Miami Heat Report Card: Who’s Hot, Who’s Not Heading Into 2011?
Since the Miami Heat's disturbing 9-8 start, they've cranked out 14 wins and one loss.
Now 23-9, the Heat face the New York Knicks in Miami on Tuesday and then the Houston Rockets on the road on Wednesday before sprinting full-speed ahead into the new year.
Let's take a look at how every player on the roster has performed thus far and whether their stock is up or down.
Dexter Pittman, Center
Scoop: Although the mammoth rookie from Texas has yet to play in an NBA game, he dominated in eight starts for the Sioux Falls Sky Force (what a name by the way), averaging 16.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, while shooting 60 percent from the field in 30.6 minutes.
I cannot fathom why he is not activated against inferior opponents so he can garner quality minutes during blowouts to boost his development. Regardless, he won't have an impact on this team's championship hopes this season, but he is this team's center of the future.
Jamaal Magloire, Enforcer
Scoop: He's played just 44 minutes in seven appearances. With Erick Dampier added to the roster, there isn't any room for the Big Cat's bruising style in the rotation. He will only get playing time during the season if there's an injury to one of the Heat big men.
However, don't be shocked to see this bone-bruising, elbows flailing, vertically challenged center get some minutes in the playoffs against a physical squad like the Celtics. He's still six fouls of man, even if his skills have mysteriously evaporated.
Eddie House, Guard
Scoop: House has fallen out of the rotation in favor of Mario Chalmers. Although there may not be room for the streak-shooter in the regular season barring injury, he will be prove to be invaluable come playoff time.
You can never have enough shooters in the playoffs.
Juwan Howard, Forward
Scoop: When the Heat signed this 16-year NBA old-timer to the veteran minimum this summer, people assumed he would be no more than a roster filler.
How wrong we all were. Despite averaging just 2.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in 11.1 minutes, Howard's toughness and physical post-defense off the bench has been a pleasant surprise.
Howard has taken the role of Udonis Haslem as enforcer. He's not afraid to throw somebody to the deck in defense of his teammates, which was evident against Hilton Armstrong in a game against Washington earlier this year.
Joel Anthony, Center
Scoop: Despite being demoted from the starting lineup just weeks after the season's onset, Anthony has improved his play. His role to this team is more clear.
He's never going to average a double-double or come close to it, but his energy and defensive intensity off the bench isn't going unnoticed. There is a reason he's averaging nearly 17 minutes a night, despite shooting the ball once every solar eclipse.
He is one of the Heat's better pick-and-roll defenders, and has much better foot speed than any other Heat center. What Joel gives this team does not show up in the box score.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Center
Skinny: When I think of Big Z, I think of one word. Goofy. He might awkwardly thrust his arms outward while setting screens, and move slower than a tortoise, but on this team, in this role, he is valuable.
The entire reason he starts is to spread the floor for his superstar teammates. He can hit jumpers with ease all the way out to 20-22 feet. Defensively, he does a decent job against the league's bigger, slower centers. He actually did quite well against Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in Los Angeles on Christmas Day, two of the league's best big men.
Ilgauskas is undoubtedly at the end of his NBA career, but that low-gas light hasn't turned on yet.
Mario Chalmers, Point Guard Who Thinks He's a Shooting Guard
Scoop: Mario started the year off disastrously, barely finding the rim off wide-open jumpers. However, he's really stepped it up lately on both ends of the court.
He's capitalizing off open threes, connecting on 37.5 percent from downtown, which really is all they need from him offensively. It would be nice to see the kid develop into more of a point guard who can facilitate for teammates, but it's just not in his basketball DNA.
Defensively, he isn't a lock-down defender by any means, but makes plays with his quick hands, which often leads to easy baskets in transition.
If the Heat make a trade, Chalmers is going to be a part of it. Is he really going to be the guy sitting in the corner ready to shoot a game-deciding three in the playoffs? I'm not buying.
Udonis Haslem, Forward (Injured)
Scoop: The Heat have gone 15-4 since Haslem's severe leg injury in mid November. They're a better team without him, right? False, anyone that believes that deserves to be hit by a bus.
Haslem is the guy who provides the nasty, dirty, hard-working presence a championship team needs. In his absence, others have stepped up. It will be good to see this guy back come playoff time, because the Heat won't win a championship this year without him.
Never doubt the willpower of a man like Haslem. He's in the same breed of an Alonzo Mourning. He'll be back.
James Jones, Forward
Scoop: "Sweet James!" was the scream shattering my right ear drum during a game I saw in person earlier in the year. And how sweet Jones' jumper has been, making 42.5 percent of his threes. That was to be expected with all of the open looks he's received courtesy of guys dubbed James, Wade and Bosh.
It's his defense that has shocked us all. No, he is not a shut-down defender, but his help-defense has been tremendous. He leads the Heat in charges.
The only reason his stock is going down is because of the return of Mike Miller, who is easily a more complete player, and therefore will cut into Jones' minutes.
Carlos Arroyo, Point Guard
Scoop: He's essentially the only true point guard on this team. I was a huge Arroyo hater at the beginning of the season when guys like Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul shred him to pieces. But what I've realized is those guys shred everyone to pieces. That's what elite players do.
Arroyo has done everyone asked of him. He manages the game and moves the ball to the most efficient spots on the court. He pushes the rock when necessary, but rarely forces the ball. And then the icing on the cake is his 47 percent shooting from deep.
He might struggle against quick guards defensively but he really has played very well thus far. He's the perfect backup point guard, but as the interim starter, he will do.
Erick Dampier, Center
Scoop: When the Heat FINALLY signed Erick Dampier to fill the toughness/beef void in the middle, I was ecstatic. I didn't care how out of shape he was rumored to be, or how bad his knees are.
Damp infused the team with much needed toughness. When he sets a screen, I swear I hear bones break. When he crashes the glass, he does so with blunt force.
Without guys like Dampier, the Heat wouldn't have a chance against the league's bigger squads. His playing time will only increase in the playoffs, as the game slows down.
You don't hear many declare the Heat lack toughness or strength inside anymore.
Mike Miller, Guard/Forward
Scoop: Despite Mike's 0 for 8 shooting slump to start his delayed season, he will be a pivotal piece to the Heat's success.
Mario Chalmers and James Jones will surely experience a decrease in minutes over the course of the next few weeks to make room for this sharp shooter.
His ability to play multiple positions will help coach Erick Spoelstra incorporate the former Florida Gator. Unlike Jones, if MIller's jumper isn't falling he can provide major help on the glass and as a playmaker. He's an underrated passer and rebounder.
Miller is one of the final pieces that have the potential to take this team from great to elite.
Chris Bosh, Forward
Scoop: Not too long ago, all I heard was "Bosh so soft". That is not the case anymore. It is Bosh, not James or Wade, who has had to adjust his style the most this season.
He was used to getting a guaranteed 25-30 touches a night. He was the man in Toronto.
He's had to get used to being the third option in a different style of offense. Well lately he's been dynamic, averaging 19.2 points and 9.3 rebounds on 52 percent shooting in the month of December.
Bosh has been much more assertive with the ball and uses his dribble-drive as well as his soft jumper to rip through a defense. We're beginning to see how talented and versatile this big man truly is.
And who doesn't love the dinosaur roar?
LeBron James, Whatever Position You Want Him To Play
Scoop: LeBron James is the most versatile threat to ever pick up a basketball. It's incredible to watch this man go to work and do the things he does on a routine basis. Whether it's pushing the ball on the break, or pulling up for a 25-footer with a simple flick of the wrist, James is astounding.
This year he's experienced the most change in his 25-year old life. He's gone from being the most loved to the most hated, from cold weather to paradise, and has had to revamp his game to better suit a team with two other superstars on board.
What's the most amazing part to me is how accepting he's been. For about half of the game he puts on the "playmaker hat" and looks to get others involved and pick his spots. That's when Wade and Bosh are on the floor with him.
Then, for about five to six minutes a half, when Wade and Bosh go to the bench, he's in takeover mode. To go from one style of aggression to the next at the blink of an eye is hard to do. Then you throw in the fact that he's completing locking down his man on the defensive end, and then providing flawless help defense, and you never wonder why he's the best in the world.
LeBron may be hated by many, but he is still the best in the game.
Dwyane Wade, Guard
Scoop: Many questioned whether Wade's prime was nearing its end at the beginning of the season. There was a noticeable decrease in explosion and efficiency.
A career 48 percent shooter was shooting barely in the 40's. Well that was no more than a bad dream, as Wade has his explosion and efficiency back. He's even improved his three ball this year, shooting a career-high 33 percent.
As is the same case with LeBron, when he's hitting the three, it's over for the defense.
Speaking of defense, Wade has had to increase his energy on defense this year. He no longer is bearing the entire load offensively and now has placed an emphasis on shutting down the opposition's perimeter in collaboration with James.
Watching him throw Kobe off on Christmas (6 for 16) was a thing of beauty. LeBron and Bosh might be in town, but this will always be Wade County.
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