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Break Up the Heat!

Posted by Neil Paine on November 11, 2009

749000001192_11182008_heat_wizardsThere's a surprising name atop the Southeast Division these days, and it's the Miami Heat, winners of 3 straight and 6 of their first 7 games. How have they been doing it? Well, with Dwyane Wade powering the attack (via 31.8 pace-adjusted P/40) you might think they were an offensive team, but it's actually been their 3rd-ranked defense that's staking Miami to the hot start. After the jump, check out the box score-based defensive stats for the Heat so far (league average pts/possession = 105.9):

(mouse over column headers for stat descriptions)

Player Age Tm G MP Stops DR% Blk% Stl% Stop% DRtg
Dwyane Wade 28 MIA 7 267 56.8 9.6 1.5 2.5 0.557 96.1
Mario Chalmers 23 MIA 7 234 50.5 4.5 0.3 3.8 0.565 95.8
Quentin Richardson 29 MIA 7 224 44.4 16.1 0.4 1.2 0.519 97.7
Udonis Haslem 29 MIA 7 222 45.7 24.1 1.1 0.2 0.539 96.9
Jermaine O'Neal 31 MIA 7 217 49.6 25.7 3.0 0.5 0.599 94.3
Michael Beasley 21 MIA 7 208 44.8 15.7 1.5 1.8 0.564 95.8
Carlos Arroyo 30 MIA 7 101 15.4 8.1 0.0 0.0 0.399 102.8
Joel Anthony 27 MIA 7 100 20.3 11.6 6.4 0.0 0.532 97.2
Dorell Wright 24 MIA 6 57 11.2 12.2 2.8 0.9 0.515 97.9
Daequan Cook 22 MIA 2 38 7.4 24.5 0.0 0.0 0.513 98.0
James Jones 29 MIA 2 8 1.3 14.5 0.0 0.0 0.437 101.2
Yakhouba Diawara 27 MIA 1 6 0.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.357 104.6

Courtesy of, here are the on/off court defensive numbers for Miami:

Player MP_OnC oPoss_OnC oPts_OnC DRtg_OnC MP_OffC oPoss_OffC oPts_OffC DRtg_OffC On/OffDRtg
Dwyane Wade 266.9 519 480 92.5 69.1 126 140 111.1 -18.6
Mario Chalmers 233.6 452 413 91.4 102.4 193 207 107.3 -15.9
Quentin Richardson 224.0 434 407 93.8 112.0 211 213 100.9 -7.2
Udonis Haslem 222.0 412 418 101.5 114.0 233 202 86.7 14.8
Jermaine O'Neal 217.4 422 387 91.7 118.6 223 233 104.5 -12.8
Michael Beasley 207.5 402 388 96.5 128.5 243 232 95.5 1.0
Carlos Arroyo 100.6 189 202 106.9 235.4 456 418 91.7 15.2
Joel Anthony 99.6 192 195 101.6 236.4 453 425 93.8 7.7
Dorell Wright 57.1 108 111 102.8 278.9 537 509 94.8 8.0
Daequan Cook 38.0 70 69 98.6 298.0 575 551 95.8 2.7
James Jones 7.8 14 22 157.1 328.3 631 598 94.8 62.4
Yakhouba Diawara 5.6 11 8 72.7 330.4 634 612 96.5 -23.8

And finally, courtesy of, the Heat's counterpart stats:

Position %Min FGA eFG% FTA iFG Reb Ast T/O Pts PER
PG 18.8 0.420 5.0 22% 3.7 6.0 3.5 19.3 13.2
Mario Chalmers 69% 17.7 0.392 3.8 21% 3.8 5.8 4.8 17.0 11.5
Carlos Arroyo 29% 20.7 0.459 7.8 24% 3.4 6.7 0.6 23.5 18.1
SG 15.3 0.435 3.7 17% 6.0 3.2 2.7 15.8 10.2
Dwyane Wade 78% 14.8 0.400 3.4 15% 5.9 3.2 2.8 14.2 8.7
Dorell Wright 9% 18.4 0.250 7.4 30% 5.5 1.8 3.7 14.7 2.9
Daequan Cook 8% 17.5 0.833 1.9 11% 3.9 3.9 1.9 31.1 31.5
James Jones 2% 16.0 0.500 8.0 0% 8.0 8.0 0.0 16.0 22.5
Quentin Richardson 1% 10.6 1.000 0.0 100% 21.3 0.0 0.0 21.3 25.8
SF 19.3 0.457 5.0 28% 7.7 1.8 3.5 21.5 13.7
Quentin Richardson 64% 18.6 0.472 4.4 29% 8.8 1.0 3.4 20.9 13.5
Michael Beasley 22% 19.0 0.423 6.6 30% 4.4 3.7 4.4 21.2 10.0
Dorell Wright 5% 18.5 0.750 6.2 66% 12.3 3.1 3.1 34.0 39.0
Daequan Cook 4% 32.6 0.167 0.0 0% 3.6 0.0 0.0 10.9 0.0
Yakhouba Diawara 1% 17.1 0.500 17.1 0% 0.0 8.6 8.6 25.7 7.7
PF 12.8 0.435 5.7 37% 11.0 2.7 2.5 15.5 14.7
Udonis Haslem 60% 12.7 0.467 5.8 32% 11.4 2.2 1.9 16.9 17.8
Michael Beasley 37% 13.2 0.367 5.7 43% 10.2 3.5 3.5 13.2 10.9
Dorell Wright 2% 8.3 1.000 0.0 100% 16.5 0.0 0.0 16.5 24.6
C 14.5 0.506 4.5 47% 11.0 2.0 2.0 18.5 18.2
Jermaine O'Neal 64% 17.0 0.538 3.9 51% 11.3 1.5 2.8 21.1 18.3
Joel Anthony 28% 11.0 0.368 5.2 36% 11.0 2.3 0.6 13.3 16.1
Udonis Haslem 6% 5.1 0.750 7.6 0% 7.6 5.1 0.0 15.2 20.5

I think from this data we can get a pretty good picture of who's most responsible for the Heat's strong defensive showing, and they both reside in the backcourt. Not only has Wade been his usual all-world self offensively, taking on 35% of Miami's possessions when on the floor and producing 1.137 points per, but he has also been playing out of his mind on D -- he's contributing in the boxscore with blocks and steals, but even more off the stat sheet, as evidenced by his ridiculous on/off and counterpart numbers. The same goes for Chalmers, who is racking up tons of steals and holding his man to a stingy .392 eFG%.

Also, Miami has gotten surprisingly strong performances from Richardson and Beasley, who while not exactly impressing with the on/off data, has posted outstanding counterpart stats. In fact, the entire defensive unit of Beasley, Chalmers, O'Neal, Richardson, & Wade is allowing just 87.1 points per 100 possessions, the best mark in the league for any lineup playing 100 or more minutes so far this season. The only real surprise is the mediocre counterpart numbers for the big men in that lineup, since Haslem and O'Neal are the ones with the reputation as strong frontcourt defenders.

So while Miami did rank 11th in defensive efficiency last season, their outstanding showing at that end so far could represent a major breakthrough for the team. Even with Wade scorching the net on a regular basis, they rank just 18th on offense (and finished 20th in 08-09), so it was imperative for them to get stops if they wanted to maintain or even improve on last year's 43-win pace. If their defense can continue to play this well, the Heat could establish themselves firmly atop the vast expanse between Boston/Cleveland/Orlando and the rest of the conference.

22 Responses to “Break Up the Heat!”

  1. Jason J Says:

    It is a shame we don't have this data going all the way back to the '50s. Interesting stuff. Good on the Heat. Watch out for a Riley comeback after they sign Bosh this summer.

  2. Neil Paine Says:

    Right, and they'll have to bust out the old "excuse rolodex" to come up with Spoelstra's reason for stepping aside. Because they can't use "spending more time with the family," SVG already took that made-up rationale.

  3. Neil Paine Says:

    Also, I would settle for offensive rebounds, turnovers, blocks, and steals going back to the 50s. Is it just me, or is it completely inexcusable for the league not to have kept those numbers for the first 30 or so years of its existence? That would be like not being able to calculate career OBP for Ted Williams because they didn't track walks prior to the 1950s. Shameful, really.

  4. UBK Says:

    The description for stop% does not make sense to me. "The % of opponent possessions in which the player stopped his man from scoring" Typical values are about 50%.
    So on 50% of the possessions a particular opposing player scores? Can't be right. Could a more precise definition be given please.

  5. UBK Says:

    In response to Neil Payne's comments I wonder if there will be someone saying something similar in 50 years about a statistic that is not currently kept.

  6. Neil Paine Says:

    It's the percentage of times the player's defensive assignment scores per individual possession used. So it's not that the typical player scores on 50% of the team's possessions, it's that he scores on 50% of the possessions he individually contributes to ending by shooting, assisting, drawing a foul, or committing a turnover.

  7. Vic De Zen Says:

    Just when you thought Wade couldn't possibly improve...

  8. khandor Says:


    Am I remembering correctly that you have the Toronto Raptors to finish higher in the final EC standings this season; while, I have the Miami Heat?

    Thanks, in advance, for your reply.

  9. justin Says:

    FYI, Wade is 27, not 28.

  10. Neil Paine Says:

    Sure Khandor, I forget, what were the terms of our little wager again?

  11. Neil Paine Says:

    And "age" is the player's age as of Feb. 1 of the season, so because Wade turns 28 on January 17, 2009-10 is considered his "age 28" season.

  12. bob chaikin Says:

    how is Stop% calculated? does it assume the PG is always guarding the opposing PG, the SG is always guarding the opposing SG, etc. when gleaning info from the play-by-play? how are forced misses and turnovers "estimated"?

  13. khandor Says:


    I don't recall the specific terms myself, other than you've got Toronto and I've got Miami to finish higher in the standings this season, as a friendly wager.

    From my perspective, as a Raptors fan, it's really a win-win situation.

    As long as D-Wade remains in good health, Miami will retain a spot in the middle tier of the EC this season because [1] he is just THAT good, [2] their pick-ups of Richardson and Arroyo are good fits with their team, [3] Erik Spoelstra is going to become a solid NBA head coach, and [4] their core group will have had one more year to grow together.

    As you know by now, I am not someone who is afraid to let his Basketball Acumen do the talking for him ... rather than searching for a "magical formula" to interpret how the game actually works with unerring accuracy on my behalf.


  14. 123 Says:

    Nice wrap-up. Liked it alot more than the basketballprospectus version which failed to credit Mario Chalmers and just seemed to make it look like luck

  15. khandor Says:

    In addition to what these "simplistic" game stats reveal about the performance of the Heat, thus far, re: the effectiveneness of their line-up with Chalmers, Wade, Richardson, Beasley and O'Neal, know that the fine work of Udonis Haslem has not gone unnoticed by astute observers of the NBA game.

    Unlike others in the on-line hoops community who critiqued my contention this summer that Mr. Haslem [PF] is about to have a better season for Miami than Elton Brand [PF] is for Philadelphia, some of us know full well that the best understanding of the game is not to be found in the number crunching of performance averages but in how real live players actually fit together, or not, vs specific opponents on the court, when considering all three main phases of the game, i.e. Offense, Defense and Rebounding. :-)

  16. Neil Paine Says:

    It's been two weeks, dude. The Heat are playing well, that's why I wrote this post. But man, you really do jump on every little excuse to toot your own horn, don't you? And how 'bout those Wizards, by the way? (See, I can take a random early-season example of a prediction where you were wrong and mention it, too! Small samples are fun!)

  17. Mike G Says:

    "... with Dwyane Wade powering the attack (via 31.8 pace-adjusted P/40) ..."

    I'm not aware of previous reference to pace-adjusted scoring rate. How does this work? Why per40?

  18. Neil Paine Says:

    That's (40*(pts/MP))*(lgPace/tmPace), so it's just the typical "Hollinger Method" of scaling a rate up/down based on team pace vs. league pace.

  19. khandor Says:


    Would you like to make the same friendly wager with me regarding the Wizards [2-6] and the Raptors [4-4]?

    PS. Small sample sizes are only of concern to whose who consider that type of statistical information to be of significant value in the first place. Thankfully, I don't fit into that specific category.

  20. Justin Kubatko Says:

    This is silly. First, Khandor, no one who works for this site will be making any wager with you, friendly or otherwise. Second, if you don't find the information on this site or in this blog to be of "significant" value, then why are you here?

  21. khandor Says:


    1. I've said nothing "silly" in this thread.

    2. Neil and I made a friendly wager concerning which team will end up finishing higher in the EC standings this season, Miami [my pick] or Toronto [Neil's pick].

    3. If Neil would like to critique my assessment of the Wizards, as another team in the EC that I think will probably end up finishing ahead of the Raptors this season, as well, I'm perfectly fine with that. I merely made him a friendly offer to make that claim a public one, and then time will tell which one of our perceptions eventually turns out to more accurate.

    4. Why do I visit this blog?

    For different but inter-related reasons, including:

    i. It's the blog provided by, which I happen to think is a fabulous resource for accurate data related to the NBA.

    ii. To exchange ideas about the game with others who think they already have an accurate understanding of "How it actually works in the NBA", with the intent of increasing the knowledge-base of all visitors to this sight [e.g. Neil, me, you and everyone else].

    Whether, or not, I think the notion of "statistical sample size validity" has little significance in a "proper understanding of the NBA game" is not the determining factor behind my decision to participate in the discussions about the game which take place here from time to time.

    PS. I have noted with interest your participation the last few years in Truehoop's "NBA Playoff Picks Contest" for certain bloggers and reputable "analysts". Anytime that you would like to engage in such a contest with me, know that it would be an absolute pleasure to do so, from my perspective. Healthy, fair, and [most importantly] friendly competition can be a good thing in terms of sharpening one's instincts for and insights about the game. :-)

  22. khandor Says:

    Neil and Justin,

    PART 1

    1. There are now 2 weeks left in the NBA's regular season schedule and the Miami Heat:

    i. Have had a relatively healthy Dwyane Wade in their line-up for the bulk of their games to-date;
    ii. Have a 42-34/.553 W-L record [i.e. 8-2 in their Last 10, 7 wins in a row]; and,
    iii. Are in 5th place in the EC and playing their best basketball of the campaign, as they gear up for the playoffs;

    while, the Toronto Raptors:

    i. Have had an up-and-down campaign to-date;
    ii. Have a 37-37/.500 W-L record [i.e. 5-5 in their Last 10, 2 wins in a row]; and,
    iii. Are in 8th place in the EC and preparing to be eliminated from the 1st Round of the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    In sharp contrast to what many NBA observers might have thought about the quality of this year's Miami team during the pre-season and the early season schedule, when it was expected that the Heat would experience a drop-off in performance this season ... the fact is ... this has not been the case, at all.

    Instead ... as I first suggested back in early November ... Erik Spoelstra has done an excellent job this season, Wade has been solid throughout, the bit pieces they have added have worked out [for the most, Rafer Alston not withstanding], Chalmers and Beasley have each made progress, and Udonis Haslem has been outstanding.

    PART 2

    The Washington Wizards have been an unmitigated disaster ... which, unfortunately, can happen sometimes when an organization is willing to roll the dice on a loose cannon, or two.

    PS. Justin, please know that "friendly" wagers are strictly for pride, and never profit. :-) Customarily, they are made between individuals who have a healthy degree of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for one another's disparate opinion. Hopefully, you will be able to do well again this year, if allowed to participate in Henry Abbott's "post-season picks" competition for NBA "experts" [i.e. cognoscenti, bloggers and stats gurus]. and this blog [which, I think, Neil maintains] is a wonderful resource for everyone who loves the game. Please keep up the good work!