Saturday, November 27, 2010

Miami Heat Check: It Was All Good Just A Week Ago, Pt. 2

A week ago, the Miami Heat were just one game behind the Boston Celtics for best record in the Eastern Conference at 8-4 and on a three-game winning streak after defeating the Charlotte Bobcats. 

Seven days later, things have taken a terrible turn with a three-game losing streak and two of the Heat's top four players, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, going down with injuries. The last week has resulted in two burning questions - why are the Heat struggling and what should be done about it?

This article will use Win Score and Estimated Wins Produced, statistical models created by Professor David Berri from the Wages of Wins Journal, to measure how much a player's box score statistics contributed to their team's performance. An average player produces an estimated 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (EWP48), a star player produces 0.200+ EWP48 and a superstar produces 0.300+ EWP48. More information on these stats can be found at the following links:

The UD Effect
A big problem of course, was the injury to Udonis Haslem. Haslem was the team's leading rebounder with an average of 14.8 rebounds per 48 minutes and was also an above average power forward with 0.124 EWP48. The only other power forward on the roster, Juwan Howard, has been terribly below average in the few minutes he's played with -0.165 EWP48.

With an average EWP48 of 0.150 before Haslem got hurt, the Heat were playing like a 62-win team. Without Haslem's 0.124 EWP48 for 26.5 minutes each game, the Heat's average EWP48 should be expected to decline to 0.134, which would only result in 55 wins over the course of a season.

The Heat have tried to prevent a decline from the UD effect by signing Erick Dampier. Will it work? I've already covered it in this article.

Unfortunately, the UD effect doesn't explain everything that's wrong with the Heat. Miami's average EWP48 since Haslem tore the Lisfranc ligament in his foot is just 0.046 and it was just 0.089 in the seven quarters before the injury.

To identify the other reasons why the Heat are struggling, let's take a look at the games they've played in the last seven days.

Heat 95, Bobcats 87
This game was changed in the third quarter. It was the second least productive quarter the Heat have played this season (only the fourth quarter in Philadelphia was less productive). The Bobcats produced an estimated 0.656 more wins than the Heat in that third quarter, but it wasn't enough to overcome the first half when Miami produced an estimated 0.723 more wins than Charlotte.

The Heat were lucky that the Bobcats are a bad team right now. The Bobcats played tenacious defense in the second half, but 87 percent of their production came from reserves that only played 33 percent of the minutes. That means Charlotte's starters only provided 13 percent of the team's production with 67 percent of the available minutes.

The Heat were also lucky that the worst starter, Boris Diaw (-0.187 EWP48), played almost half of the minutes available at center while another 24 percent were played by one of the worst reserves, Tyrus Thomas (0.038 EWP48 at center). That putrid combination resulted in the best Zydrunas Ilgauskas game of the season with 0.715 EWP48 and a very productive game from Chris Bosh with 0.447 EWP48 in 20.3 minutes at center.

The Heat needed all of those lucky breaks on a night when Wade, their most productive player, was struggling with flu-like symptoms and a sprained wrist.

The spreadsheet below contains the Wins Produced analysis of the box score for the game against the Bobcats. You can also view it at Google Docs (click on the spreadsheet labeled BOBCATS-111910).

Grizzlies 97, Heat 95
The lucky breaks Miami got against Charlotte ran out in Memphis. Wade's sprained wrist forced him to sit out and Haslem's season likely ended with the foot injury in the third quarter.

Jerry Stackhouse got to start in Wade's absence and did nothing with it by producing an estimated -0.002 wins in 19.5 minutes. It's no wonder he was released by the Heat three days later in order to sign Dampier.

The remainder of the minutes at shooting guard were split between Eddie House and James Jones. House took full advantage and was the most productive player for Miami with 0.638 EWP48 in 24 minutes at shooting guard while Jones stunk it up with -0.327 EWP48.

Haslem was the least productive player for the Heat with -0.382 EWP48. With such a low level of productivity, would Haslem have really prevented Zach Randolph from going nuts with 13 points and nine rebounds in the fourth quarter?

Haslem and Randolph both started the second quarter at power forward and were terrible. Haslem produced -0.733 EWP48 for 5.8 minutes compared to Randolph's -0.455 EWP48 produced in 8.4 minutes (he was matched up with Bosh for the last 2.6 minutes).

In the third quarter, Haslem entered the game at the 6:38 mark and was actually more productive than Randolph who entered at the 6:48 mark. UD

Without UD in the fourth quarter, Z-Bo went off with 1.092 EWP48 (that's ten times better than the average player)! I'm not sure Haslem could have stopped Randolph in the fourth quarter, but I do know his absence didn't help. Randolph's big fourth quarter was enough to hold off the Heat long enough for Rudy Gay to put them away with a last second fall-away jumper over LeBron.

The problem for the Heat was the hole they dug for themselves in the first quarter when the Grizzlies outplayed them by producing an estimated 0.505 more wins. Miami outplayed Memphis in the other three quarters but it was only by an estimated margin of 0.419 wins produced.

The spreadsheet below contains the Wins Produced analysis of the box score for the game against the Grizzlies. You can also view it at Google Docs (click on the spreadsheet labeled @GRIZZLIES-112010).

Pacers 93, Heat 77
Obviously, this was the worst loss of the season. It was also the weirdest and most disappointing because of where this game was lost.

For all of the talk about the Heat big men being too small, soft, slow or old, they were all very productive against the Pacers young, athletic big men and collectively outplayed them. Bosh, Big Z, Howard and Jamaal Magloire combined to produce an estimated 0.692 wins in 92 minutes of playing time (0.361 EWP48). With the Heat's perimeter players, that should be enough to win any game.

Despite 0.692 wins produced by the frontline, the Heat only produced 0.198 wins for the entire game. LeBron, Wade, House and Jones combined to produce an estimated -0.648 wins in 122.9 minutes (-0.253 EWP48).

Carlos Arroyo was the only above average perimeter player. He produced 0.294 EWP48 to outplay an injured Darren Collison with only -0.284 EWP48 (he was the least productive player for the Pacers).

Unfortunately, when Arroyo and Collison were replaced by House and T.J. Ford, respectively, the advantage swung to the Pacers. Ford destroyed House (0.491 EWP48 to -0.395 EWP48) and the story kept repeating itself around the perimeter throughout the game.

Brandon Rush destroyed Wade (0.355 EWP48 to -0.494 EWP48).
Danny Granger destroyed LeBron (0.337 EWP48 to 0.074 EWP48).
Mike Dunleavy destroyed James Jones (0.381 EWP48 to -0.314 EWP48).

The Heat big men (0.692 EWP) outplayed the Pacers big men (-0.033 EWP), but the Heat perimeter players (-0.494 EWP) were outplayed by the Pacers perimeter players (0.835 EWP).

That's the game, ladies and gentlemen.

This game illustrates some of the exaggerations surrounding the Heat's weaknesses at point guard, power forward and center. The Heat front line is very productive against most big men (they struggle with above average front lines) and the starting point guard is adequate (but he does struggle against elite point guards).

The Pacers beat the Heat the same way the Celtics did - with their perimeter players. Boston's perimeter players averaged 0.7 EWP in their two wins over Miami.

The spreadsheet below contains the Wins Produced analysis of the box score for the game against the Pacers. You can also view it at Google Docs (click on the spreadsheet labeled PACERS-112210).

Magic 104, Heat 95
Ah, the holidays. I couldn't really concentrate watching this game because my annoying brother kept smacking on buffalo wings and talking trash in my ear, so let's talk about what the box score told me.

The first thing the box score told me was that Arroyo outplayed Jameer Nelson. This jumped out because it was in direct contrast to what game recaps from the Hot Hot Hoops and Peninsula Is Mightier blogs told me.

Nelson may have gotten off to a good start in the first quarter with seven assists, but he was essentially average overall with just 0.117 EWP48 in the game's first 12 minutes. In the fourth quarter, he was unstoppable with 0.703 EWP48 before he was ejected.

If the game was only played in the first and fourth quarters, then Nelson definitely would have been the story of the game. But in between the first and fourth quarters the second and third quarters were played and Nelson was terrible with -0.465 EWP48 during that stretch of the game.

In the first and fourth quarters, Nelson shot 6-11 from the floor for 15 points and dished out eight assists with just one turnover. In the second and third quarters, he shot 1-4 from the floor for two points and dished out six assists with four turnovers. Nelson produced 0.041 EWP48 for the game.

Arroyo's stats were more understated but he ended the game with no turnovers or personal fouls and shot efficiently from the floor to produce 0.490 EWP48 for the game. The figure below illustrates the comparison of Arroyo and Nelson's performances in Orlando.

As you can see, Nelson was below average in getting to the line, free throw shooting, rebounds, turnovers, blocks and fouls. Arroyo, on the other hand, was only below average at getting his shot, getting to the line, steals, blocks and assists. Arroyo was also better than Nelson at shooting efficiency, rebounds, turnovers and fouls. The result is that Arroyo was much more productive than his counterpart.

Unfortunately, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did not feel the same way and didn't play Arroyo in the fourth quarter when Nelson went off to have his most productive stretch of the game.

Of course, that stretch came against Eddie House who was lit up the previous game by T.J. Ford. No one expected House to be a defensive stopper in Miami, but if he's not being productive shooting the ball, then Spoelstra's got to pull him from the game. House shot just 2-6 from the floor against Orlando.

In two games against the Magic, Arroyo is averaging 0.465 EWP48 and Nelson is averaging -0.049 EWP48 in two games against the Heat. Arroyo needs to get more playing time against Orlando if House's shot isn't falling and Mike Miller isn't available.

Of course, Orlando didn't win the game with their perimeter players but with their big men. In the last game against the Magic in Miami, the big men for Orlando only produced an estimated 0.080 wins. In Orlando, the Magic big men produced an estimated 0.712 wins.

The improved productivity from the big men was the difference for Orlando since the Heat outplayed the Magic's perimeter players with 0.340 EWP vs. 0.183 EWP. 

The most improved big man against the Heat for the Magic was Rashard Lewis. Lewis was terrible in Miami with -0.452 EWP, but he managed to produce 0.048 EWP in Orlando. The 0.500 increase in his productivity was greater than the improvements made by Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass, the two most productive Magic players against the Heat in Orlando.

This game was a perfect fit for the narrative people like to tell about the Heat. All of the Miami big men produced at a below average rate in this game. The most productive big man for the Heat was Magloire with 0.079 EWP48. Bosh averaged 0.283 EWP48 for the first three quarters but his production fell off a cliff in the fourth quarter, perhaps the back spasms took their toll on him.

Unfortunately, the problems for Miami didn't stop with the big men. Only two Heat players managed to have a good game. One was Arroyo and the other was LeBron with 0.278 EWP48. 

With eight below average performances in a 10-man rotation, the Heat never had a real chance of winning that game - no matter how close it got for a period of time.

The spreadsheet below contains the Wins Produced analysis of the box score for the game against the Magic. You can also view it at Google Docs (click on the spreadsheet labeled @MAGIC-112410).

The Big Picture
The game recaps provide some strands of information that indicate why the Heat were struggling, but they need to be tied together. The figure below compares the production for the Heat by position before and after November 19.

As you can see, the Heat's productivity has dipped at every position except center. The biggest drops were at power forward and shooting guard, which can be attributed to the injuries for Haslem and Wade.

Wade's struggles were covered in the game recaps and summarized in the preview article for the game against the 76ers. Basically, Wade has averaged -0.217 EWP48 over the last seven days. 

If Wade were healthy and producing normally, then the Heat would have produced an estimated 1.9 wins in from 11/19 to 11/25. That's probably good enough to reverse their 1-3 record during those seven days to 3-1.

Bosh's performance has only dipped slightly at power forward in the last week from 0.183 EWP48 to 0.150 EWP48. That decrease cost the Heat an estimated 0.1 wins produced but Bosh's history indicates he won't stay at that level of productivity for long.

The bigger problem is backup power forward. For the last week, that position was manned by Howard after UD went down. Howard's produced -0.257 EWP48 since November 19 and that poor production cost the Heat an estimated 0.1 - 0.2 wins produced. 

Unlike Bosh, Howard's history indicates his productivity will stay well below average. He averaged -0.014 WP48 for Portland last season. If the Heat continue to get such poor production from their backup power forward position, then they will continue to get outplayed at that position for the rest of the season. 

Spoelstra may have to play two centers when Bosh comes out the game (Big Z with Magloire or Dampier) or he may have to go small with LeBron at power forward. He tried LeBron at power forward for seven minutes against the Pacers in the fourth quarter but LeBron was terrible with -0.342 EWP48.

Of course, instead of asking LeBron to play power forward, perhaps Spoelstra should just ask LeBron to get back to playing small forward at a high level. Before November 19, LeBron was producing 0.266 EWP48 at small foward. From 11/19 - 11/25, he's just producing 0.169 EWP48. The figure below illustrates what's changed in LeBron's production over the last seven days.

LeBron has declined in every category of the box score except free throw shooting and scoring but his scoring numbers are inflated by increased shot attempts instead of increased shooting efficiency. It's easy to watch LeBron and know that something has been off with his game.

Anyone who's watched him toss up brick after brick from the perimeter for the last week would have expected to see a decline in his shooting efficiency, but I didn't expect to see such a big decline in his stats across the board.

I don't know what's wrong with LeBron but he's starting to look like a selfish player with his decision-making on the court resulting in bad shots and turnovers. This insane love affair with his non-existent jumpshot is likely causing the decline in his free throw attempts. The decline in rebounding, steals and blocks and the increased fouls seem to be reflective of the lack of energy he's playing with lately.

For the last week, the King has been very mortal and the Heat need him to get his mojo back in order to get back to being a title contender.

Unfortunately, the Heat's problems over the last week don't just stop with their own production. The figure below illustrates the differences in their opponents' production before and after November 19.

As I mentioned in the game recaps, defending the opposing team's perimeter players has been a problem. Hopefully, a healthy Wade can stop the insane production coming from opposing shooting guards and LeBron will get back to playing like a member of the All-Defense first team. The other issue for the defense is opposing power forwards, which have doubled their productivity in the last week. I assume the hope is that Dampier can address that issue.

The Bigger Picture
I'll report back on Sunday whether or not the Heat began to address these issues against Philadelphia and Dallas.

You can find all of the updated stats for the Miami Heat's Estimated Wins Produced on the Heat Produced page.

Unless referenced otherwise, original game data used for this post was taken from and


  1. Heat index: Sub-Zero.

    17 games is 20% of the regular season. At what point do you press panic?

  2. As a fan, there's never a need to panic unless you've got money on the outcome (which I don't). I predicted them to win 75 games and that's not gonna happen now, so I'm disappointed but not ready to panic.

    I think things will change when Wade gets healthy. He's going to have to take control and make LeBron follow him and I don't think he can do that while he's hurt.

    It's unfortunate that LeBron has decided to play a selfish brand of basketball, but they can still overcome it and get things back on track until he decides to be a part of the team.

  3. I meant panic metaphorically, not real panic as in your house is on fire.

    They should be fine, I expect them to look dominant for the rest of the regular season as the schedule ease up, but performance in a playoff series against Boston or Orlando will still be in question, no matter how much of a tear they go on from here out.

  4. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    I want them to be dominant, but I'm in wait-and-see-mode, now. Nothing is promised for this team.