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With normal Heat expert Michael Ruemmele infested with holiday cheer (really, that sounds nicer than "hopelessly stuck at work", right), you get the backup Heat writer today. The Ray Allen of our numberFire team, if you will. The clutch gene just oozes out of my pores.
And surely, Ray Allen will be a key tonight as the Heat take on the Dallas Mavericks and look to keep pace with the Knicks at the top of the Eastern standings. Allen might have to be. Because, when you take a closer look, there's not much else on the Miami bench that can help out.
Trouble on the Bench?
It's a common refrain from general NBA fans that the Heat are The Big 3, maybe Mario Chalmers and Allen, and that's about it. But it's not until you take a closer look until you realize... that those people are 100% correct.
Of the five, only Allen and Miller currently have an nERD score above zero, meaning that they are playing more efficiently than the league-average player. Lewis is at -0.7 nERD, the No. 89 player in our power rankings. Haslem is at -2.4 nERD and No. 106. And as much as I personally love watching Cole play, he makes the analytics cringe in fear: his atrocious -8.4 nERD score ranks him as the 156th most efficient player in the NBA this season. He's not even in the Top 75 Guards in the league.
But strangely enough, that inefficiency hasn't led to Heat ineffectiveness on the floor because of the way the rosters mix. So far this season, according to 82games.com, only Haslem and Lewis have negative point differentials when they're on the floor. And of the Heat's top ten most-played five-man units, the most efficient hasn't been the starting lineup at all - that unit only has the sixth-highest differential between Offensive Rating (points gained per 100 possessions) and Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions). Instead, the most efficient unit has been the small lineup of Chalmers-Miller-Battier-James-Bosh, which has an ORtg at 128 and a DRtg at 96. Because who needs Dwyane Wade anyway, am I right?
It sure seems that when it comes to the Heat bench, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And that makes sense, because the bench seemingly spends its entire time deferring to the stars. Other than Ray Allen's 19.0 percent usage rate - the fourth-highest on the team among players with significant minutes - no other bench player has a usage rate above Rashard Lewis's 16.6 percent. In comparison, LeBron touches the ball on nearly double his possessions at 29.5 percent.
No Specialty? - The Mavericks come into this game outside of the top ten in each of Dean Oliver's Four Factors for Basketball Success. But if they had to choose a specialty, it would be the biggest one: field goal shooting. Dallas is 11th in the NBA in both offensive and defensive eFG%.
High Fliers - Expect some points in this one. Dallas's pace of 94.2 possessions per 48 minutes is the third-quickest in the NBA, while Miami's 92.2 possession pace ranks 11th.
It's a rebound! Who wants it? - Miami's main weakness this season is offensive rebounding, only grabbing 20.8 of potential offensive rebounds available (next-to-last in the league). But don't expect the Mavericks to take full advantge - their 71.3 percent defensive rebounding rate is 23rd overall.