Improved Heat Lacking in the Middle
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 11/24/2008
Last season's 15-67 record for the Miami Heat was so mind-numbingly bad, people are still having trouble trying to figure out how a team with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neil for most of the season just refused to win games. The Heat are assured to be one of the most improved teams this year just for the simple fact that anything is an improvement over 15 wins. This season after 13 games, the Heat are almost halfway there with a 7-6 straight up record.
The team does have Wade this year, an NBA Finals champion and a gold medalist and two of the most exciting rookies in the game in Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley, but something the Heat don't have has really hurt them this year - size.
Six-foot-eight "center" Udonis Haslem will be overmatched in just about every game this year. The lack of size in the post after the trade of Shaq is something that will hound this team all year and prevent them from being a serious contender no matter what Wade and Beasley do.
Miami has played close to the spread all season this year. Against the spread they are 6-6-1 and against the total they are 6-7 after 13 games.
Wade leads the team in points (28.9), assists (7.8), steals (2.4) and, believe it or not, blocks (2.0). Shawn Marion, a midseason addition to the Heat last year, is leading the team in rebounds with nine per game. When your leading rebounder is not even averaging double digits and your leading shot blocker is your two-guard, you can begin to see the Heat's troubles. Going up against big centers is almost assuring Miami a recipe for a loss. Against Portland and Greg Oden this season, Miami dropped a 104-96 game as a one-point favorite. Against the tandem of Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neil in Toronto, Miami lost both games, failing to cover each time.
Miami's game against Houston on Monday started a week of trouble for the Heat and Haslem. After going up against seven-foot-six Yao Ming Monday, the Miami players are going to see nothing but big men on the opposing team all this week. Another game against Oden along with a matchup with Shaq and Chris Kaman of the Clippers is what the Heat have to look forward to.
Even with the atrocious 2007-2008 season still hanging over their head, the Heat have been underdogs only one more time than they were favored and they have only been on the wrong end of a double digit spread just once when they were giving 11 to New Orleans, a game that ended with a push.
Oddsmakers are putting a lot of stock in Wade and Marion with their two rookies and undersized center. So far Miami has held its own against the number and even straight up, but as more and more teams start to focus on the Heat's weakness, it will be a tall task for Miami to stay competitive and in the playoff hunt. The spreads should not get too high as the public views Wade as a potential MVP candidate and Beasley as a shoe-in for Rookie of the Year.
When it comes to the Heat this season, a team with a physical inside game should be plenty to negate the play of Wade and Beasley on the outside.