Miami’s First “Half”
Though All-Star Weekend may not literally be the half-way point in the season as most NBA conversations would have you believe, it is as good a time as any to reflect on trends in the season thus far and how they might play out going forward. Miami’s title defense has been impressive so far. The Heat have combined an elite offense with a league average to rank as the second-best team in our nERD rankings, just slightly behind the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Miami is not without weaknesses. Offensive rebounding in particular has been a weak area for the team all year. However, the way Miami is shooting from the floor led by the historically impressive season of LeBron James, this has not kept their offense from performing well. Barring any injuries, Miami has among the best chances of any team in the league to win the title – 23.5% by our math.
The danger of writing shortly before the trade deadline is that it’s entirely possible the rosters won’t be the same by the time the game is actually played. So allow me to analyze the most likely player to be moved, Josh Smith, with the understanding that he may be wearing a different uniform by tipoff.
Smith’s calling card is his defensive performance, which is spectacular. His DRtg of 99 is highly respectable. Per Synergy Sports, on isolation plays, opponents score only 0.49 points per play against Smith, the 10th best mark in the league. He also excels in low post defense, where opponents score only 0.68 points per possession, the 31st best mark in the league. There is no question he is a valuable asset on the defensive end.
Sadly, Smith is as infamous for his shot selection as he is renowned for his defensive skills. Were he to stick mostly to working on the low block, he would have an extremely efficient offensive game as can be seen in his shot chart this year. Alas, Smith continues the disheartening trend of settling for jumpers. According to basketball-reference, Smith shoots 31.1 percent on jump shots, with an effective field goal percentage of 36.1 percent, both well below league average. Should Smith find himself in a different offensive situation under a different coach, perhaps he will stop taking jumpers and become a highly productive player on both ends of the court.