The Miami Heat went into the NBA’s All-Star Break five games over .500, seeded fifth in the Eastern Conference and with much to improve if it truly plans to make a deep playoff run.
At this point, there’s probably no catching the Cleveland Cavaliers or Toronto Raptors for the top two seeds in the East. But moving up to third place? Chris Bosh said Tuesday that’s “one of the goals” Miami has to have over its final 29 regular-season games.
As far as the schedule is concerned, the second half won’t be easy for the Heat (29-24).
Miami’s strength of schedule ranks sixth in the East (.491) behind only the Hawks (.525), Bulls (.503), Raptors (.500), Magic (.499) and 76ers (.494). Five of the Heat’s first seven opponents have winning records (Hawks, Pacers, Warriors, Celtics, Bulls).
The Heat is 6-11 this season against 30-plus-win teams (Miami has seven games left against those) and 23-13 against everyone else. If you take the Heat’s winning percentage against those 30-win teams (.353) and against everyone else (.639) and do the math with the second-half schedule, Miami projects to finish at 45-37.
With that said, here’s a player-by-player report card for the first half of the season:
▪ Bosh: Coming off a health scare that ended his season last year, Bosh is the only Heat starter who has played in every game this season. He leads Miami in scoring (19.1) and three-pointers (81) and ranks fifth in the Eastern Conference in Player Impact Estimate (15.1). Miami is 18-10 when Bosh scores at least 20 points and 13-6 when he shoots 50 percent or better. Grade: A-
▪ Dwyane Wade: Even at 34, he’s still performing at a high level. For one, he has missed only three games (two because of injury, one due to an emergency with his son). He’s also one of only eight players in the league shooting at least 45 percent and averaging 18 points, four rebounds and four assists a game. His jumper (37.4 percent) is the only part of his game that has slipped since the Heat’s last Finals appearance two years ago (44.9 percent). Grade: B+
▪ Hassan Whiteside: Up until he threw an elbow and was ejected from Tuesday’s game, he had kept himself out of trouble. Yes, the Heat scores more points in the paint when Whiteside is not in there to clog the driving lanes. But his league-leading 3.9 blocks per game and 11.0 rebounds (fifth in the NBA) have value. He also ranks ninth the league in player efficiency rating. Grade: B
▪ Goran Dragic: His scoring (13.6), field-goal percentage (46.9 percent), free-throw percentage (68.7 percent) and three-point percentage (33.1 percent) are all significantly down from his third-team All-NBA season two years ago in Phoenix. But he leads the team in plus/minus (+78) and ranks sixth among all guards in defensive field-goal differential (-4.8 percent). Five other Heat players have taken more fourth-quarter shots than Dragic. So, he hasn’t had or taken many opportunities to be a hero. Grade: C+
▪ Luol Deng: He’s got the worst plus/minus rating on the team (-118) and his scoring (10.6 points per game) and field goal percentage (43.0) are down. But he’s still connecting on 36.3 percent from three-point range and has become more valuable since coach Erik Spoelstra made some changes to the offense. Grade: C+
▪ Justise Winslow: He has shot the ball better of late and become more involved offensively, but the rookie’s real value has come on the defensive side, guarding just about anyone on the floor. He is playing more minutes (27.8) than anyone else off the Heat bench and is also third on the team in plus/minus (+39). Grade: B
▪ Tyler Johnson: Before shoulder surgery last week, the former D-League product was proving to be a valuable weapon off the bench. He was shooting 37.9 percent from three-point range and averaging 8.7 points per game — something only 23 other bench players in the league were doing. Grade: B
▪ Amar’e Stoudemire: After playing only three times before Christmas, he has started 10 games and averaged 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and a block in 18.2 minutes per game since Jan. 17. He has developed real value in spurts. Grade: B-
▪ Beno Udrih: Since coming over in the trade with Memphis for Mario Chalmers he has provided a steady hand at backup point guard (2.6 assists; 1.1 turnovers). Grade: B-
▪ Gerald Green: He seems to have put behind a bizarre incident early in the season that led to a suspension, and his defense on the court has improved. But his three-point shooting (31.9) has been a disappointment. He’s averaging 10.1 points but isn’t doing enough of what the Heat signed him for. Grade: C+
▪ Josh McRoberts: Even now that he’s healthy again (he missed 93 of a possible 135 games), he’s hardly playing or making an impact. The Heat didn’t sign McRoberts to a four-year, $22.6 million deal to get 3.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists. Grade: D-
▪ Udonis Haslem: His halftime speeches early in the season were his most valuable contributions. He has played in just 25 games and is averaging the third-fewest minutes on the squad (8.0). Grade: C
▪ Josh Richardson: Miami’s second-round pick hasn’t played enough (he’s averaging 11.5 minutes in 23 games played) or well enough to warrant more work beyond what he has done in four games in the D-League (23.2 ppg, 3.8 apg, 2.5 spg). Grade: C
▪ Chris Andersen: Once a valuable rebounder and defender, Birdman, 37, was hardly playing (5 minutes a game) or hardly effective (9 rebounds total in 36 minutes) before injuring his knee against the Clippers on Jan. 13. Grade: D
▪ Jarnell Stokes: The D-League All-Star could be a replacement for Haslem down the road or he could be out the door as a salary dump. Grade: Incomplete.