Miami Heat: Ranking the Most Important Players Outside of the Big 3
From a personal standpoint, I found it absurd to question the depth the Miami Heat had heading into last season. While they didn't have an all-star caliber player like James Harden or Manu Ginobili coming off the bench, the Heat possessed many tools that fit well around Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.
Miami often struggled to find offensive production other than James and Wade, especially when Bosh went down to injury in the playoffs. However, it was the defensive intensity and smart play that helped the Heat push past the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics while Bosh was down.
Now with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis added to the roster, the team has added those missed scorers and will be even deeper as a unit next season. Miami's lack of depth inside will be erased as it has a number of guards and forwards who can stretch the floor.
With James and Wade penetrating the paint, these guys will get plenty of opportunities for open looks. If they knock them down consistently, this could be one of the most dangerous teams in NBA history.
Miami has a good number of glue guys on the team that bring so much in specific areas. Let's check out just how deep this team really is.
11. Justin Hamilton
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Justin Hamilton was Miami's only draft day pickup in June and becomes the only legit seven-footer on the team. However, going to a Heat squad built around spreading the floor and knocking down shots, he could be lost in the mix.
The big man out of LSU isn't the most talented player in the world and will likely only see playing time in the garbage minutes of games. I'm not saying he can't eventually progress into a nice role player, but making an impact this year seems highly unlikely.
10. Dexter Pittman
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You should be picking up two trends right now: Miami has a worthless group of centers, and they also won't fit in much with the team's go-to game plan.
Dexter Pittman is a massive man weighing in at over 280 pounds, but he's not very talented on the floor. He is clearly overmatched in terms of athleticism and it usually results in fouling to make up for it. If the former Longhorn can cut some extra poundage, he could become more mobile and a more useful asset on both ends of the floor.
9. James Jones
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James Jones has always been a player I feel Miami should utilize more, especially when Mike Miller goes down to injury. However, he will likely be buried in the depth of the various downtown shooters that the Heat possess.
The veteran played some big minutes in the playoffs last year and knocked down some crucial shots late in games, but will likely not see many playoff minutes next season. Expect to see him be a contributor during the regular season, but lost in the mix once Miami tightens up the playoff rotation.
Jones is a great shooter, but that's about all he brings. If Miami needs an option to spread the floor then this guy should not be forgotten about.
8. Rashard Lewis
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Rashard Lewis was a cheap signing for Miami, which makes him worth it, but it's questionable as to just how much he will be utilized at this point in his career. Lewis is only 32-years-old, but his points per game and field goal percentage have continued to take drastic dips over the last several seasons.
Now that he is reunited with Ray Allen, could this be the spark he needs to wind down his career with a bang?
Maybe, but don't expect to see the forward playing major minutes over the course of his two year deal with Miami. He has the length to play the power forward position if needed and can also pull in some rebounds, but, like many Heat role players, he is meant to knock down outside shots.
If he can stay healthy he can be a major factor in size and depth, but Miami has no use for him if he can't show some of his old abilities and come alive on the floor. Lewis is a guy who could play 25 minutes a night or five and it wouldn't be a shock either way.
7. Mike Miller
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Yes, another small forward. Mike Miller had the most memorable night of his career in Game 5 of the NBA Finals by draining seven three-pointers to help Miami capture a championship. However, Miller's career is hanging by a thread based on chronic back pains that have hampered him the past few years.
The former Rookie of the Year is much more than a shooter as he has the ability to rebound, play defense and make the necessary hustle plays that made him a big free agent target to initially surround the Big Three. Miller will not likely see a lot of playing time to start the season, as Miami would like him healthy for the playoffs, but could be a major player when called on.
6. Joel Anthony
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Joel Anthony played two minutes in last year's NBA Finals. That's right, two.
While Miami had good reason for it, Anthony still remains a useful player in most situations. He has no fundamentals offensively and can honestly be a liability at times, but he is one of the few defensive-minded players the Heat have.
We could see Anthony starting the season as the team's primary center until he becomes another victim of a tightened playoff rotation. In the end, Miami will ultimately go with Chris Bosh at the starting center position, but this doesn't mean Anthony should be forgotten about.
He's extremely athletic and runs the floor very well when looking to push the pace. He is a valuable shot blocker who can defend an average NBA center on a normal basis as well as creating loose balls and turnovers.
He's not a prototypical big man, but Anthony still finds ways to earn his contract when on the floor.
5. Norris Cole
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Norris Cole should get serious consideration for being a major factor for Miami. He's an extremely quick and aggressive point guard who became a huge spark for the Heat at times last season.
Cole put up some staggering numbers in his senior season with Cleveland State, and his ability carried over well as a rookie with Miami. He is a guard who looks to score first, but can also be a nice distributor as he drives to the basket. Most importantly, his shooting range improved as the season progressed which makes him an even better option for the Heat next season.
While Cole is a hard-nosed defender, he is prone to picking up some unnecessary fouls in the process. Becoming a more fundamental defender as well as showing more control with the ball could not only make Cole an important player now, but for the future of Miami as well.
4. Ray Allen
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Did you think Ray Allen would be much higher?
Don't worry Heat fans, Allen will still be a big part of Miami's rotation, but consider him to be the icing on a potential championship cake. Besides, they won without him last year, right?
Allen is one of the greatest shooters the game has ever witnessed. He has a sweet and pure stroke which has led him to the highest number of three-point makes in NBA history. That being said, let's not forget his monumental career is slowly coming to an end.
We know Allen's role is to hit shots, but Miami has quite a few players with the same job. While he will likely be the sixth man of the Heat, Allen doesn't have that much pressure on his shoulders, which made signing with Miami that much more attractive.
If he can focus on one aspect of his game and still be a crucial player, consider the signing of Allen a complete success. Miami proved to be a championship-caliber team without the former Celtic, but another dangerous piece certainly never hurts.
3. Udonis Haslem
Udonis Haslem is another player who watched his minutes drop in the NBA Finals, but Miami could not have made it there without his great performances against the Boston Celtics. Haslem put together three double-digit rebound games against the rival team and was a huge presence in the absence of Bosh.
He is the team's best rebounder and brings a physical body that can bang inside of the paint. Along with that, Haslem usually has a solid mid-range jump shot that Miami must utilize to mix things up. While Miami lacks depth in the middle, Haslem is Miami's best big man option off the bench, which makes him vital for a championship.
While originally an undrafted free agent, the signing of Haslem has proven to be one of the best moves in franchise history. He brings much more than talent as he has become one of the unspoken leaders Miami needs on and off the floor.
As long as Miami remains contenders, expect Haslem to be right in the middle of the success.
2. Mario Chalmers
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It's always a goal of mine to count exactly how many times LeBron James and Dwyane Wade get angry at Mario Chalmers during the course of a game. I counted three in one game this year. But in all seriousness, Chalmers has evolved into a solid starting point guard and a big reason for the recent success in Miami.
Chalmers is an interesting case as he brings the mind of a superstar to the floor every night and doesn't shy away from big moments. We all know about his big time three-pointer he hit in the NCAA Championship years back for Kansas. I'm not counting out seeing that feat matched on the next level.
It's no secret that Wade struggled a bit at times during the playoffs, but Chalmers stepped up when needed and erased that lack of production. In fact, he put up three games with at least 20 points, more than he did during 64 regular season games.
Chalmers can hit from deep, but also learned a few new tricks it seems. He has become a dangerous threat while driving, as he can get to the paint and even hit mid-range floaters when given the opportunity. He is also another good defender for Miami and forced 1.5 steals per game last season.
Miami doesn't have use for a prototypical point guard, thankfully Chalmers doesn't fit the bill anyway. If he continues to evolve, he will be a fixture in the Miami starting rotation for years to come.
1. Shane Battier
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Was any player besides LeBron James bigger than Shane Battier in the NBA Finals? After making 15 three-pointers in five games, I would find it hard to argue.
Battier was the top free agent for Miami last season and he showed why on the biggest stage of them all. He provided them with crucial forward depth and a defensive mindset that could allow the team to give different looks on the floor.
While he struggled early in the season to find his shot, he remained an above-average one-on-one defender who didn't shy away from tough assignments. If Battier can continue to do this on a regular basis, we could see James playing more of the power forward role next season that many fans are calling for.
Like was stated early, Miami has plenty of depth, but Battier is the most crucial when it comes to showing different rotations. He doesn't possess the physical ability that he had in his prime, but he remains one of the smartest players NBA fans have watched in the modern era.
Battier will be Miami's biggest asset outside of the obvious Big Three next season, and should not be overlooked because of the signing of Ray Allen.