Another game, another edition of The Questionable Blogger. This one is with Kevin Kraczkowsi of SB Nation's Miami blog, Hot Hot Hoops. But before we get to it, I want to do a little shaming. We work hard on these Q&As, it takes a lot of coordination and collaboration. I thought the citizenry liked them, but I must say I've been disappointed in the reception so far this season. We've had crickets on the comment threads on the last couple QBs. If you guys like there and want them to continue, you need to show us some love. Let's hear a little chatter out there! <end_shaming>
The Heat are obviously the Heat -- we know a lot about them; they're not exactly underexposed. But Kevin provides us a few more insights than we would get from the national media.
Steve Perrin: Two early losses by the defending champs... but LeBron James and Co. have taught us over the years not to pay too much heed to any early struggles and I'm not going to try to fish for weaknesses in the available data. So I'm going to ask you as the expert to explain the following hypothetical: it's June and the Heat did NOT win the NBA Championship -- what went wrong?
Kevin Kraczkowski: First off, I have to disclaim that i am also a Florida Panthers (NHL) fan. I've seen how fickle the fans can be, and understand very well that anything less than an NBA Title will be unacceptable. Pitiful, I know, but a winning product makes it a seller's market, and you could buy a second row seat behind the Panthers goal for $9 just four hours before game time. You can bet Heat tickets won't be that affordable.
What went wrong? Miami couldn't control the glass and gave up too many second chance points. That and they couldn't show up to play until they were down by 20 when the second quarter started.
SP: I'l confess to not having followed the roster machinations very closely, but I was surprised to see that Greg Oden has yet to play in the regular season and Michael Beasley finally made it off the bench Tuesday against the Raptors for a few minutes (immediately draining a couple of threes, by the way). I don't get it. Why take a flyer on these guys if you're not going to give them some chances early? Oden's not going to get up to game speed without, you know, games. And why would you have a talented but troubled guy like Beasley as your 12th man? That's what Roger Mason Jr is for, not Michael Beasley. What am I missing?
KK: No, you're not missing anything. The entire fan base is salivating over what Oden could bring to the table. Even at half speed (he's closer to 3/4th's, btw) he should be able to offer more than Udonis Haslem (per game production of 16 minutes, 2.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, and a 1.3 player efficiency rating) who is averaging more fouls than rebounds. Miami has the talent to hide UD in plain sight and not have it reflect the bottom line, but when you have Oden on the bench, why would they?
Beasley is yet another guy who can shoot from deep (Miami has 10 guys who can tee up). We would all like to see him in more contests. As his short appearance showed, his time off the floor has not left him rusty.
SP: What is LeBron James? I mean, obviously he can do pretty much anything, and he can play pretty much any position. But if you HAD to pick one of the five traditional basketball positions -- there's a gun to your head and you MUST pick just one -- what is the guy?
KK: LeBron James is so multi faceted that it's almost impossible to answer this question. He passes like a point guard, rebounds like a power forward, and shoots like everything. He had a field goal percentage last season of 56.5%. Let that sink in. That includes three point attempts. He matches up defensively with nearly anyone, and he's on the floor for 40 minutes each game. There's no way around him. If I had to pick a position, it'd be power forward just by his physique. In truth, he's a nightmare basketball genius.
SP: Chris Bosh has opened the season making six of ten three point attempts. Fool's gold or legitimate new arrow in the quiver?
KK: Bosh has put in the work this offseason to add this tool to his already impressive permanent arsenal. Although a 60% success rate is assuredly out of the question, I don't think it's unrealistic to expect him to take two shots a game and make 35-40% of them.
This new tool is going to force opposing defenses to respect Bosh from the outside, which will result in opening the lanes up for more drives to the hoop. We've already seen an improvement in this respect with Ray Allen and Shane Battier, who both were primarily on the offensive end of the court to generate three-pointers. It's an enviable 'problem,' too many weapons.
SP: The defending champs didn't lose any key players (depending on how you feel about Mike Miller) but they didn't really add anyone either (see Oden/Beasley question). Some would say that if you're not improving, then the rest of the league is catching up. Did the Heat need to do more this off-season?
KK: The short answer is no. There's no problem to speak of in basketball paradise.
Digging a little deeper into the issue and Miami's roster turns up some interesting nuggets. Udonis Haslem would not be on many NBA depth charts in the league right now, yet the Heat start him in every contest. At best, he's a sentimental favorite, at worst he's a drain on both ends of the court. Opposing teams would be wise to target him for as long as the Heat continue to give him regular minutes. Miami would be wise to upgrade his slot on the roster with someone a little younger, a little faster, and a lot more equipped to handle 16 minutes per game with the defending NBA Champions.
Joel Anthony also fits this mold. A defensive specialist with almost no offensive skills. In each of his seasons on the Heat, he has ranked last in points per 36 minutes, and over his career has scored 5.2 points in each 36 minute block. His defensive prowess does not come close to outweighing his ineptitude on the offensive end of the floor. It's not just scoring either. Sometimes he struggles with completing the simplest of passes.
I don't mean to throw these two under the boat without a life preserver, though. They each are part of a functional and successful 'family.' A family that has represented the Eastern Conference in the finals the last three seasons and has now won two in a row. Whatever they bring to the locker room is working.
Thank you Steve. I look forward to the game, and will chat with you next time the Heat play the Clippers.
Thank you Kevin! Great answers and I'm looking forward to the game as well. I have a bad feeling the Clippers may get a bit exposed in this one -- something tells me that the Heat may be tired of hearing about the high-flying Clippers and wouldn't mind delivering a message on National TV. I hope I'm wrong -- or that the message turns out to be undeliverable.
Be sure to visit Hot Hot Hoops for the view from South Beach, and to check out my answers to their Clippers questions.