Should We Worry About The Heat?

November 9, 2022 0 By Cypher9ja

About 13 percent of the 2022-23 season is over for the Miami Heat. That isn’t a gigantic number, but the Heat are just 4-7 in the first 11 games, prompting some to wonder whether it is time to worry about Miami’s long-term prospects. Erik Spoelstra’s team finished as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season before making a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, but Miami lost a key piece in PJ Tucker — without really replacing him — and 2022-23 expectations were muted to some extent.

Still, the start of the campaign has been underwhelming, with Miami losing to Sacramento and Indiana in recent days before a Monday night loss at home to Portland. The Heat are still playing solid defense, ranking above the league average in overall efficiency, but Miami isn’t dominating on defense and its offense is scuffling. The Heat rank No. 20 or worse in offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, two-point percentage, three-point percentage, offensive rebound rate, and myriad additional categories.

For a team with a long track record of shooting success, Miami’s 34.4 percent three-point clip isn’t terrifying by any means, but the Heat are getting very little from Duncan Robinson and Gabe Vincent to go along with modest contributions from Kyle Lowry. Jimmy Butler has missed two games, which might explain some of the downturn, but Miami is just 3-6 with Butler in the lineup. He is also shooting less than 48 percent from inside the three-point arc, and the experiment with either Butler or Caleb Martin as the de facto power forward isn’t exactly flying in the early going.

Long story short, the Heat have earned the benefit of the doubt, at least with regard to overall competence. Miami doesn’t project to necessarily repeat its 53-win effort — and the roster is worse than it was a year ago — but the combination of Spoelstra, Butler, Bam Adebayo and shooting should bring enough to be comfortable. The Heat might want to start figuring it out soon, though, before the sample is too large to avoid.

Where does Miami rank in this week’s DIME power rankings? Let’s take a glance.

1. Milwaukee Bucks (9-1, Last week — 1st)

The Bucks lost by 19 points on Tuesday and still have the best profile in the NBA. Milwaukee is the only team with fewer than two losses, and Hawks head coach Nate McMillan repeatedly called the Bucks “the best team in the league” even after Atlanta beat Milwaukee on Monday. The Bucks have the best defense in the NBA by almost three points per 100 possessions and a bad half against the Hawks doesn’t take them out of the top spot.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (8-2, Last week — 3rd)

It’s not often that the top two teams on this list each lost on the previous bay, but Cleveland fell by a two-point margin on the road on Monday. There is no grand shame in that, and the Cavs have the best net rating (+10.5) in the league. They’ve done it with Darius Garland only playing four games, and it’s been a highly impressive start.

3. Boston Celtics (7-3, Last week — 4th)

Boston lands behind Cleveland in large part due to a head-to-head overtime loss this week. Overall, that isn’t anything to worry about, and Boston just won three straight. That included road wins over the Knicks and Grizzlies and, at this point, Boston actually has the best offensive rating in the league. Regression may be coming, but the Celtics remain loaded.

4. Phoenix Suns (7-3, Last week — 2nd)

Phoenix can’t seem to solve Portland. The Suns have three losses and two of them have come against the Blazers. While that may not be a prominent issue moving forward, the Suns do have a challenge with Cam Johnson and a meniscus injury. Is Jae Crowder an option? If not, the Suns have a power forward problem for a while.

5. Utah Jazz (9-3, Last week — 8th)

This is officially wild from the Jazz. If anything, Utah should be higher on this list based on only this year’s results. The Jazz are in the top three of the NBA in offensive rating. The Jazz have won five of the last six games. It’s going well. Circle a Wednesday night road game against the Hawks as another interesting test.

6. Dallas Mavericks (6-3, Last week — 13th)

Dallas is on a four-game winning streak and the last three games came against impressive competition. Luka Doncic is the early frontrunner for MVP, scoring at least 32 points in every game and averaging 36.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game. He is the catalyst of the league’s No. 2 offense right now, and Doncic is just absurd.

7. Denver Nuggets (7-3, Last week — 14th)

Denver got rocked by Utah on opening night and it’s been all positive since then. The Nuggets have a 116.6 offensive rating in the last nine games, and Denver has a +9.2 net rating over a 5-1 stretch to end last week. The schedule wasn’t exactly grueling this week with San Antonio (twice) and OKC, but they all count.

8. Atlanta Hawks (7-3, Last week — 16th)

The Hawks trailed the Knicks by 23 points on Wednesday, only to come back in impressive fashion behind Dejounte Murray. That led to a 3-0 week overall, and Atlanta also gave Milwaukee its first loss of the season. That win over the Bucks came without Trae Young and, while there are still defensive questions with Atlanta, Murray looks like a strong addition in the early going.

9. Portland Trail Blazers (7-3, Last week — 5th)

After some positivity on the Blazers last week in this space, Portland posted only a 2-2 week. The losses came to Memphis and Phoenix, so it wasn’t as if it was a disaster, but finding the equilibrium for the Blazers will be interesting.

10. Memphis Grizzlies (7-4, Last week — 12th)

Memphis was lights-out on defense this week. The Grizzlies did lose to the Celtics, albeit in narrow fashion, but Memphis did roll to a 3-1 record over the last seven days. That included a 102.2 defensive rating, and that is Memphis getting back to its stingy roots on that end of the floor.

11. Philadelphia 76ers (5-6, Last week — 10th)

Joel Embiid came back on Monday and looked very good with 33 points and 10 rebounds. James Harden remains sidelined, but with Embiid in the mix, Philadelphia is dangerous, particularly with Tyrese Maxey shooting approximately 82 percent from three-point range.

12. Toronto Raptors (6-5, Last week — 11th)

Toronto doesn’t have a single “bad” loss. That is half the battle, and the Raptors make life intensely difficult on every opponent, both with talent and playing style. Toronto is elite on the glass on both ends, generating more than two assists per turnover, and performing well from an efficiency standpoint. The wins will come.

13. New Orleans Pelicans (5-5, Last week — 6th)

It’s a cruel world sometimes. The Pelicans lost three games by 13 total points this week, and two of the losses happened in overtime. New Orleans did beat Golden State, explaining this ranking, and the Pelicans still have a +3.7 net rating that is encouraging.

14. Golden State Warriors (4-7, Last week — 7th)

Stephen Curry is pretty good and he reminded everyone of that with 47 points on Monday. The Warriors also lost five games in a row before that and the bench has been a catastrophe so far. We’re splitting the difference and putting Golden State in the middle.

15. L.A. Clippers (6-5, Last week — 17th)

Big-picture, Kawhi Leonard playing in only two games so far is terrifying. More encouragingly, the Clippers are 4-1 in the last five games and showing more signs. The offense is not flowing yet by any stretch, but the defense is more than frisky.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-6, Last week — 15th)

The vibes are not strong in the Twin Cities. The defense has been pretty good, allowing fewer than 1.1 points per possession, but the offense is not playing well. Anthony Edwards doesn’t seem to like the approach, Rudy Gobert has been out, and Minnesota has turned the ball over on almost 16 percent of possessions. It’s a process, but it seems like patience is already wearing thin.

17. Chicago Bulls (6-6, Last week — 19th)

Chicago’s defense is carrying a lot right now. The Bulls are in the top five of the league in defensive rating right now, making up for a below-average offense to this point. Chicago is going to need more from Zach LaVine, but the Bulls are at least hanging around where they need to be.

18. New York Knicks (5-5, Last week — 18th)

In on-brand fashion, the Knicks are smack dab in the middle of the league in offense and defense. The depth is a real strength, but the starters are brutal and Tom Thibodeau hasn’t quite figured out the right balance to make it all work on a daily basis.

19. Indiana Pacers (5-5, Last week — 26th)

Indiana gets a bump this week after four wins in the last five games. The Pacers are scoring at a sky-high level with 1.17 points per possession over that sample, and Indiana beat Brooklyn, Miami, and New Orleans. It’s too early to be worried about “too many wins” but the Pacers are not bad right now.

20. Miami Heat (4-7, Last week — 24th)

Miami could use some “get right” games and, on cue, the Heat will play the Hornets twice at home this week. Nothing is assured, but that should help the bottom line.

21. Brooklyn Nets (4-7, Last week — 25th)

The Nets are at least showing some life. The Kyrie Irving absence continues and, well, who knows, but Kevin Durant looks good with 31 points per game and 50-plus percent from the field. Brooklyn is going to have all kinds of issues getting stops, but the offense should be good whether Irving is there or not.

22. Washington Wizards (5-6, Last week — 21st)

Washington basically stood pat in the rankings this week after winning on the road in Charlotte on Monday. As we’ll get to below, beating the Hornets right now isn’t anything special, but they had to hold serve. They did that. Everything else is not fantastic for a team that is dead-last in the league in turnover creation and nearly last in three-point frequency and accuracy on offense.

23. San Antonio Spurs (5-6, Last week — 9th)

A 14-spot dip is about as rough as it gets from week to week, but the Spurs “earned” it. San Antonio lost all four games this week and got absolutely obliterated. The Spurs gave up more than 1.2 points per possession and had a -19.1 net rating.

24. Sacramento Kings (3-6, Last week — 22nd)

There are some very encouraging signs for the Kings. Sacramento is 3-2 in the last five games, and both losses came in narrow fashion. The Kings nearly beat the Warriors, and Sacramento has been borderline frisky on defense. The overall profile isn’t great, but there is stuff to like.

25. Oklahoma City Thunder (4-6, Last week — 20th)

Hot and cold. The Thunder opened 0-3, then won four a row, then lost three in a row. The truth is probably closer to the ugly side for a team with the No. 28 offense, but OKC is well-coached and scrappy defensively. There are just nights when the offense is untenable.

26. Charlotte Hornets (3-8, Last week — 23rd)

Charlotte won two of the first three games by double-digits and there was some positive buzz. Reality set in, though, and the LaMelo Ball-less Hornets are in a dark place. Charlotte is on a five-game losing streak with a -14.3 net rating over that sample. It’s not terribly shocking with Ball on the shelf, but it’s still rough.

27. Los Angeles Lakers (2-8, Last week — 27th)

Listen, it’s been rough for the Lakers. They’ve lost three in a row, and the offense has been dreadful. LeBron isn’t making shots. AD isn’t dominating. They don’t have shooting. It’s a mess…. but Russell Westbrook has been better! In the last five games, he is shooting 55.6 percent from the field in a bench role, putting up his usual counting stats but actually contributing in an efficient manner. That’s something.

28. Detroit Pistons (3-8, Last week — 28th)

A third victory keeps Detroit out of the bottom two. The Pistons maintain the NBA’s worst point differential, but Detroit picked up a nice home win over OKC on Monday. Detroit got smoked by Milwaukee and Cleveland before that, but that’ll happen.

29. Houston Rockets (2-9, Last week — 30th)

The Rockets knocked off the Magic to pick up an elusive second win. Houston lost six in a row, and the Rockets are still in the bottom six of the league in offensive rating and defensive rating. It was also a good week for Jalen Green after a slow start, as he shot 52.9 percent from the field and put up 25.7 points per game over a three-game span.

30. Orlando Magic (2-9, Last week — 29th)

Orlando slips to the bottom after a home loss to Houston. On paper, that might be the easiest matchup in the league, so that’s not a great result. Still, Paolo Banchero is cooking, Franz Wagner is very good, and Orlando should eventually have some healthy guard play. This week did have a 26-point effort from Jalen Suggs, which is encouraging, but the Magic do have work to do.