Miami Heat: Does the 2018-19 team finally have a death lineup?

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 28: Justise Winslow #20 of the Miami Heat (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 28: Justise Winslow #20 of the Miami Heat (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Miami Heat have found a five-man group that posts the second-highest net rating in the NBA. Should this be their go-to unit?

The Miami Heat’s five-game win streak might be in the books, but the team is still finding ways to sit atop the NBA’s leader boards.

As of December 30, the Heat boast the five-man lineup with the NBA’s second highest net rating. The unit of Justise Winslow, Dwyane Wade, Rodney McGruder, Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo have amassed a 34.8 net rating, a mark which sits behind only the Boston Celtics’ starting five.

Miami’s group, having played seven games and 48 minutes together is part fact, part fiction. Even more interesting, this lineup did not play together at all last season, indicative of head coach Erik Spoelstra’s willingness to explore new concepts this season.

How do you make sense of a lineup that, at least on paper, is on par with the groups fielded by the Celtics, Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors?

With a grain of salt; that’s how.

So, to boil this down to it’s purest, most understandable form, let’s channel some Dwight Schrute levels of analysis.

FACT: Winslow is playing better, and thereby, so are his lineups.

It’s true.

This season, Winslow has Miami’s third highest offensive rating (106.8) and third-lowest defensive rating (100.7) when he plays. These stats reflect the entire team, so it gets a bit hairy to parse out exactly which groups are suffering without his presence.

But Winslow’s impact has been incredible, especially considering his increased workload as point guard. He’s racking up assists at a faster clip than ever, as he confidently and accurately doles out the rock where his teammates need it most.

Defensively, he’s turning around and playing as Miami’s most versatile piece. Game to game, Winslow seamlessly transitions from covering Blake Griffin to Kawhi Leonard to Ben Simmons to Khris Middleton.

Selected for his defensive know-how, Winslow finally bloomed into the two-way player all of South Florida hoped he’d be. He’s not infallible, as his 0-for-4 3-point shooting against the Cleveland Cavaliers suggests, but he’s making gains by the day.

FALSE: Wade is this lineup’s closer.

Say it ain’t so.

No one wants to see one of their sports heroes end his career in infamy, but that’s sort of, kind of, happening with Wade.

Credit where credit is due, Wade has come up big plenty in his final season. His 34 points against Toronto, though coming in a loss, was proof that Flash still has a few sparks left in his engine.

But when things go sour, it’s worse than choking on an warhead (the candy, not the nuke).

In clutch moments, defined by the NBA as a game within five points under five minutes to play, Wade is Miami’s highest volume shooter, taking 2.4 attempts in such moments.

Unfortunately, he’s scoring on just 35 percent of these shots. Meaning shots like the one to follow, though cathartic as they would be, evoke more images of chuck-master, heave-taker Kobe Bryant in his final years, than they do of Wade in his most elegant form.

In Miami’s most successful lineup, there’s something to be said for having Wade’s veteran presence, but having him relive his glory days is turning out to be a catch-22.

FALSE: This is Miami’s best 3-point shooting lineup.

This is an interesting one.

McGruder is undisputedly Miami’s best long ball launcher, at 39.9 percent from deep. Olynyk was held in this esteem, though he has struggled with consistently knocking them down this year.

But pairing these two with the hot and cold Winslow, Wade and Adebayo, who rarely steps behind the arc, makes for a team that attacks the rim and only uses the 3 as a bail out option when things go awry.

This lineup is better suited to keeping Miami’s opponents from finding offensive success.

Winslow, McGruder and Adebayo could seemingly guard six opponents between their collective tenacity and switchability, which allows Olynyk and Wade to hang back and interrupt wayward passes.

This group averages shy of two steals each time they are together, a solid mark considering how frequently they hold court.

Ultimately, whatever you make of this rotation know this: the Heat are a regularly developing team.

Just as Winslow broke out, almost unexpectedly, Miami’s regular rotation and closing lineups will be influx for the foreseeable future.

Next. Miami Heat: The wait is almost over for Dion Waiters. dark

Hunker down Heat Nation; the best is yet to come.