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Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Break up the Heat if they lose?

By Henry Abbott

The Heat get all kinds of strong emotions going, that's for sure. To some that means asserting that they are chronically flawed and need to make changes if they don't win a title every year. To others it means saying the Heat are bad for the league because nobody else can compete.

Well, how has this Superfriends roster done? Addressing either assertion comes down to that.

Playoff wins over the past three years

To make it as simple as possible, I just looked up the playoff win totals for the whole NBA over the past three years, as of today, the day after the conference finals. Yes, that time frame will make the Heat look good. But that's the roster we're trying to assess, right? And postseason wins are a key measure; 16 of them in the same year is a championship. Here's where we stand:
At 42-18 the Heat have won 70 percent of the postseason games they have played. (Amazingly, the 24-10 Spurs have a slightly better postseason winning percentage -- thanks to the weird combination of two deep playoff runs, and one first-round exit that reduced their opportunities to drag their average down with 4-3 and 4-2 series wins.)

Is 42 wins a good number?
You'd have to have insanely high expectations to have pictured them doing any better. Indeed, they've lost just one playoff series, the 2011 Finals to the Mavericks. The Heat also have about 17 percent of the whole NBA's postseason wins. Think about that. If some team won a playoff game over past three years, it's a one in six chance that team was the Heat. Over time you'd expect a team to have a 30th of the league's wins. They have about five times their fair share in this period.

Could they be better?
No team is perfect, so I assume the answer is yes. Clearly they have missed many times in trying to find the optimal players to put around LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. I'd be interested to know how often in NBA history any team has won 10 of 11 series. Of course it has happened -- even in recent years the Bulls and Lakers have won three straight titles. But it's not common.

Who else is contending these days?
Looks to me like you could draw a line under the Bulls. Every team above that belongs in the conversation.

Is anybody else doing it better? 
These days? Not even close. That's the thing about this super simple analysis. Of course, it misses a lot of nuance. But when the results hit you over the head like this, there simply isn't room for nuance to change the conversation much when the Heat have nearly double the wins of the second-best franchise. Not even an injury to Russell Westbrook can account for that.

If the Heat lose to the Spurs, should they break up the team?
That seems crazy.