Biggest Surprises and Disappointments for Miami Heat

Sam Richmond@srichmond93Correspondent IDecember 27, 2014

Biggest Surprises and Disappointments for Miami Heat

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Miami Heat's start to the 2014-15 NBA season hasn't exactly gone to plan.

    Through 30 games, the Heat find themselves 14-16, good for the seventh-best record in a dreadful Eastern Conference.

    For much of the year, Miami has looked like a team that desperately misses LeBron James. However, there certainly have been some bright spots, giving reason for optimism about what this team can do the rest of the year.

    We're going to break down both sides of the equation—the good and the bad—in evaluating the Heat's performance to this point of the season. 

Disappointment: Performance at Home

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    The Heat's abysmal play at home has been truly stunning.

    Miami currently has six wins at home, the fewest among teams in the top eight in their respective conference, and 10 losses at home, the most among teams in the top eight in their respective conference.

    Also, lately, it's not even that the Heat are losing at home; it's who they are losing to at home. In the past two weeks, Miami has lost by 18 to the Jazz at home and by four to the 76ers at home—in a game in which it had a 23-point lead.

    For a team that doesn't have the seismic talent advantage over its foes on a night-to-night basis as it did the previous four years, Miami has to be winning the games it's supposed to win, which surely includes contests against NBA bottom-feeders while at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Surprise: Beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The Heat may have been a disaster at home this season, but they sure got up for their Christmas Day matchup with LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Miami was fantastic in James' return to AmericanAirlines Arena, playing with a level of energy we haven't seen from the team this season and winning the game 101-91.

    Prior to this contest, the Heat hadn't beat a team with an above-.500 record since Dec. 9 (Phoenix Suns). They also hadn't beaten a team with an above-.500 record while at home since the Toronto Raptors in the third game of their season.

    On top of that, this game vs. Cleveland came only two days after Miami lost to the 76ers.

    The result of the Christmas Day contest was one few would have predicted, but it couldn't have come at a better time for the Heat. The team desperately needed something to give it a confidence booster heading into the new year, and this win could represent just that.

Disappointment: Defensive Performance

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Despite having a defensive-minded coach in Erik Spoelstra, defense has been the Heat's largest problem area this season.

    Miami is giving up a dreadful 109.0 points per 100 possessions, giving them the 25th-ranked defense in the league, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Opponents are shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, which ranks 27th and 21st, respectively.

    As a whole, the Heat have simply looked too small and too unathletic to defend at a high level. Without an athletic freak like James in uniform anymore, the Heat's aggressive defensive style has been exploited by teams that move the ball well.

    Miami might not have the personnel to have an elite or even good defense, but the team needs to play with more energy if it wants to even be respectable on that end of the floor. It's a must if the Heat are to become players in the East.

Surprise: Shawne Williams' Shooting

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Heat haven't had a lot of surprise performers this year, but Shawne Williams certainly qualifies as one.

    Williams entered the season as a career 33.2 percent shooter from beyond the arc, but he has excelled offensively as a stretch 4 for Miami, shooting 43.0 percent from three on four attempts per game.

    Now, Williams is a liability on the defensive end, and that's a huge problem on such a defensively challenged team. But the Heat sure have appreciated his offensive contributions, especially considering Miami's wings haven't shot the ball very well.

    With Josh McRoberts out for the season, Williams is entrenched as the Heat's starting power forward. Hopefully, for the team's sake, he improves defensively as the season progresses. 

Disappointment: Playing Time for Shabazz Napier

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    The Heat liked Shabazz Napier enough on draft night 2014 to trade with the Charlotte Hornets in the first round to get him.

    However, Miami doesn't like Napier enough anymore to play him.

    Napier hasn't seen any playing time in the Heat's past four games and even spent a one-game stint in the NBA D-League in mid-December.

    Instead, the Heat are rolling with Norris Cole as their backup point guard. There's a strong argument to be made that Miami should be playing Napier in an effort to let him get comfortable with the NBA game instead of Cole, the struggling three-year veteran.

    But Spoelstra clearly doesn't see it that way, so Napier is stuck on the bench for now.

Surprise: Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh Thriving in New Roles

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Entering the season, many questioned whether Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh could handle the increased workload that would come with James' offseason departure to the Cavaliers.

    Well, when they've been healthy, Wade and Bosh have proven their doubters wrong.

    Wade is averaging 23.2 points on 50.6 percent shooting from the field, with 5.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. Bosh, who is currently out with a calf injury, is averaging 21.6 points on 47.9 percent shooting from the field and 38.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc, along with 8.2 rebounds per game.

    The Heat might only be 14-16, but their two biggest stars aren't to blame. In that respect, depth has been Miami's issue.

    If the Heat's supporting cast can play better, Wade and Bosh are more than ready to lead a turnaround. 

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