The Miami Heat just aren't very good right now. It's not like they faced major expectations coming into the season, either - their season win total sat at just 34.5 entering the season. At 7-15 they are well under that pace, though, and they have dropped seven of their last 10 so they aren't exactly trending upwards. They sit at 10-12 ATS, so they aren't burning things up at the betting window either way - you can't make serious money betting on them or betting against them.
When you look at a team like this you need to get a sense of where they are at. Are they a team poised to improve in a big way and deliver some quiet value before the betting public catches on? Or are they a team really ready to struggle and prove really useful to bet against? Or are they just going to struggle as they are, treading water and doing little of use for bettors? As we try to classify these Heat, let's ponder these four factors:
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Lousy at home: There is a pretty easy shortcut to evaluate if a team is any good. A good team takes care of business at home. Bad teams don't. All 16 playoff teams last year were at least 23-18, and 10 of them won at least 28 home games. It doesn't mean that you will be a good team if you win at home - the Bulls were 26-15 at home last year and missed the playoffs. If you don't win at home, though, then you suck. On that front the Heat really, really suck. Their 2-8 home record is the worst in the entire NBA. The lowly 76ers are second worst in the Eastern Conference, and they have twice as many home wins. There are plenty of indicators that this team is no good, but none is more compelling than this.
Offense: The team is reasonably solid on defense - not truly elite, but among the better teams and full of upside thanks to guys like Hassan Whiteside and Justise WInslow. It is their offense, though, that is really letting them down. They have scored 97.3 points per game, which is better than only Orlando in the East and Dallas in the West. Being better than those two is not something to exactly gloat about. We could get into all the reasons why they can't score, and there are many, but at the root is a simple, glaring fact - they don't have any scorers. Goran Dragic leads the team with 18 points per game, but he is forced to do too much and is far more effective when he doesn't have to finish quite so much. Whiteside, the second-leading scorer, is a defender who isn't comfortable as an offensive force. There just isn't a pure scorer out there who can be relied upon to explode and put up a huge number or who can consistently be relied upon to post nice numbers and carry the offensive load.
Coaching: Erik Spoelstra can coach. When he has players. He is doing a fine enough job with this team, but he can't work miracles. The important thing, though, is that Spoelstra doesn't have to fear for his job. The front office knows what they have, and they trust him to lead the rebuild. A desperate coach fighting for his job can be just a disaster in a spot like this. A coaching situation like this, though, offers some much-needed stability. This is one of few assets for the team.
The rebuild can start next week: Make no mistake - this is a team that faces a massive rebuild before they can be a serious contender. We can't know for sure, but it sure seems like the team from ownership on down knows where they are at and what they have to do. They are not built to be contenders as they currently stand. Up until now, though, they have lacked flexibility. You can't trade a player you signed as a free agent in the summer until Dec. 15. That means that next week they will have the option of dealing eight players they couldn't deal until now. That doesn't mean that they should or will trade all or any of them, but it means that they have options. They also will have the option to cut Chris Bosh and free up the cap space currently tied up in the injured former superstar. They have flexibility - and at least a shot to attract one of the big free agents this coming summer that can speed up this return to glory.
What we can't know, though, is how quickly they are going to embrace the changes - when they are going to fully plunge into the process. The sooner they do the better it is - both for the team because it gets them closer to their goals, and for handicappers because we can then be absolutely certain that they are a happy team to bet against. The longer they hold off on the changes and stick with the status quo, though, the more dismal things will likely get and the harder it will be for them to win with any regularity.
In short, then, they are going to be an easy team to bet against no matter what the rest of this season, but how they embrace the rebuild will determine how we handicap them going forward.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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