We all know the Heat and what they bring to the table, but this is the first time this season that the Knicks will play them. Let’s take a quick look at where the Heat are at so far this year.
PTS/G: 104.9 (5th)
Opp PTS/G: 97.9 (7th)
Off Rtg: 111.4 (2nd)
Def Rtg: 104.0 (9th)
It seems like every year a case can be made for Lebron James having the best season of his career. Considering he has been the undeniable (by sane people) best player in the world for nearly a decade, it is amazing that he just keeps getting better. This year Lebron is scoring with an efficiency that predominately wing players should never come close to. This season he is shooting 41% on 3.4 3PA/36, 64% on 12.4 2PA/36, 75% on 7 FTA/36. This adds up to what would be a career high TS% of 0.67. Lebron James is scoring with Tyson Chandler like efficiency, mostly from the wing, on 16 FGA per game. To put that in perspective, in the history of basketball, of all non-centers who had more than 1000 minutes and at least 10 FGA/game, the only person to have a higher TS% than Lebron has right now was Cedric Maxwell, who was mainly a low post scorer for the ’78-’79 Boston Celtics, when had a 67.6% TS% on 10.1 FGA/Game. If Lebron keeps this up for the entire season, this will go down as maybe the most impressive scoring season in the history of the NBA.
OK, so Lebron is great, what about the other 2 heads of the big 3? Well, Bosh’s numbers this year (per 36min: 19.0 PTS, 7.9 REB, 1.3 BLK, .602 TS%) are nearly identical to last year, so no drop off there. Wade has seen a further drop in free throw rate, from 6.4 FTA/36 last year (8.3 for his career) to 5.1 FTA/36 this season. Other than that, he has been pretty much in line with last season (per 36min: 21.0 PTS, 5.3 REB, 5.3 AST, 2.1 STL .583 TS%), and still logging 33 minutes per game. Tales of his demise are premature.
For the rest of the roster, pretty much all of the old faces are back. Chalmers and Cole are manning the point with at least average production. Ray Allen is still getting 25 minutes per game, and shooting 36% from 3, which is due to improve. In the front court Joel Anthony barely sees the floor anymore, giving way to Andersen, Haslem, Battier and Rashard Lewis. The main difference from last year with the supporting cast has been the glorious return of Michael Beasley. After a disappointing first 5 years and nearly smoking himself out of the NBA, Beasley has actually become a solid contributor at just under 20 minutes a game. In fact, his per minute stats are actually quite sterling: (per 36min) 20.6 PTS, 8.4 REB, 1.3 AST, 1.0 STL, .589 TS%. This turned out, so far, to be a nice low risk signing in the offseason for Miami.
Miami’s big 3 are still performing at least as well as last year. There have been no major personnel loss with the remaining cast, and they have added unexpected solid production from Michael Beasley. This is still a scary good team, and maybe even a little better than last year. That’s bad news for the rest of the NBA and, most likely, for the Knicks tonight. My prediction for tonight’s game is that JR still gets over 30 minutes, despite Woodson being very very disappointed in him, and unties 3 shoelaces. Oh, and the Knicks lose by 12. The Garden is not the home court advantage it once was.