Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Miami Heat in the Month of December
The Miami Heat's up-and-down season has continued in December.
Miami dropped its first four games of the month, but it bounced back to win two of its last three.
Still, at just 11-12, the Heat are far from where they would like to be at this point of the season.
However, with 10 games remaining in the month, there's still plenty of time in December for Miami to find its form before the new year. At the same time, the Heat very well could continue their inconsistent play, which could spell doom for the rest of the season.
Best-Case Scenario: Heat Take Advantage of Easy Schedule
The Heat might not be playing great basketball in December, but there remains a chance this team can still put together a solid month.
Miami plays six teams with records below .500 in its final 10 games of the month. If the Heat truly are a good team and this slow start is simply a mirage, they should have little problem dispatching of teams like the Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers.
Also working in Miami's favor is the fact that four contests against strong competition are all at home.
This is a prime opportunity for the Heat to get back above .500 and re-emerge as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. Miami must not let this slate of games go to waste.
Worst-Case Scenario: Defense Remains Awful
The biggest issue for the Heat in their slow start to the season has undoubtedly been defense.
Despite having a defensive-minded coach in Erik Spoelstra, the Heat rank a putrid 26th in points allowed per possession, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Miami is using a similar defensive strategy to the one it used when LeBron James was a member of the team: an aggressive, trapping style. It simply hasn't worked.
The Heat haven't been able to fluster ball-handlers or even rotate back in position if the opponents beat the trap. Teams are picking Miami apart with ball movement, ultimately finding shots that the Heat haven't rotated properly toward.
Also, as expected, Miami has had difficulty protecting the rim due to its lack of size.
The Heat have to pick things up defensively if they are to turn their season around.
However, it might require a change in defensive strategy to make that happen. It doesn't appear the Heat have the length or athleticism to run this current style.
Best-Case Scenario: Dwyane Wade Can Stay Healthy
Dwyane Wade has been outstanding when on the court this season, averaging 20.8 points (51.9 FG%), 5.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds.
The problem for Miami is that Wade hasn't always been out there, which is not surprising given his injury woes in recent years. The 32-year-old has played in just 16 of the Heat's first 23 games, notably missing a seven-game stretch in November with a hamstring injury.
However, Wade has remained healthy as of late, playing in each of the Heat's last eight games.
That's critical for Miami. Without much depth, this is a team that relies heavily on his performance and needs him playing at his best to have a chance at success.
A healthy Wade is necessary for a strong December.
Worst-Case Scenario: They Keep Losing at Home
There's generally one thing that's consistent about the top teams in the NBA: They are great at home.
Sure, winning on the road is helpful. But one has to have success at home to make it through a season as one of the better teams.
Take a look at the top three teams in the Eastern Conference at the moment. The Toronto Raptors are 11-3 at home and 6-3 on the road. The Atlanta Hawks are 11-2 at home and 5-4 on the road, as are the Washington Wizards. A team can be simply decent on the road and have a top record as long as it takes care of business at home.
So, it's not a stretch to say that Miami's inability to win at the American Airlines Arena is seriously holding it back.
The Heat are just 4-6 at home this season. That just won't cut it.
The good news for Miami is it has a chance to fix those issues soon. Eight of the Heat's final 10 games this month come at home.
Worst-Case Scenario: LeBron Embarrasses Them on Christmas
The Heat's Christmas Day contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers is undeniably their biggest game of the season.
James will make his return to Miami, and all eyes will be on the Heat for the first time this season.
Miami will have a great opportunity this Christmas to prove to LeBron and NBA fans everywhere that it is still a strong team without the game's best player.
However, there is certainly a plausible scenario in which this game turns out terribly for the Heat. While Miami is limping right now, the Cavs have won eight of their last 10.
LeBron and his new super-team might just come into the AAA and dismantle the Heat. Considering how much anticipation there is for this game, that would surely be a confidence-killer for Miami.
Best-Case Scenario: Heat Start Getting More out of Role Players
The Heat's two best players, Wade and Chris Bosh, have played great this season.
Luol Deng has performed fairly well, and Mario Chalmers is playing the best basketball of his career.
Yet, Miami finds itself just 11-12.
That's a reflection on the Heat's other secondary players.
Norris Cole hasn't succeeded in running the offense. Shawne Williams has shot the ball well, but his value has been significantly hindered because of his poor defense. Josh McRoberts has been in and out of the lineup and hasn't made a significant impact this season.
For the second straight year, Udonis Haslem has been ineffective. James Ennis has shown flashes of his potential at times, but he is still a raw player. Danny Granger has played in just six games this season and has not looked like a guy the Heat can rely on. Shabazz Napier has been impressive at time, but it's telling that the Heat assigned him to the D-League Saturday. Miami needs more out of its second unit.
The Heat have their stars playing like stars. Now they need the others to do their part.