Miami Heat 5-1
Last rank: 10th
Last week: Won vs. Atlanta 112-97, won at Atlanta 106-97, won vs. Houston 129-100
This week: Tuesday at Denver, Thursday at Phoenix, Friday at Lakers
So how is it that the Miami Heat — with one loss — could possibly be ranked ahead of the unbeaten 76ers? There is a reason … several, actually.
For starters, the Heat have the best net rating in the NBA at a plus-11.4, per Cleaning the Glass, just one of two teams with a double-digit net thus far (Phoenix, at plus-10.2, is the other). Miami is also No. 2 in defensive rating at 98.3, third in free-throw rate and sixth defensively in effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage and offensive rebounding percentage.
That’s a pretty solid combination. Miami picked up its third straight win on Sunday with an obliteration of the Rockets in another strong overall performance from Jimmy Butler. The free-agent acquisition missed the first three games as a new father, but has come back to be a leader for the Heat on the floor.
Butler is only scoring 14.7 points per game, but he’s also getting 7.3 assists, 7.0 rebounds, an absurd 4.3 steals and 1.3 blocks in just 31.0 minutes per game thus far as he finds his shooting touch (his slash is only .389/.300/.650). Against the Rockets, Butler had 18 points, nine dimes, seven boards and four steals in 27 minutes and his 7-for-15 shooting was his best so far.