Miami Heat Early Analysis: Contender or Pretender?

Mike PiccoloContributor INovember 20, 2008

Looking back on the first 12 games of the 2008-09 season, I can’t help but analyze the Heat's progression. 

Yes, it's early in the season, with 70 games to go—but hey, let's break them down anyway! 

When looking at a team such as Miami, many strengths and weaknesses come to mind. 

The Miami Heat first and foremost are one of the NBA's most talented squads, but is talent enough nowadays? 

I think it's time we answered the age-old question, “Does size really matter?”  In the NBA, the answer just may be yes. 

While very talented, the Heat are majorly undersized compared with many NBA teams.  This is a huge problem—especially when talking about the center position.  Miami's starting center, Udonis Haslem, is an amazing player, but he is only 6'8".  This could pose to be a significant problem as the season progresses. 

Analyzing the numbers from Miami's first 12 games, I can't help but notice one key factor.  When the Miami Heat hold their opponents to under 100 points, they are a perfect 6-0.  On the other hand, if Miami allows their opponents to score over 100, they also have a perfect record—in the loss column, at 0-6. 

In many of these losses, Miami has also been outrebounded by their opponent. 

Looking past this obvious height and rebounding dilemmas, the Miami Heat also have three key members of their team injured. 

Let's start by talking about Shaun Livingston.  This guy can straight-up ball!  The organization has confirmed that he is healthy enough to play—however, he sits on the bench.  No doubt this is because the Heat do not want to rush his return. 

Livingston himself has complained of some soreness and swelling after practice, but the most important obstacle Shaun will face is gaining back his explosiveness—which is what helped him make a name for himself.

Next up is James Jones.   Can you say anticipation?  This is a three-point shooting machine who can shoot the three from basically anywhere on the court!  When Jones returns to the lineup, watch out NBA—Dwyane Wade has a gigantic answer for that double-team opposing coaches just love to counter him with. 

Also, Jones will be the last piece of the up-tempo offensive puzzle coach Erik Spoelstra has so impressively put together. 

Last, but certainly not least, is Jamaal Magliore.  Magliore was saved for last because he is something of an enigma.   While Magliore answers the Heat's desperate need for size at the center position—and in the line-up in general—will Jamaal answer much more than that? 

He has been pretty much silent for the last two years.  His career has been on a downward spiral after the 2003-04 NBA season, when he posted career high numbers and was named to the All-Star team.  Is Magliore a one-hit wonder, or will he prove to be a diamond in the rough?

Miami has a great team with versatility and potential.  Will the Heat's potential blossom, and the point guard dilemma be solved, as it has been over the first 12 games? 

The one area that the Miami Heat must look into is the center position.  This will be the final piece of the puzzle for the Heat.  Miami has a great chance to make it to the playoffs and beyond if they can tackle this issue.  If Magliore does not prove to be the answer in a month or so, the Heat will be forced to make moves and look elsewhere for a center—or take a major gamble with their small line-up. 

This season could be a great and prosperous year for the young and energetic Miami Heat. Stay tuned.