rebounding when Chris Bosh is averaging eight more minutes per game.
One of the reasons behind this is because of the fact that Bosh has absolutely no help most of the time when it comes to the paint. The starting lineup, we'll get to that in a few, has Bosh paired up with James and Joel Anthony in the front court. Because of Anthony's ineptness on the offensive and defensive side of the court, it forces Bosh to pick up the slack.
As weak as Bosh is in the paint, it doesn't help that the Heat's starting center cannot grab a rebound or score a basket either. The team only begins to thrive when Zydrunas Ilgauskas is on the floor as a scorer and a post presence and is able to spread the floor allowing more driving opportunities. Not only that, but it brings out another scoring presence that can actually attract defenders.
A minor solution to these problems would be giving Jamaal Magloire playing time. While most people believe he has already retired, Magloire is actually one of, if not, the toughest player on this team. He is a strong defender, a strong rebounder, and limits driving with his hard hits. Against a team like the Celtics, Magloire would have been huge as he would have matched the C's physical play with a little of his own.
The Heat need some physicality and toughness in the paint and they have it in an aging veteran riding the bench. If Spo seriously expects that Joel is the starting center of the future for the Heat, then he has another thing coming.
Point Guard Play.
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There has been no spot more abused on the Miami Heat than the point guard spot. We knew it would be a problem entering the season and has been one of the largest reasons why the Heat have lost four games. It's no coincidence why the three teams that have defeated the Heat are led by elite point guards in Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul.
The Heat have no strong suit when it comes to point guards aside from Eddie House's three-point shooting which has been dreadful as of late. Carlos Arroyo is a player who thrives solely on mid-range jumpers that are set up for him by his teammates and is as far as they come from an elite defender. Mario Chalmers is superb defender in the passing lane, but in no way can keep up in a man to man system.
While the team has limited point guards like Devin Harris and Jameer Nelson, they have been annihilated by the elites of the league as their constant penetration forces other Heat defenders to switch off of their man, allowing their opponent to get easy scoring opportunities. No game showed that clearer than the Heat's past loss against the Celtics where Rajon Rondo lit the team up again for 15 assists.
The Heat gave little to no defensive pressure when he ran the floor allowing Rondo to dictate the offense and to control the tempo. With Rajon able to do as he pleased, it allowed the Celtics to thrive off of their play maker giving them the blowout victory. Not one Heat defender had the presence of mind to step up on Rondo and force him into a bad pass or a difficult shot. They gave him space to shoot, but what they didn't realize was that it gave him time and sight to see what he could work out of his offense.
This could all be changed with a simple change in the starting lineup. When LeBron James joined the team, Pat Riley had a vision of him being the next Magic Johnson. James' court vision, strategic passing, and ability to cause mismatches with his size would give the Heat a significant advantage at the one spot as they not only have a capable scorer, but a defender who is actually capable of keeping up with opposing elite point guards.
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Defense had been the Heat's strong suit for the first few games of the season. However after giving up 116 points to Utah and allowing the Celtics to shoot 54% on their way to 112 points has now given the Heat a new cause for concern as they have given up over 100 points for the first time this season over the past two games.
While each game could be attributed to the fact that each teams opposing point guard absolutely lit the Heat up, there are other reasons why the team is giving up an absurd number of points. The fact that the team heavily relies on help defense for turnovers is a gargantuan cause for concern as the team is not forcing the turnovers and running the open court like they hoped for.
The purpose of help defense is to force the opposition into a turnover by forcing the player that is double teamed into either a difficult shot or an errant pass. Help defense is feast or famine as it either results in an open turnover or an open teammate receiving an easy shot. The problem for the Heat has been the fact that the help defense has only helped other teams out as teams are thriving off of Miami's help defense.
Due to the fact that the Heat's defense in the paint and against point guards is weak, it only creates more opportunities for help defense as the team is forced into stepping up on point guards that blow past the Heat's or having to defend the oppositions center because of the Heat player that had to leave their man to defend the point guard that was able to penetrate the lane.
Domino effect much?
This could be solved with a few adjustments in the line ups and less of a leniency on help defense especially when it is not necessary. The team has a capable number of individual defenders in Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Udonis Haslem to stick with their men and with their defensive minded coach, they should all be able to teach the more defensively challenged players on the team some skills on the defensive side of the ball rather than taking the risk of playing help defense.
The Starting Lineup.
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Coach Spolestra needs to begin to face the facts that the starting line up he walks out every night is not working. The Miami Heat are basically playing five on three basketball because of just how inept Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony are on the offensive and defensive side. They have become liabilities rather than beneficiaries and are only hurting the team.
Opposing defenders can look off Arroyo and Anthony on offense and instead focus their attention on the big three who command most of the scoring. The fact that Anthony commands little attention on offense is a problem for the Heat whose two best players thrive on driving. With opposing centers able to leave Anthony to focus on Wade or James, it limits their ability to drive and they are forced into jump shots that they would rather not take.
A confusing predicament for the Heat has been the situation at the point guard spot. Despite Carlos Arroyo being named the point guard in the starting lineup, within minutes it is either Wade or James taking the ball up court while Arroyo plays the role of stiff. The fact that the team abandons Arroyo as the point guard completely defeats the purpose of having him on the same court amongst the big three.
Following the loss to Boston, coach Spo came out and said that there just actually might be starting lineup changes as soon as tonight's game against the Toronto Raptors. With a less than stellar schedule on tap for the next few weeks, the Heat will be able to work on their starting lineup with plenty of room for errors. A number of line up's have been proposed amongst the Heat community with the most interesting one being James at point, Wade at shooting guard, Bosh at small forward, Haslem at power forward, and Ilgauskas at center.
Probably the most stable lineup would be having James run the point, Wade at shooting guard, James Jones at small forward, Bosh at power forward, and Ilgauskas at center. With James at point, the Heat have a mismatch over opposing point guards, they also receive a capable three-point shooter in the starting lineup in Jones who is averaging 50% from beyond the arc, and they also have Ilgauskas who can stretch out offenses and pose as another scoring threat.