For the Miami Heat, ‘everything is on the table’ as December 15 looms

After its worst loss of the season against the Detroit Pistons, the Miami Heat have to reevaluate where they stand with this team.

Following their most recent loss to the Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra confessed that “everything is on the table”.

This statement is completely understandable and justified. The Heat shot 37.4 percent over the past two games, with a loss in Philadelphia preceding the Detroit debacle. The Heat are now ranked 28th in both points per game (95.1) and field goal percentage (42.0). Almost as worrisome over the past two games has been the Heat’s effort on defense.

Overall for the season, the Heat rank fourth in the league in defensive rating, allowing 100.4 points per 100 possession. Over the past two games, the Heat have allowed 109 points per 100 possessions. Considering the Pistons and 76ers are ranked 25th and 29th respectively in offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions), this will most likely raise some eyebrows amongst the Heat coaching staff.

The stat that really stands out from the past two games is the following:

Opponents shooting within five feet of the rim

Games 1-12: 49.1 percent

Last two games: 72.4 percent

And to put this into perspective:

League Ranking – opponents shooting within five feet of the rim

Season: 1st

Last two games: 29th

The easiest conclusion to come to regarding these alarming stats is a lack of effort. Spoelstra simply referred to the starting unit as coming out “flat”. Guard Dion Waiters had some interesting thoughts following the loss in Philadelphia. Among them were the following:

“We were soft on defence, they wanted it more”

“Who do we want to be? What direction do we want to go?”

“We got beat backdoor a lot, they wanted it more”

“Have to look at themselves in the mirror and ask – what are we playing for”

Very honest and forthright for a Heat newcomer. It’s clear that these words had little effect on his teammates, as the effort and execution the following game against the Pistons was the worst of the season.

In terms of the Heat’s execution and effort, Spoelstra is correct in that everything should be “on the table.” With a 4-10 record, the season could very quickly get away from the if the Heat don’t start to bridge the record back towards a .500 mark and some respectability.

And until December 15 , the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Following a back-to-back against Memphis, the Heat have a home game against against Boston. They follow this up a with a road back-to-back against Denver and Utah, with further games coming against the likes of Portland, Atlanta and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers also on the road.

And to put a further dampener on things, point guard Goran Dragic’s status is in doubt for the Heat’s next game with an elbow injury. This, on top of the already injured Justise Winslow, Willie Reed and Wayne Ellington.

It’s hard to put a finger on the drop off in the Heat’s defensive performance these past two games. One possibility is that the Heat players are simply frustrated with their current direction. This can lead to dropped heads and a lack of confidence.

Despite stating in the preseason they would play at a faster pace and look to spread the floor (and score more), it’s simply not happening. Granted, ranking 28th in field goal percentage does no favors for their offense.

The Heat as presently constructed have a number of high-level athletes capable of running the floor and filling the lanes. With Dragic at the point, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Derrick Williams and Dion Waiters all have necessary attributes to compete at a high level in a fast-paced approach.

With a top-four defense, playing at a faster tempo would seem a natural fit. Yet despite having on the whole an excellent defense, the Heat rank 23rd in pace (the number of possessions per 48 minutes). As a result, the amount of empty possessions the Heat are having on a regular basis can make them infuriating to watch.

So Spoelstra has said that as far as the team’s on court activity is concerned, “everything is on the table.” Ideally, this means playing at a higher tempo and better utilizing the terrific athletes the Heat have on their roster.

Although team president Pat Riley recently stated he would be looking to add another draft pick this next summer, it would seem the Heat would be fine with bottoming out. However, that is simply not the norm of Riley and the Heat. Before Winslow’s selection in 2014, the previous high draft selection the Heat owned was pick No.2 in 2008. That of course was Michael Beasley, and we all know how that turned out.

However with December 15 looming–the day when players who signed contracts this past summer are able to be traded–Riley would be well within his rights to have the “everything is on the table” approach. Without an All-Star on the roster, transforming this team will be an up-hill battle. But Riley has shown in the past what he is capable of producing.

It will be fascinating to see which approach the Heat takes as the season progresses.

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