Miami Heat: The Starting Lineup has No Choice but to Play Udonis Haslem

It’s been no secret that the Miami Heat are repetitively getting off to slow starts that feature them in an early hole.

Even though it’s been addressed in the lockerroom, it has yet to transition to the floor. The 4-2 Heat have done themselves no favors early in games when they find themselves facing as much of a 19-point deficit, as they experienced against the Philadelphia 76ers, within the first five minutes of action.

Aside from the deplorable start in their contest with the Sixers, Miami has also faced an 11-3 deficit against Brooklyn and 9-2 deficits against Washington, Toronto and the Los Angeles Clippers. Those early deficits have hurt the Heat in their losses, both down-to-the-wire finishes that wouldn’t have been had they not had to neutralize a 19-point deficit five minutes into the game.

It hurts in the wins, too. Miami wouldn’t need to play their three All-Stars deep into games if they’re not trying to play catch-up for the first 24 minutes of the game.

But it’s more or less of the same from Miami, especially early in the year. The Heat have experienced early deficits in prior seasons. A lot of it has to do with opponents constantly giving the Heat their best shot, as well as the team recognizing that they’re good enough to dig themselves into these holes only to come back and win eventually.

This year, however, has more to do with lineup troubles than effort. Among the four Heat lineups that have played in at least three games and at least 15 minutes together, there is none with a worse offensive efficiency than the starting lineup that features Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh.

That lineup is yielding only 90.1 points per 100 possessions and is being outscored by nine points. That’s shocking from a team that has the league’s second-highest offensive efficiency, according to Hollinger’s ratings. It’s compensated, though, by lineups such as the Norris Cole-Wade-Ray Allen-Shane Battier-Chris Andersen crew that scores 127 points per possession.

The three lineups that have played meet the aforementioned criteria (at least three games and at least 15 minutes together) are all scoring at incredible clips, racking up at least 113.5 points per 100 possessions.

A slight diversion in the conversation, but no lineup is more effective than the second unit that features Cole, Allen, James, Battier and Andersen. That lineup is allowing only 83.3 points per 100 possessions, obviously outplaying the bench of any other opponent, and is outscoring the opposition by 30.

The starting lineup is suffering heavily on the offensive end. Not only is their offensive rating the lowest among the four most used lineups, it also has the lowest effective field-goal percentage, the lowest rebounding percentage, the lowest assist/turnover ratio, and the lowest true shooting-percentage.

It’s not a good lineup and it’s why the Heat are constantly facing deficits against every type of opponent. It’s not an easy solution, either. Most fans will say “Just take Udonis Haslem out!” and call it a day, but that’s probably the last thing the Heat should do.

Because who can replace Haslem? You could move Chris Andersen into the starting lineup and move Chris Bosh to power forward, but that means having your most effective big, outside of Bosh, playing heavy minutes and possibly getting into foul trouble.

Plus, ‘Birdman’ is 35. He doesn’t need to be playing upwards of 25-30 minutes per game.

You might suggest Rashard Lewis or Michael Beasley, but neither of those two provide any sort of reliability on the defensive end. There’s a reason why they hardly see any minutes. Even if you’re a quality player on the offensive end, on this team you need to earn your minutes on the defensive end.

Greg Oden would be ideal, but Greg Oden also not having the knees of a geriatric and putting up 20 and 10 per night with Portland would be ideal, too. He’s not even close to reliable at this stage, and he’d likely face early foul trouble if he faces off with the quality big’s of the league.

I don’t have to explain why Joel Anthony can’t be in the starting lineup. If you thought the offense had its flaws already, think about it if you completely take Haslem’s jumper and hands away.

As much as we all want to see Shane Battier re-enter the starting lineup, as he did during the 2012 Finals, it’s not exactly the smartest thing to have your 34-year-old small forward getting beat up by much larger players on a nightly basis.

That lineup that features Battier at the four and Bosh at the five has played seven minutes together this season. Although it’s scoring 116.9 points per 100 possessions, it’s also giving up 120.9 points per on defense. So not only is it not a smart thing to do, it doesn’t exactly solve much, either.

There is no player that plays at the four or five who can replicate what Haslem does defensively. Miami’s starting lineup may have its limitations on offense, but the 99 points per 100 possessions it gives up on defense isn’t too significant. It’s actually the second-best defensive lineup in terms of the criteria that was mentioned before.

So, no, there are no options for the Heat outside of the starting lineup they have now. The only way I could see any sort of change happening is if Beasley somehow turns the corner and is capable of being reliable at every part of the floor, which is extremely unlikely given his track record.

Other interesting lineup statistics

  • The Chalmers-Allen-James-Battier-Bosh lineup has been surprisingly ineffective. It’s scoring only 91.5 points per 100 possessions and giving up 106.3.
  • The lone lineup that features Roger Mason, Jr. is giving up 141.3 points per 100 possessions.
  • The lineup that features a frontcourt of Allen, Battier and Andersen has the highest rebounding rate among lineups that have played at least 15 minutes together.
  • If the Heat want offense, they’ll throw in Ray Allen in the lineup. The Chalmers-Wade-Allen-James-Bosh squad has played 18 minutes together, has an effective field-goal percentage of 70 percent and is scoring 127.6 points per 100 possessions.

All numbers courtesy of SportVu. 

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