While Miami will compete for an NBA title this season, Atlanta has a long way to go before it even sniffs one. In their first preseason game of the year, though, the Hawks defeated the Heat. In it, several players who weren’t believed to be role players on each team’s current path—Miami to the top and Atlanta to irrelevance—provided a spark off the bench.
Here are three players that could claw their way into their respective team’s rotation in 2012.
3. Robert Tozier
Will Tozier ever play meaningful minutes in MIA?
After being drafted 60th overall by the Heat in 2009, Tozier, a 26-year-old 6’9” forward from Georgia (the country), played professionally overseas until he signed with Miami in late September. He likely won’t make the team, let alone the active roster, but he showed the potential to do just that against the Hawks.
Competing with a frontcourt that featured Josh Smith and Al Horford, Tozier snagged six boards in just 20 minutes of action, which tied him for the team high.
2. Anthony Tolliver
The 27-year-old Tolliver can already call himself a journeyman, having played for now five different ballclubs. While he found playing time on some—and actually started quite a few games for the Golden State Warriors—Atlanta couldn’t have expected much after he struggled to secure minutes in Minnesota.
On Sunday, though, he was 2-3 from the field with a three in just 15 minutes of action. On top of his six points, he also grabbed two rebounds.
1. Dexter Pittman
Pittman didn’t play a second in the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. With the Heat planning to play small this year, they'll need some large bigs off the bench to make up for their lack of size in the starting lineup. That’s where Pittman and his 6’11”, 285-pound frame come in.
In 18 minutes against Atlanta, Pittman used that frame to grab four boards. More impressive, though, was his team-high plus-minus ratio of plus-16.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.