Troubling Signs from Miami Heat's First Week of 2014-15 Season
After an opening week in which the Miami Heat went 3-0 before Tuesday's loss to the Houston Rockets, and more or less obliterated the modest expectations the basketball consuming public had set for them, it would take a real Negative Nancy to look at all this good and see reasons for pessimism.
Fortunately, that’s precisely what you have.
While the Heat have been good, hidden like dung-filled Easter eggs in their scorching start are ominous signs of struggles to come. These problems might not be Miami’s undoing, but they’re issues Erik Spoelstra and company will have to be mindful of if the franchise hopes to extend a surprising week into a surprising season.
Chris Bosh's Shot Selection
Chris Bosh has been very good in 2014-15.
Through four games, he’s averaging 24.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and he’s posting a gaudy .276 win shares per 48 minutes, per Basketball-Reference.com. If these figures hold up, they’d all be at or near his career-bests.
But here’s the thing: He’s doing it in a way that’s almost certainly not sustainable. The problem is his shot selection.
When LeBron James left for Cleveland, most close observers of the team figured Bosh would pass on mid-range attempts in favor of spending more time in the low post.
Well, it hasn’t exactly played out like that.
Bosh has actually spent more time away from the basket than he did in his first four seasons in Miami. According to Basketball-Reference.com, across his Heat career, 27.4 percent of Bosh’s attempts have come from within three feet of the hoop. This season, that figure has slid to 25.8 percent.
This isn’t effecting Bosh’s efficiency, but only because he’s shooting an otherworldly 53.3 percent from three. But when those triples stop falling—and they will—Bosh will need to go back to the post to continue to be the offensive linchpin Miami needs.
Dwyane Wade on the Wane
Dwyane Wade has been a tremendous distributor through the season’s first four games. But his shot isn’t falling.
Before his 7-of-11 night against the Rockets, Wade was shooting 42.2 percent from the floor, which would be the lowest mark of his career if it holds up. According to Basketball-Reference.com, among Heat players who had attempted field goals, Wade ranked second to last in true shooting percentage, with a mark of 48.7.
Granted, this is sort of making a mountain out of a three-game molehill. His substandard shooting percentage was almost entirely a function of his 4-of-18 night against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers in Wade’s second game.
But there might—might—be some cause for legitimate worry here.
With Wade’s athleticism on the wane, there’s some worry about his ability to get to the rim for high-percentage looks. So far, he’s fed those worries.
Through four games, according to Basketball-Reference.com, just 19.6 percent of Wade’s attempts have come within three feet of the basket. For his career, he’s at 37.5 percent.
Wade’s struggles from the floor could be merely small sample size theater, but they could suggest a steepening of the decline the guard has suffered the last few seasons.
Wade, for his part, believes his age won’t slow him down this season—“It won’t be a problem at all,” the guard told ESPN’s Michael Wallace—but it’s a situation that bears monitoring.
The Final Flight of the Birdman?
Chris Andersen is an old basketball player. Old basketball players get hurt. Chris Andersen is hurt.
Andersen sat on Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets. With the backup big man hobbled with bruised ribs, it’s the second time in as many games Spoelstra opted to sit him.
This could be nothing other than smart caution and stewardship of a key cog in the rotation, but it could be a hint that the 36-year-old will be limited going forward. If so, that’s bad news for the Heat.
Andersen has been an unsung hero during the latter days of Miami’s mini-dynasty. Among players who logged more than 1,000 minutes in 2013-14, Chris Andersen finished ninth in the NBA in win shares per 48 minutes, per Basketball-Reference.com, and second in true shooting percentage.
This is a guy Miami needs. It remains to be seen if it will have him.
Problems at the Point
Savvy analysts figured Miami might have some issues at the point guard position in 2014-15. The first four games have vindicated them.
Norris Cole, who has a robust track record of being a bad basketball player, was elevated to the starting position.
Mario Chalmers is dead average at darn near everything and, at 28, meaningful improvement seems a long shot at this point.
Shabazz Napier is a promising prospect, but he struggled during the summer league and is, for the moment, blocked by the aforementioned pair.
These fears have been borne out so far. While Miami’s point guard play hasn’t been terrible—Cole and Chalmers, per Basketball-Reference.com, have posted win shares per 48 minutes figures above their career averages, and Napier has been effective in his 20 minutes a night—the trio has been inconsistent.
After a hot start, Cole has scored five points on 2-of-9 shooting in his last two outings. Chalmers was 6-of-9 from the floor against the moribund 76ers but has otherwise struggled to find his stroke.
Napier, meanwhile, has been efficient, but he hasn’t been as aggressive in looking for his own shot as advertised. His 12 percent usage rate, per Basketball-Reference.com, is one of the lowest on the team.
Point guard is a pivotal position, and it's one where the Heat could stand to get steadier play.
Josh McRoberts' Mutant Strength
Josh McRoberts, incensed after allowing an offensive rebound against the Toronto Raptors, tugged at his jersey in frustration and tore it.
McRoberts blamed the tear on “faulty material,” according to Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick, but that beggars belief. It seems more likely that McRoberts has undertaken a training program so intense and rigorous that he literally doesn’t know his own strength anymore.
It’s terrifying to consider what this kind of ignorance will have on a player whose game relies so much on a deft touch from the perimeter. It could really undermine him.
Alright, seriously, I couldn’t think of a fifth thing to worry about. There really isn't one. The Heat look really good right now. It might not last, but for the moment, the Heat should feel very good about where they stand in an Eastern Conference, where—outside of Chicago and Cleveland—there are more question marks than sure things.