In an effort to promote comity between the sister sites of SB Nation the munificent Kevin Kraczkowski of Hot Hot Hoops joins us and answers my five questions about the Miami Heat.
Check out Hot Hot Hoops for all that is Miami Heat basketball and check out my responses to Kevin's five questions about the Phoenix Suns. Special thanks to Kevin for
putting up with me joining me in this endeavor.
1. What are your thoughts on the mercurial Michael Beasley? I see he leads the team in scoring per 36 minutes. Why is he not playing more minutes than LeBron considering this staggering achievement? Seriously, though, what is your take on his behavior on and off the court?
Kevin: He started the season deep in the rotation, and patiently bided his time. He scored six points in four minutes in the HEAT's fifth game this year, against the Raptors, and continued to put up a point per minute through his first few appearances. The biggest knock on his play is that he is a one trick pony: all he does is score. He's shown that he's not really very strong at passing with only four assists thus far in 117 minutes of court time, but he's started to rebound a little more: after two rebounds in his first four games he has 18 in his last four.
He only played eight minutes at home versus Orlando, but he scored nine very important points to get the HEAT back into it after being 16 down at halftime. He's a spark plug, pure and simple, and he gives the HEAT yet another weapon off an already formidable bench. Personally, I think he would do pretty well with starters minutes. He's a better all-around talent than alternate options Shane Battier, James Jones, and Rashard Lewis. All that being said, it's hard to critique the coaching staff that has represented the Eastern Conference in three straight NBA Finals.
2. The Heat are #1 in the league in ORtg and putting up some pretty ridiculous shooting numbers (.518 FG% and .439 3P%). Are they getting better looks? Are the offensive sets running more seamlessly? Have the Heat actually improved on offense or is this just a scorching stretch to start the season?
Kevin: The HEAT's three-point shooting prowess isn't an isolated incident or an illusion. There are eight players (James Jones, Beasley, Roger Mason, Mario Chalmers, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Norris Cole, and Ray Allen) who are averaging better than Miami's NBA leading .396 three-point success rate from last season. I think the HEAT are finding it easier to stretch opposing defenses because the traditional three-point shooters (Shane Battier, Allen, Chalmers) are more likely this year to drive the lane. Conversely, Chris Bosh, Norris Cole, and Mario Chalmers all trained hard this offseason on distance shooting, and are thus far reaping the rewards of a high three-point percentage. The reason everything is up is because opponents can't key on anything specific. Where does an elephant sit? Wherever he wants to.
3. Dwyane Wade turns 32 in January and there have already been some murmurs about him being on a descending career trajectory. Some of his numbers this season have dipped, including scoring (17.7 per game) which is on pace to be the lowest output since his rookie season. How does he look? Is he more of the same old Dwyane Wade or just old Dwyane Wade?
Kevin: I've answered some permutation of this question on every "five questions" article thus far. It seems the writing is on the wall for old man Wade. It's true that his knees are not what they used to be, and he will henceforth sit out the second game of back-to-back games against other than elite opponents to keep him fresh for the stretch run. He has sat out a total of 39 regular season games since the dawning of the "Big Three" era, but the HEAT are 31-8 in those games.
Also consider the 67 playoff games the HEAT have played in in that span (66 of which Wade started). That all adds up to Wade appearing in 92 games per 82 game season (accounting for the 66 game lockout-shortened season) over three-plus years. Again, he's not going to eat up 40 minutes per game anymore, but he can still drive, sink daggers late, and play above the rim when he needs to. So, yes, Wade is older, but coach Erik Spoelstra is managing him (and his knees) with an eye on the three-peat.
4. The Eastern Conference is apparently a two team race. Any thoughts on why the East is so terrible? If Miami and Indiana played a seven game series right now who do you think would win? What about in the Eastern Conference Finals?
Kevin: I have no idea, but it has been substandard to the Western Conference for years and it has only become more pronounced this season. If the season ended today, there would be three sub-.500 teams from the East in the picture, while the West would have three teams at .500 or better (including the Suns) who would miss it. That hardly seems fair, right? I don't know how it happened, and I have no idea how the powers-that-be are going to fix it.
The Pacers are really strong, and the HEAT as they stand have no answer for the NBA's leading shot blocker, Roy Hibbert. If they played a seven game series today, I think the Pacers would really give Miami a lot of problems. Although it would be close, I think the home court clinching team would come out on top, and as it stands, the Pacers are the home court clinching team.
For the third part of your question, you have to understand that the HEAT signed giant question mark Greg Oden and HIS knees for the veteran's minimum during the offseason. Oden is going to be called on soon to sub in for Miami from eight to 10 minutes per game. Charles Barkley said it best earlier this season - Oden was signed for four reasons, Lopez, Hibbert, Howard, and Horford. Oden, if healthy, is the key to locking Hibbert down. The only thing Miami lacks is consistent rebounding, and Oden addresses that issue. Still, when you're making 52% of your shots, you're also generating less rebounds to collect. If Oden's in the game, Miami in five.
5. How important is winning a championship this season in relation to LeBron James continuing his career as a member of the Miami Heat?
Kevin: I can only answer this question from a personal standpoint. I have been a HEAT fan from the very start, and would follow (and have) the team whether they win 66 games and the title or 15 games and a high draft pick. It's a joy to see what James and Company can do every night, but if he leaves, I'll still love the HEAT. And as a fan, I'll still love to watch LBJ, wherever he lands. Although in the real world, one of your two options impact the other, as far as I can see, the two are mostly unrelated. I hope he plays here for 10 more years, but I'll still be here if he doesn't. Long live the King!
Thanks for playing along, Jim!
It was my pleasure.