The Miami Heat came back from last year’s championship performance on a mission to do it again; win the championship. Their mission is crystal clear and the NBA is taking notice.
The Heat own the best record in the NBA at 63-16, the most wins in the franchise’s history. Their 27-game win streak, which ended on March 27 in a loss to the Chicago Bulls, was the second-longest in NBA history. The Heat also clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. They are well on their way to become back-to-back champions.
The Heat are fueled by the fusion of veterans, All-Stars and their “Big Three” in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the chemical formula that should guarantee their mission. James has emerged as a candidate for another MVP award. Shooting guard Ray Allen proved his worth on the team. The Heat are a well-run unit under coach Erik Spoelstra. They performed to their expectations and yet they can still be a better team. Here’s their report card:
LeBron James, F: A
The reigning MVP is making his case to win a fourth MVP award. Averaging 26.8 points, eight rebounds and 7.3 assists per game, the most for any Heat player, King James is the man. He is just as formidable on defense as he is on offense, averaging 1.7 steals and 0.9 blocks a game.
Both James and the Heat need each other. Without James, the Heat would be very different without him and vice versa. James showed the world he was back last year. This year is a continuation of his dominance, and he loves every minute.
Dwyane Wade, G: A-
The Heat’s cornerstone franchise player may have slowed down, but he still is a formidable opponent. Wade averages 21.2 points under 51.9 percent from the field and leads the team in steals with 1.9 a game. With two NBA championships under his belt, he has the know-how provides the capability to lead the Heat in the event of King James getting hurt.
Though Wade is currently suffering from knee and ankle injuries, it’s apparent the Heat need Wade, a healthy for the playoffs. With a healthy Wade, the big three will dominate again and bring another championship to Miami.
Chris Bosh, PF/C: A-
Bosh rounds out the Big Three, playing center and power forward. He averages 16.7 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. Despite being the odd man out of the three, Bosh can still close games. He hit a clutch 3-pointer over the San Antonio Spurs March 31 for the game-winner in an 87-85 victory.
Bosh, like Wade and James, is invaluable to the Heat. He brings energy to the team and can lead the frontcourt to victory. Even though Bosh has had hip problems, the Heat’s center should be well rested for the playoffs.
Ray Allen, SG: B+
The Heat signed the pure 3-point shooter during the offseason. He hasn’t let down his team, shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from the 3-point line. The veteran leads the team in free-throw percentage with 88.7 percent, as well as scoring 11.1 points a game off the bench. Frankly, he unquestionably earned the starting position for the injured Dwyane Wade.
Allen knows what it takes to win, as he won in as part of the inaugural Big Three while on the Boston Celtics with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. It’s been five years for Allen since he won an NBA championship. At 38 and as a part of the Heat’s rotation, he has a good chance to earn his second ring.
Mario Chalmers, PG: B
This starting point guard has the task of running James, Wade and Bosh together on the court. Chalmers is not elite, averaging 8.6 points and 3.5 assists a game. Truthfully, he doesn’t need to assume the role of elite point guard. All that is required is that Chalmers contribute, which he has admirably.
Chalmers is third on the Heat with 1.6 steals a game and second in 3-point percentage, shooting 42.9 percent. He can lead the squad without the Big Three, when needed. When the squad is on, Chalmers’ job is easy: Let them do the damage and reap the rewards.
Shane Battier, SG/SF: B
The Duke alum leads the team in 3-point percentage at 43 percent. Battier, 34, can still hit the 3 off the bench. He provides much-needed depth for the team behind the arc. He averages 6.6 points a game while shooting 42.1 percent.
Battier is second in free-throw percentage on the team with 85.7 percent. He’s still an intense shooter who can knock down long-range shots at any moment. It would be wise for opponents not to foul this man.
Udonis Haslem, PF: B
The starting power forward has made a decent career with the Heat. In 74 games, he averages 3.9 points and 2.5 rebounds a game making this forward one of the Heat’s most durable players.
Haslem shoots pretty well despite the low total, as he shoots 51.4 percent from the field, which means he takes his shots whenever he can. Point taken, Haslem can be just as much a threat as his more prestigious teammates.
Rashard Lewis, F: B-
The Heat acquired Lewis in a sign-and-trade deal with the Washington Wizards. Since then, Lewis became a good reserve player. He averages 4.8 points per game, shooting 41.6 percent from the field.
Lewis is another 3-point option for the Heat, although his best days are behind him. The forward is shooting 39.1 percent from the line, which is above his career total of 38.7 percent. He’s still a threat behind the arc, and opponents should not leave him alone behind the 3-point line.
Mike Miller, SG/SF: B-
How much 3-point shooting do you need? The Heat have a plethora of that, with Mike Miller rounding up the 3-point shooters cast. Miller is still a threat from downtown at 38.9 percent from the line.
This guard scores 4.3 points per game, but like Lewis, he mostly contributes from the 3-point line. It would be wise for opponents to keep Miller in front of the line instead of behind.
Chris Andersen, C: B-
Chris “Birdman” Andersen has enjoyed his role as a Heat player. He’s the spark plug and a suitable backup center for the team. In 39 games, he’s averaged 4.6 points and 3.9 rebounds a game.
Andersen’s contribution is the energy for the team, not because of his stats but for bringing new life when needed. His valuable contributions are useful for the Heat during their playoff run.
Norris Cole, PG: C
This backup point guard has done well coming off the bench. He scores 5.4 a game while recording 1.9 assists. Cole shoots 42.1 percent from the field and logs in 19:20 minutes a game.
Not much can be said about this kid, as he battles playing time with Chalmers, Wade and the other guards. Cole provides a fresh set of legs when called upon. And he makes his playing time useful.
Joel Anthony, C: C
The forward-center doesn’t get much playing time. In 59 games, he averages 8:59 a game, which is less than a quarter. Anthony averages 1.3 points and 1.8 rebounds a game.
He’s not their first option as backup. However, the veteran center can step up when needed. If Bosh is down, he’ll need to help shoulder the load in the middle.
Juwan Howard, PF: C-
The veteran forward-center is in this for one more year. His best days are behind him, but the Fab Five alum is there for more of a mentor-type role. This season, he’s played in four games, averaging 0.6 rebounds and 0.4 points per game. He’s there to help the team through advice and leadership, and Heat president Pat Riley appreciates these roles on the team.
Riley told USA Today that he brings a “unique veteran savvy” about him. Under Howard’s mentorship, the Heat will become more grounded before they step on the court.
James Jones, SG/SF: C-
Perhaps the most disappointing of the bunch is James Jones. This veteran is probably the most expendable of the team, averaging 1.3 points per game in 35 games. His production and playing time have both gone down over the years, as he played 51 games last year.
Not much can be said about the 32-year-old swingman. He’ll most likely see time on the bench during the postseason.
Jarvis Varnado, F: D
It’s a bit unfair to judge Varnado because of his playing time and his age. The 24-year-old forward was signed from Boston after being released. Varnado has only played six games and won’t be seeing any time after the regular season ends.
Maybe Varnado can contribute, but don’t expect him to get playing time while with the Miami Heat.