Riding a historic 24 game win streak, it is obvious that the Heat are a very good team ,offensively and defensively. But how well have they done offensively and defensively over the course of the season, and how does that compare to the elite teams in the East and West? First, let me address a couple of points.
- I picked the Thunder and the Spurs as the teams in the West that could give the Heat a run for their money. As well as Denver is playing right now, I think that those two teams can give the Heat the most trouble from the West.
- The Knicks played the Heat very well earlier in the season (the Knicks played everybody well earlier in the season; they were just stroking it from three point range) before coming back down to Earth recently. Boston probably could hang and bang with the Heat, but over a series I think the Pacers are a bigger and more legitimate threat — thus, I eliminated Boston. I also only picked one team from the East because the graphs were starting to get a bit much — so sue me (don’t actually, please).
Overall, the Heat currently have the highest net rating; not surprising considering they are on a 24 game winning streak. I think one of the most surprising things I see is the progression of the Pacers. They had a negative rating at the beginning of the season and now have basically the same rating as the Thunder and Pacers. The other thing that stands out is the quality of basketball played in the month of February. The Thunder were absolutely on fire in the month of February (and the Pacers were no chumps either).
Let’s take a look at the offensive and defensive ratings, separately.
Of the four teams, it is clear that at their peaks, the Heat and the Thunder are in a class of their own. Yes, the Spurs have a higher offensive rating right now, but for most of the season, the best two offensive teams out of this bunch have been the Heat and the Thunder (by far!).
In terms of defense, the Pacers simply blow all the other teams away — the difference between their defense and the competition is extraordinary. Miami on the other hand, had one of the worst defenses out of these four teams for a majority of the season (and particularly during the month of February, in the middle of their winning streak) but has recently clamped down, and has the second-best defense, currently. The other thing that stands out is the lack of Spurs defense that has occurred recently — is this somehow related to the absence of Tony Parker? If this trend continues for the Spurs, it is going to be hard for them to be successful in the playoffs.
The Pacers and the Thunder have the talent to beat the Heat — you only have to look at what each team did in the month of February to see that. But can they keep that level of production and performance up against quality teams (like the Heat) over multiple series? That’s going to be the key question of whether the Heat repeat or not. Either way, we’ll see come the playoffs!