NBA defense power rankings: Are the Miami Heat still elite?

Part of the Miami Heat's identity is defense. Here's how they fared on that end of the court this season, and why some statistics could be a sign of trouble later this season.

Miami Heat v Charlotte Hornets
Miami Heat v Charlotte Hornets / David Jensen/GettyImages
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Last season's historic Finals run was built by the Miami Heat's strong defense. Even as role players enjoyed hot shooting streaks, Miami remained vigorous and hungry on the defensive end and limited some of the NBA's premier talents.

Generally, the Heat's defense this season can be labeled as somewhat of a mixed bag, and this is extremely detectable when diving into their defensive statistics.

The Heat currently rank ninth in defensive rating, below last year's Finals foe, the Nuggets, and ahead of other contenders in the Lakers and 76ers. (The towering Timberwolves have had the No. 1 rated defense for most of the season, although the Magic recently took over the top spot.)

Yet, Erik Spoelstra's side has still boasted their fair share of nights to forget on the defensive end; the Heat gave up to 114 points at home to the Washington Wizards in their In-Season tournament opener and 109 points in a home loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

But on average, Miami is allowing 110.7 points per 100 possessions in the early stages of the season, an improvement on last season's rate of 112.8 -- although on a much smaller sample size.

Let's drill down and take a look at where the Heat rank in more specific areas on defense.