If it stands, the Miami Heat’s current ranking in defensive efficiency would be the team’s lowest since 2015.
The Heat rank 13th in defensive rating, giving up 113.9 points every 100 possessions. The last time the Heat ranked lower was in 2015, when they finished the year with the league’s 21st-ranked defense. This was the year after LeBron James returned to Cleveland and the Heat got only half a season from Chris Bosh and were relying on Hassan Whiteside to anchor the defense. That team had an excuse.
This one, however, might not. Even with injuries to Jimmy Butler, Caleb Martin, Haywood Highsmith and Bam Adebayo for long stretches of the season, the Heat still have a glaring issue that may not be totally fixed with good health: Point of attack defense.
It’s something Erik Spoelstra has cited as an ongoing issue, whether the team had its full allotment of players or not. After Monday’s loss to the Clippers, he blamed Miami’s man-to-man defense again.
“We struggled again in one-on-one situations, whether it was in the man or in zone when they just kind of isolated in the zone,” Spoelstra said. “Repeated attacks off the dribble.”
Kyle Lowry agreed: “Sometimes you just gotta find a way to keep your man in front.”
The problem is that man-to-man defense isn’t only an effort thing. Talent matters on defense, too, and the aging and injury-prone Heat might be at a deficit, at least in the regular season.
Few are as strong as Butler at the point of attack, but he usually reserves that fuel for the playoffs or the fourth quarter of big regular-season games.
As good as Highsmith has been on defense, he lacks enough offensive juice to stay on the floor in some matchups. Others like Martin and Josh Richardson have not been as good as expected on that end.
So what’s Miami’s solution? Should they be looking to acquire a bona fide perimeter defender before the trade deadline?
If the Heat do look at outside help, here are three names they could target.