Here’s a brief scouting report on the Heat after they’ve confronted two quality opponents and two inferior teams: Lots of strengths along with several potentially fatal weaknesses, some of the latter being fixable and some being permanent.
When LeBron and D-Wade can get out and go, the Heat’s running game is absolutely irresistible. Both possess the strength, speed, and skills to be unstoppable finishers in a broken field.
Given even the narrowest opening in half-court sets, LBJ and Wade can zip, spin, and fly to the rim with incredible success.
So far, these two backcourt mates have taken turns burying their perimeter shots. (LBJ vs. Boston, Wade against Philadelphia and Orlando). Both got to the hoop so easily in New Jersey that their jump-shooting was superfluous.) However, if they both become reliable shooters, then the Heat will be virtually unbeatable. Especially since defenses have already decided to go under any high-screens offered for LBJ’s use.
Wade is making optimal use of staggered screens to create driving lanes.
James Jones is taking full advantage of the open long-ball attempts that present themselves when James and Wade execute unselfish kick-out passes as defenses collapse around their lane penetrations.
This team can go off on scoring binges at any time — as evidenced by their 14-0 spurt to start the second half that blew the Orlando game open.
LBJ and D-Wade are admirably unselfish, with James being more so than his high-octane partner.
The perimeter defense has been surprisingly active, primarily due to the soft-doubling of high S/Rs. This overloading tactic is especially effective against poor-passing teams like Orlando, which had only five assists against 14 turnovers in their recent lopsided loss to Miami.
Baseline rotators are quick to fill the middle on ball penetrations from the top.
Udonis Haslem can still play lock-down defense — as demonstrated by his part in holding Rashard Lewis scoreless when Miami clobbered Orlando.
Carlos Arroyo can be counted on to hit his mid-range jumpers after dribbling over high-screens set in early offense situations.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas is an excellent mid-range shooter with his shots coming on screen/fades and/or kick-out passes.
The interior defense is weak because Joel Anthony lacks size and bulk, Z lacks lateral quickness, and Jamaal Magloire is essentially just a tall, warm body. Against Boston, Shaq had several easy shots in the paint, but missed most of them because he has no lift. Against Philly, Spencer Hawes presented no challenge whatsoever (and was scoreless). Against Orlando, Dwight Howard notched 19 points in the first half but rarely saw the ball inside after Miami’s blitzkrieg necessitated 3-point catch-up shots.
At the other end of the court, Miami has virtually no post-up game.
Nothing short of a trade (or trades) can remedy these flaws.
LeBron still dominates the ball too much. In fact, the ball movement is snappier and more all-inclusive when he’s on the bench. LBJ has yet to learn how to play without the ball.
Chris Bosh gets the vast majority of his shot opportunities in iso situations. Since he requires too much time to make his move, smart teams can adjust their defenses to force him into help spots. Bosh can alleviate this shortcoming by making quicker decisions with the ball.
Except for Jones — and in the absence of Mike Miller — their outside shooting remains unreliable. Miller will presumably be back in action in January.
Their current point guards — Carlos Arroyo and Eddie House — are slow and utterly defenseless. Perhaps the worst in the league in these two categories. This situation requires another personnel move.
Their overloaded defenses are vulnerable to swift and precise ball-reversals. Fortunately, only the Spurs, Lakers and the Celtics are capable of doing this. Plus, kickout passes result in open shots — which Boston mostly made, while the Sixers, Magic and Nets mostly missed.
Teams with big front-lines — like the Lakers and the Celtics — can retrieve too many of their own missed shots. Even the Nets managed to bang and hustle their way into a significant number of extra shots — enjoying a 19-5 edge in offensive rebounds. It should be noted, though, that NJ missed 55 shots while Miami misfired only 31 times. Nevertheless, concentrating on boxing out is essential.
With the guards making soft-digs to threaten post-up possessions, cutters have clear paths to the basket.
Because of the various isos, the halfcourt offense has little flow.
LeBron forces too many passes and shots — hence his total of 17 assists and 20 turnovers against Boston, Philadelphia and Orlando. Even in Miami’s romp over the hapless Nets, James recorded 7 assists and 5 turnovers. More court awareness is the only cure for this.
Obviously, after only four games, the Heat are still getting used to each other. Expect their offensive capabilities to get even more explosive, and their defensive coordination to likewise improve.
Still, their various weaknesses at center and at the point will become more obvious as the season unfolds. Look for Pat Riley to eventually make whatever roster moves are necessary to plug up these holes.
Even so, the Heat have so much firepower that their shortcomings won’t be trumped too often. Indeed, only the Lakers and the Celtics have the stuff to keep Miami from winning the championship.