Hampered by a quad injury he suffered in training camp, the Miami Heat have yet to see the Shane Battier that they signed during the offseason.
While we believed that the Heat needed to make a few acquisitions in order to strengthen a few flaws, it turns out that only a few additions would be necessary. A reliable center and point guard can wait, the Heat played without them before and they can do the same this year. Instead of focusing on one aspect of the game, the Heat addressed a few by taking Battier.
Battier is a 10-year veteran that has spent time with the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies. While he's only averaged double-digit points three times, he's highly coveted thanks to his defense. Even at the age of 33, Battier is still one of the league's top individual and perimeter defenders. He relies more on his knowledge of the game and his opponent, rather than his athleticism to become a stopper.
Now with the Heat, Battier will be addressing a few key issues. He'll be giving the team another defensive stopper along the perimeter next to Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, as well as giving the team a scorer on the perimeter that can help make up for the temporary absence of Mike Miller.
With a veteran like Battier on the team, we give you five reasons as to how he'll be helping to lead the Heat to their second championship in franchise history.
There are two things that coach Erik Spoelstra preaches when dealing with the Miami Heat offense.
He wants his team to score as fast as possible, and he wants them to stretch the floor. While Spoelstra doesn't have too many designed plays for the offense to work with, he recognizes the talent and athleticism of his players. By recognizing this, Spoelstra is able to preach the importance of scoring early and often, while keeping the opposition constantly on their heels and out of a rhythm.
That works for fast breaks, but the Heat still need to work in a half-court set. The Heat have made it clear that they're not going to run a Mike D'Antoni-style offense, which means that the run and gun is not an option. Defense is too important to the team, and they'd rather see a majority of their points come by way of playing in the traditional half-court system.
In order to make the half-court work for a team like the Heat, you need to have two types of players: slashers and shooters. Those two players go hand in hand with each other, and since there's no significant post threat, the importance of relying on each other becomes even more significant.
Opposing defenses make it a purpose to create an offense that's specifically designed to limit Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. They'll let Chris Bosh get his points, but the main focus is to keep Wade and James out of the paint and stuck on the perimeter. Defenses are allowed to keep their attention on Wade and James directly because of the lack of perimeter threats that the Heat possess.
With Mike Miller out for a few more weeks, Shane Battier becomes a significant addition. The Heat need a consistent threat to stretch the floor and draw some attention out to the perimeter. If a 39 percent three-point shooter like Battier can maintain consistency and hit in the 40 percent range, he'll be able to draw attention away from Wade and James on the majority of their drives.
In order to make their offense work, the Heat need to start with defense first.
The Heat could play with a style similar to that of D'Antoni's with Phoenix and score 120 points per game, but this collective group has a terrific knowledge of the game. They know that offense wins games, and defense wins championships. No team wins the big games by attempting to outscore their opponent; there needs to be quality play on both sides of the ball.
Defense is of huge importance to the Heat. They have a number of stellar defenders outside on the perimeter in James, Wade and now Battier, as well as the interior in players like Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem. These players are meant to play physical on the defensive side because of how it usually results in an easy field goal on the other end.
The Heat lack true stoppers at the point and at center, but make up for that with quickness on the defensive end that you've never seen before. Everybody was looking forward to how the Heat would play on offense, when the real story is how prolific this team can be on the other side of the court. Wade and James are two of the game's top perimeter defenders because of their athleticism and awareness.
With Battier on the floor, you don't have as much athleticism, but you do have another terrific perimeter stopper. What he does on the defensive end to make up for his lack of athleticism is his lateral quickness and a defense that greatly utilizes his hands. Whenever you see Battier play defense, you'll notice that his hands are always in the face of his opponent so that he could throw off their vision.
By adding Battier, you know have three stellar perimeter stoppers, someone that can replace the defense of James or Wade, and another player that's capable of causing turnovers and turning defense into offense.
Last year, we were witness to one of the NBA's worst benches making it all the way to the NBA Finals.
Without including the ailing Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, the Heat's top bench contributors throughout the season was the one-dimensional James Jones, the inconsistent Mario Chalmers and the defensive-minded Joel Anthony. Even with an elite big three, they couldn't do it all with a bench that refused to hit open shots or provide consistent defense.
Even today, the Heat are still lacking on their bench. Yes, they get Udonis Haslem back and they also might have received the steal of the draft in Norris Cole, but there were still a number of holes that could have been greatly affected if not for the addition of Battier to the team.
For one, the Heat had not one solid perimeter defender coming off the pine. Unlike other elite teams that will boast at least one or two stoppers off the bench, Miami could not say the same. They were coming off the bench with Cole, Miller and Jones as their back-ups in the back court and at small forward. Cole has proven to be an aggressive defender, but Miller and Jones leave little to the imagination.
With Battier, the Heat no longer have to look at the likes of Miller and James Jones to be defensive stoppers at the two and three. The team has become highly dependent of the services of Jones since Miller's injury. He'll provide the same three-point stroke, but he lacks intangibles and is the worst perimeter defender of the team, aside from his outstanding ability to take charges.
Now that the Heat have Battier, they can look towards not only adding another perimeter threat to stretch the floor in the continuing absence of Miller, but also add on a defender in the second unit that can consistently disrupt the opponent's offense.
Everyone comes to the NBA to win a championship. The money and the individual glory are handsome perks, but no kid out of high school is saying that his main goal is to make it into the NBA and garner a lot of money and some impressive statistics.
You could ask every player in the NBA today when asked what they wanted to do in the NBA, and they'll all tell you the same answer when it came to their main goal. Everyone wants to be winners like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, and no one wants to be the guy with the impressive stats and no titles like Karl Malone or Charles Barkley.
Shane Battier has played in the NBA since being taken sixth in the 2001 draft. He had the unfortunate circumstance of being selected by the Memphis Grizzlies, which meant that playoffs wasn't going to be a consistent occurrence. He had the benefit of playing alongside Pau Gasol, but it only translated to three postseason visits and zero games won.
Battier then saw his luck change once he was traded to the Houston Rockets, a team led by All-Stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. He'd make it to the second round for the first time, but it only occurred once and he'd be back with Memphis before he knew it.
His postseason success has been miniscule, but Battier can at least boast that he was on the historic 2011 Grizzlies team that became the fourth eighth seed in NBA history to defeat a one seed. Battier's Grizzlies made it to the second round and then went seven games into the semifinals before eventually falling.
One of the league's top individual defenders, yet he's never even made it to the Conference Finals. This guy came to the Heat for one thing, and that was to win games. Battier was a heavily desired free agent this offseason on account of his leadership skills and his defense, but settled with less money and joined the Heat because he knew that they had the best chance of winning a title.
That fits perfectly with the Heat. Battier is just one of a number of significant players that decided to take a pay cut in order to join the team. Wade, James, Bosh and Udonis Haslem all left millions of dollars on the table to play for the Heat, and Battier now joins the squad.
All of these players come to the Heat to win championships. They were tired of struggling with their former franchises. Wade didn't like winning 45 games, James was tired of going out in the Conference Finals and Bosh was disgruntled that his Toronto team rarely even made it to the postseason.
Battier's in the same boat. He shares something with Bosh in the fact that neither player has made it to the Conference Finals. This is a team of veterans that wants to win games, and adding a veteran like Battier only continues to fuel the motivation of these individuals that are in it for one goal.
The Heat had a number of choices to make this offseason.
One choice involved bringing Samuel Dalembert to South Beach. At first, Dalembert sounded destined to join the Heat, but quickly retracted his statement by declaring that money was going to be too much of an issue. Rather than shelling out too much for Sammy D, the Heat instead gave the veterans minimum to Eddy Curry.
So the Heat are still lacking a quality center. It didn't seem to affect the team so greatly last season. They had a center who averaged two points per game, couldn't catch or rebound, and the Heat still won 58 games and came two games away from an NBA Finals victory. As much help a big man would have provided, the Heat only have so many people who can take shots and they don't need another player that wants to score.
As much as we thought the Heat needed to improve, it turns out that they really didn't need as many free agent pick-ups as we expected. We forgot just how successful the team was last season without a solid bench, and that should carry over this season. A big man in the middle can wait, the Heat needed consistency and defensive pressure off their bench before a center or point guard.
Miami has been fortunate enough to possibly receive the steal of the 2011 draft in Norris Cole. He fits in perfectly on both sides of the ball thanks to his athleticism and quickness on offense, and his aggressiveness on defense. It also gives the Heat another type of floor general to look to, as Cole can quicken the offensive and initiate more fasbreaks.
When speaking of Battier, however, you begin to realize that he was the absolute perfect choice to join the Miami Heat. Even though some may say that adding Dalembert or any other center would have been the better choice, you also have to realize that centers are in too heavy of a demand and they expect far too much money.
Take a look at Kwame Brown who's making $7 million to essentially be a body in the middle.
What Battier brings to this team is toughness and a business attitude. There's no more room for experimenting and playing around, this Heat team needs to get everything sorted out and play with a strictly business outlook. You find the easiest way to score on offense and you find the quickest way to get the ball back on defense, it's as simple as that.
Battier's offense definitely helps as it stretches the floor out, but the team brought him in more for his defensive presence. On a team that preaches defensive toughness, physicality, and playing aggressive and with a purpose, there is no better player that would fit the job than Shane Battier.