The Nail (A Miami Heat Preview)

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost;
For want of a horse, the rider was lost;
For want of a rider, the battle was lost;
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail. –Proverb

Since I started this blog, I’ve written quite a bit about the Miami Heat. This is only natural as it’s the biggest off-season basketball story in three years.

The Miami Heat are now the Bad Guys, the main event.

Strangely Appropriate as Team Dillinger's Mascot

They will sell out every stadium and put on a basketball show not seen since the 86 Celtics. They will get booed lustily by some and loved by others. Lebron actually has a gleam in his eye that is, dare I say it, Jordan-esque.

My first impression of this team was that they will not be denied. As with the Celtics in 2008 with Garnett,Pierce & Allen, the Bulls in 1996 with Jordan,Rodman & Pippen and the Celts in 1986 with Walton joining Bird and McHale, when three stars (with at least one superstar) come together on one team, the expectations skyrocket. The media circus begins. The usual suspects say it’ll never work, they’ll scream about they’re not being enough balls to go around.

Those of us who remember our basketball history prepare for the inevitable coronation cause chances are that we know how this story ends. Or do we get ahead of ourselves? Before we get to that let’s take a look at who the Heat were and how they got here. (Before we do that go here for the basics behind all the models and maths if you’re new at this sort of thing)

This has all happened before


Wait, how's this get in here

The Miami Heat in 2009-2010

It’s easy to forget that the Miami Heat were a decent team last year. They won 47 games. They went 12-1 in their last 13 games to gain the 5th Seed in the East. Dwayne Wade was amazing and channeled 1986 Jordan against the Celtics in the playoffs (no 6-24 here). What a pity the rest of the Heat thought he was staging a re-enactment of that series and they were playing the 1986 Bulls. However it’s what happened after the season was over that was truly amazing.

Riley took the rest of the league out to the woodshed in the offseason. He simply understood the lucky opportunity before him better than anyone and seized upon it. As evidence:

  • Understanding that Wade,Bosh and LBJ wanted to play together and quietly adjusting his Cap Room accordingly.
  • Drafting two bigs to fill his roster gaps.
  • Dumping Beasley and getting two of David Khans draft picks.
  • Signing Lebron, Wade and Bosh to his team and leaving himself $9.49 m in to play with. Which got them Miller and House. Which helped them keep Miller’s college roommate Haslem this was apparently a package deal. Throw in one more  average players in Arroyo.

Riley manuvered his team into 2 superstars (Wade & Lebron), two stars (Miller & Bosh), a super cheap good big (Haslem) , an average point guard in Arroyo and a combination of  young and old cheap players to surround them. So this summer, Riley pulled off his own Jo Barry Carroll trade. Somewhere, Red Auerbach is impressed. The only real misstep is not bringing in the veteran Erick Dampier (.162 WP48 last Season) to reinforce them at the center position.

Please chose the response that's right for you

Now that we’re done signing his praises let’s take a look at the talent Riley brought to South Beach.

The Miami Heat in 2010-2011

After my love letter to Pat Riley and taking a look at the roster above, Miami to me looked assured of winning the East.
In fact, after I did my last season projection for every NBA Team (go here), I was all set to crown the Heat as Eastern Champions and declare my simpatico with Jeff Van Gundy. In fact, when Prof. Berri initially asked for my help on team reviews my reply was that I really wanted to do the Heat. I had the post all written up. What was the title of my initial review? “For god’s sake take the over” (and I even foreshadowed this narrative here )

A funny thing happened before I could put it up. One of the Heat’s three best players, a former rookie of the year, and a critical piece in my thinking that they would obliterate 64.5 wins for the over got hurt. Not Dwayne Wade, sports fans. Mike Miller hurt his thumb and will probably miss more than 25 games. Now a casual fan would think “Mike Miller, who’s he? they don’t need him!!”. That fan would be wrong. Let’s break out some tables:

The baseline prediction was 70.3 games. Add in 1.8 extra wins because the East is lousy this year (explained here , please ignore all the ESPN announcers claiming that the West is the worst they’re totally and completely wrong) and I got 72.2 wins and you’ll note that Lebron, Wade and Bosh were playing fewer minutes than in 2010. So 72 wins, while being conservative. Insane but sadly if I account for Miller injuries and add in the artist formerly known as Jerry Stackouse:

64.4 wins. Granted this does not assume maximum minutes for Wade, Bosh and Lebron but all evidence points to this being the prudent choice. So not only is history out but not having Miller puts this team within reach of more than a few teams according to my projections (Portland, LA, San Antonio, Boston, Chicago) for the number one overall seed and make the 64.5 over/under from Vegas seem prescient. Don’t get me wrong, Miami is still the clear favorite but this just went from a walkover to a fight. To tell the truth, as a Celtics fan, I really could not be happier.


Did I just make the list? Bring on the Heat!


  1. some dude
    October 25

    Did you do as I suggested and run 2 separate models where Miller doesn’t play til Jan 1st and then Miller players after january 1st or run one model where Miller is distributed evenly (even though you cut down his minutes by 2 months)?

    I want to see how different they’d be.

    Miami is an interesting team. They should be the #1 seed and largest PD and the like. But matchups come playoff time will matter. I don’t buy the people that question whether all 3 can play together since we haven’t seen it yet, because anyone who knows basketball knows they can. It’s easy when you have that much talent. But their interior is weak. Bosh can be neutralized and his D is suspect and bigger teams might cause havoc.

    Another issue is I feel like the refs won’t give them the leeway of the past. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think Stern/NBA wants 50 FT games with them involved. Maybe Lebron will finally be called for all those offensive fouls and arm hacks he’s been getting away with his whole career.

    Also curious to see Mike Miller and the other parts in a big game. I’m not worried about the big 3, but Miller has gone a long time without a meaningful game in his career. With the huge pressure on the time, one wonders if he gets the yips in a big moment.

    And any injury to Lebron/Wade will kill a #1 bid. They don’t have the depth the other teams do of overcoming it. Bosh perhaps, but not those two for an extended time (whereas LA, Boston, and Orlando except for Dwight can).

  2. October 25

    Tell you what, I’ll play with it but I don’t think the math’ll be that different.

    I had the ESPN coverage on the other day and I had to listen to some, let’s call it interesting, commentary the other day and you can tell.

    Miami is really like the ultimate experiment in building a team around offense. It’ll really be fascinating to see how that works in the playoffs and how everything get’s whistled.

    I worked in some missed gamed for all three. I don’t actually think 1 injury kills a #1 bid. Take Wade or Bosh out for a significant chunk and they’ll still be around 55-60 wins and that puts them right there in the East. LA,Boston, Chicago, San Antonio and Portland all have depth. Orlando, Miami, OKC , NOH and Utah don’t (Miami did but with Miller out not so much). Who knew that unselfish efficient veteran swingmen who could play the 2 and 3 would be so valuable.

  3. October 25

    The notion that LA & Boston can withstand an injury to one of their top 3 players is laughable to me. Boston won 50 games w/ KG and Pierce missing 24 games last season. The Lakers were projected to win 60+ games last season but only won 57 after Kobe, Bynum & Gasol missed 43 games. The Heat will be fine if Wade or LeBron goes down. The Heat roster w/out Wade is almost as good as what LeBron had in Cleveland. He can win 55+ games with this roster by himself.

  4. some dude
    October 25

    Arturo, I’m just curious to see if the math is any different.

    I agree that losing Bosh might not kill a #1 bid, but if Wade misses 15 games? This team isn’t as deep without Lebron/Wade to win 60.

    RG underrates Lebron’s teammates in Cleveland. they were worth over 30 games. Take Wade’s 17 away and you’re already at around 47-50 wins. Take away Lebron’s 25-27 and you can easily figure out the math. Cleveland the last 2 seasons is better by a bunch than Miami this year sans Wade (and Miller for 2 months).

    I don’t get your argument, RG. Lakers won the #1 seed despite missing time from Kobe, Bynum, and gasol as you pointed out. So they obviously can withstand an injury to one of their top 3 for a significant time and grab the #1 seed. I never said they’d win the same number of games. And LA missed Kobe and Bynum together, not at separate times.

    Boston didn’t just have injuries, they reduced minutes which had an impact.

    The funny thing about you comment that Miami with Lebron but no Wade can win 55+ is this: If we assume that to be true and that they can win 57 games without Wade, then this should be about a 75 win team.

    I got a bridge to sell ya if you think that.

    • October 25

      Agreed. I’ll just get to it in a future post.

      The issue with injuries is all about replacement players. With Miller, the Heat could lose Lebron or Wade for periods and not see huge dropoffs. Without him they’re left with extended minutes for Eddie House and Jerry Stackhouse. For the Lakers, losing Kobe wouldn’t be horrible but losing Pau would. For the Celts the problem is losing Pierce (they’re terribly weak at the 3).

  5. some dude
    October 25

    Losing Pau isn’t so bad if they have a healthy Bynum. They did just fine last season with Pau out. Kobe stepped up during that stretch (pre injury) and Drew was playing really well even though Josh Powell stunk (Drew and Lamar played like 75 combined minutes).

    This season without Pau Caracter should be a step up from Powell.

    Obviously, no Pau and Bynum is an issue.

  6. Evanz
    October 25

    Arturo, does your method have a systematic over- or under-prediction of league-wide wins (i.e. more or less than 1230)? If so, have you already taken that into account here? (If not, I assume you might in the near future.)

    • October 25

      Yes to 1st. Not quite for the second. Final predictions are forthcoming (next post, roster updates are killing me)

  7. October 28

    Some dude:

    Check my blog or the WoW smackdown – I do think the Heat can win 75 games!

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