What’s currently hurting the struggling 6-8 Miami Heat?

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 15: James Johnson
MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 15: James Johnson /

So far, the 2017-18  season hasn’t been kind to the Miami Heat.

At 6-8, the Miami Heat are a far cry from the squad that went on a historic 30-11 run last season. And while it’s still early in their 2017-18 campaign, fans are right to be concerned.

The offseason may not have been all that exciting for the organization, having missed out on signing Gordon Hayward. But the front office was able to bring back James Johnson and Dion Waiters, retaining the core group that was able to finish last year 41-41, after an 11-30 start. Reassuring fans that despite Dwyane Wade’s departure, the franchise was in fact working its way back up to the top of the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately, getting back into the groove of things has proved to be harder than anticipated. While realistically, it would have been a long shot for the Heat to pick up exactly where they left off, no one expected another rocky start to the season.

Yet here Miami is, sitting under .500.

So what’s going on?

Well for one, Hassan Whiteside hasn’t been a reliable source of production.

The big man was sidelined for five games with a bone bruise, leaving the Heat sparse on both ends of the court. During that stretch, they went 2-3, especially missing their center against the likes of the San Antonio Spurs. and Minnesota Timberwolves. However, Whiteside still wasn’t a consistent entity for a while after his return.

While he totaled 13 points and 14 rebounds in his first game back, a win over the Chicago Bulls, the 28-year-old struggled a few nights later in a loss to the Golden State Warriors. In fact, head coach Erik Spoelstra benched his star, and Whiteside finished with just three points and six boards in 16 minutes.

And although recently the North Carolina-native has shown improvement (recording 14 points and 21 rebounds in a loss against the Washington Wizards), his injury and lackluster performances thereafter definitely contributed to the team’s struggles.

The bench has also not played to its potential.

This summer, James Johnson signed a four-year, $60 million contract. A deal that many called overkill. Many, who are now singing to the tune of “I told you so.” Premature, certainly, but also understandable.

Johnson has already acted as an incredible leader. Named co-captain alongside Goran Dragic and Udonis Haslem, it’s clear he’s taking the responsibility seriously. A strong point of his game last season too, the forward continuously brings forth an unparalleled energy, acting as a motivator for the group even in the hardest of times. But sadly, he hasn’t been able to be as efficient when it comes to on-court production

Averaging 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.3 steals a game, his raw numbers don’t look too bad. However just like Whiteside, he hasn’t been consistent. And his 3-point shooting has dwindled, a factor that has absolutely hurt Miami.

He’s not the only one off the bench who has been a question mark though. His “brother,” Tyler Johnson, has also regressed.

The guard is averaging 10.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per contest, shooting 35.4 percent from the field. A number that has fallen from his 43.3 percent last year. And his 3-point shooting is an even greater concern. While he shot 37.2 percent from downtown in 2016-17, he’s now at 30.2 percent.

And in case the trend wasn’t already clear, he too has been inconsistent. The 25-year-old scored 19 points in 33 minutes, in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers. But just six points in the same amount of time, in a loss to the Detroit Pistons.

Then of course, there’s the turnovers, plain and simple.

No matter how well players are shooting the ball or holding their opponents down, turnovers are the quickest way to lose control of the game. Which is exactly what’s been happening with the Heat lately. Currently tied for the fourth (with the Utah Jazz) for the most turnovers per matchup with 16.3, Spoelstra has had enough.

"“The truth is turnovers are crippling our team right now… We don’t have to necessarily cut our turnovers to 10 a game. That’s not realistic. But, a couple (less) per game, maybe get five shots more to our strengths rather than coughing up a poor, inefficient shot.”"

Next: Miami Heat's Hassan Whiteside has to pass out of the paint

The Miami Heat have the potential to be a top Eastern Conference team. The question is whether or not they’ll be able to get themselves together in time, to prove that.