Miami Heat

The Heat entered Monday as the NBA’s best in one telling category

The Heat is not only 5-1 to begin the season, matching its best six-game start over the team’s 32 seasons, but it’s also the league’s best in one telling category.

Entering Monday, the Heat owns the NBA’s top net rating at 10.3, ahead of the second-place Lakers (9.5). Net rating is a good indicator of how a team is playing on both ends of the court because it’s the difference between a team’s offensive and defensive ratings.

For the Heat, it has the league’s ninth-best offensive rating and the fourth-best defensive rating. That equals the NBA’s top net rating, with the Heat set to begin a three-game West Coast trip Tuesday against the Nuggets.

It’s only a six-game sample size, but it’s further proof the Heat has been among the league’s best over the first two weeks of the season.

“We are far from the finished product as a team,” said Heat forward Duncan Robinson, who finished Sunday’s win over the Rockets with a career-high 23 points and seven made threes. “The encouraging thing is that it can be different guys on different nights.”

Ball movement has been a staple of the Heat’s offense this season, with Miami averaging the fourth-most assists in the league at 27 per game. The Heat recorded 38 assists Sunday, which is tied for the second most it has ever finished a game with in franchise history.

That ball movement has led to five different leading scorers over the Heat’s first six games. And four-time All-Star wing Jimmy Butler is not one of them, with Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, Justise Winslow and Robinson making up that list.

“The guys are unselfish,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It starts with your best players subscribing to that. And they’re having fun sharing the ball and enjoying somebody else scoring. That’s really difficult to get to in this league.”

Butler, who was acquired this past offseason as the Heat’s new leading man, is averaging a team-high 7.3 assists this season.

“I think Jimmy is really unique,” Spoelstra said. “I just think for a max player that he really is just about winning and he’s not necessarily about stats. If you look at his career, he has never averaged over 15 field goal attempts. When we first started like locking in on him, that was one of the biggest surprises I noticed when I really dug into his statistics, and how much confidence he infuses in guys.”

The only Heat player who did not travel to Denver on Monday for the start of the three-game West Coast trip was guard Daryl Macon, who is under a two-way contract and is currently with the G League’s Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Guard Dion Waiters, and forwards Justise Winslow (lower back tightness), Derrick Jones Jr. (left groin strain) and KZ Okpala (left Achillies strain) all traveled with the team.

Winslow and Jones both practiced Monday evening in Denver and are questionable for Tuesday’s contest. Okpala has been ruled out for the Heat’s matchup against the Nuggets.

Spoelstra said Waiters will be active and on the Heat’s bench for Tuesday’s game. Waiters has not played in a game since serving his one-game suspension in the Oct. 23 season opener for “conduct detrimental to the team.”

Center Chris Silva traveled with the Heat, but he did not practice with the team Monday to save a day on his two-way contract’s 45-day NBA clock. He has used three NBA days and is expected to be available for Tuesday’s game.

The Heat is averaging 117.8 points per game this season, which is the highest team scoring average through the first six games of any season in franchise history.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.
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