Ranking the Complementary Additions of the Heat's Big 3 Era
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Three shots in the final 24 seconds to seal victories.
Ray Allen has had quite a Heat start. And while his desire has at times left something to be desired, it appears that the contract Miami gave him (one season plus a player option at $3 million per year) will be well worth the investment.
By hitting 52.6 percent of his three-point attempts, he has posted an absurd .635 effective field goal percentage, which makes it even more absurd that it's been bettered among Heat regulars by two other fairly recent additions: Shane Battier (2011 offseason) and Rashard Lewis (2012 offseason).
Allen, Battier and Lewis are just three of the supplementary pieces that Pat Riley has acquired or retained since signing the current foundation of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh in July 2010.
Riley has had to be nimble, with shrinking cap space and a creeping luxury tax. He has been armed, if not with elastic financial resources, then certainly an attractive proposition, with many veterans clamoring for a title chance.
Which moves have worked out well?
And which could have been better?
Here's an accounting, from worst to best.
(All quotes in this piece were gathered in the course of the author's daily coverage of the Miami Heat for the Palm Beach Post, and all statistics are accurate as of Monday afternoon.)
Worst: The In-Season Buyout Pickups
The Heat would have been better off with Mike Bibby on the bench.
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This isn't really about Ronny Turiaf.
The excitable big man with the island accent didn't make much of a difference either way for the Heat last season, after the Nuggets bought him out of his contract. He started five games in the playoffs and (with Chris Bosh sidelined) seven more in the playoffs, but he became a casualty of the Heat's fortuitous move to "small ball."
And he certainly gave the fans some memorable celebrations.
No, this is about Mike Bibby, the point guard that the Heat would have been better off leaving alone, after Washington cut him loose late in the 2011 season. Bibby, who replaced the reasonably serviceable Carlos Arroyo, was supposed to provide sharpshooting, and he had actually hit from a decent clip behind the arc while with Atlanta.
He virtually replicated Arroyo's percentages during the regular season. Then came money time, a time when (way back when) he had often cashed in for Sacramento.
Instead, his shot went, well, broke.
Time and again, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade found him wide open, and time and again, the opportunity closed. Bibby made just 25.8 percent of his three-point attempts in the playoffs and 28.1 percent overall, all while showing himself to be a step or two slow on defense.
Finally, mercifully, Erik Spoelstra removed him from the starting lineup in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, and Chalmers' strong play in a loss only demonstrated how much Bibby had brought the team down.
The only benefit Miami got from Bibby?
When he went 2-of-9 against the Heat, as a Knick, in January 2012.
Next Worst: A Bevy of Below-Par Bigs
When Erick Dampier tried to score, we were scared, too.
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Pat Riley hasn't just coached mountainous men.
He's coached men who deserved to be carved into a mountain.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Los Angeles.
Patrick Ewing in New York.
Alonzo Mourning, and then a latter-day Shaquille O'Neal, in Miami.
Erik Spoelstra? Well, over the past three years, Riley has given him Joel Anthony, an end-of-career Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jamaal Magloire, Erick Dampier, Ronny Turiaf and the raw Dexter Pittman.
Considering those names, "small ball" was a rather small sacrifice.
Spoelstra is blessed with Bosh, whom he calls "the most versatile big in the center." But as far as traditional centers go, Riley hasn't had much luck mining anyone serviceable in free agency or the draft.
Anthony, who was signed to a rather sizable five-year, $18 million deal as a reward for hard work, just after Bosh, Wade and James signed, at least has a useful skill set, in terms of screen-setting and shot-blocking.
Magloire was around mostly for his playful personality and willingness to scrap, especially if the Heat were facing the pugnacious Zaza Pachulia. Dampier? Done. Ilgauskas? He got off to a strong start as a floor-spacer, but ran (OK, walked) out of steam.
No, Riley isn't entirely to blame for this. You don't get your pick of big bodies when all you can offer is the small veteran's minimum. Still, when you see what Andray Blatche (who had interest in the Heat before the Nets nabbed him) did against Miami on Saturday, it makes you wonder if he's made all the right calls.
Incomplete: As Usual, Little Depth from the Draft
Norris Cole's improvement is important to the Heat's future.
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Justin Hamilton never had a chance.
As soon as the center from LSU was taken by the Heat at No. 45, reporters were already packing the prospect's bags for overseas.
And the reporters would be right.
Hamilton was Miami's first and only selection of the 2012 draft after the team traded the No. 27 pick to Philadelphia for a future protected first-rounder.
In his press conference, Pat Riley explained that, with "the players that we had on our board not there" at No. 27, he thought it better to "defer our pick and our asset to next year." That was the case even with Baylor's Perry Jones III still there.
As for Hamilton?
Well, he, according to Riley, was "a below the rim" player with a shooting touch, one who could use some seasoning. Which is why, eventually, he would be heading to Europe, as expected.
The reality is that Riley considers the entire draft to simply be seasoning. He has traditionally gotten his steak through trades and free agency, with the exceptions of Dwyane Wade and Caron Butler, who were both top-10 choices.
He hasn't fared so well in the latter stages of the draft...again, with very few exceptions, such as second-rounder Mario Chalmers. And now he doesn't have many picks at his disposal, after the sign-and-trade deals with Cleveland and Toronto for LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
So, really, since he signed the so-called Big 3, the one draft addition of note has been Norris Cole, whom he traded up to get at No. 28 in 2011, and it's still impossible to predict how that pick will play out.
Cole has certainly contributed, even turning a Finals contest with his on-ball defensive activity. But he's also out of control too often, and his shooting numbers have actually declined in his second season.
If he develops into a reliable rotation player, that's a bonus for an executive who prefers to bring in molded men.
Mixed Bag: The Florida Boys
Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem were signed to be primary complements to Wade and the Big 3.
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During the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, the Bulls got a taste of what the Heat had been cooking up all summer.
"This was the lineup we envisioned playing together," LeBron James said after Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem helped him, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh stifle Chicago.
The so-called "Big 5 Lineup" was dominant on both ends, but especially defensively, during that series, and that stretch alone was significant enough to temper any complaints about the lengthy contracts that Miller and Haslem, former University of Florida roommates, signed in the summer of 2010.
There have been other good moments: Miller somehow sinking seven three-pointers in the Game 5 clincher of the 2012 NBA Finals against Oklahoma City; Haslem's strong per-minute rebounding rate, which contributed to him setting the Heat's all-time rebounding mark early this season.
Still, it is safe to say, and Haslem and Miller would be among the first to say it, that things haven't turned out quite as the Heat had hoped.
Haslem's serious foot injury not only took him off the court for most of the 2010-11 season, but seems to have taken something out of him long term. He hasn't been as steady with his jumper, and he's getting blocked inside even more often.
And Miller, who was fairly healthy for the majority of his career, has injured body parts that haven't been invented yet.
At the moment, they rank eighth and 10th on the team in minutes, and they have a combined $22 million left on their contracts in the two seasons after this one, though Miami could certainly amnesty Miller.
And yet, if you asked most Heat fans, who love Haslem and now admire Miller, they would probably do the deals again.
Big Score: The Allen/Lewis Duo
Older now, like old times: Allen and Lewis together on the other coast.
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For four seasons, from 2003-04 through 2006-07, one was one, and the other was two on the Seattle SuperSonics' scoring chart.
Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen didn't enjoy all that much team success together, only finishing above .500 once. But they still were one of the silkier shooting duos in the NBA.
They're older now, a bit more beaten up (especially in Lewis's case) and much, much cheaper than they were then. But so far, each has been a bargain-basement bonanza for the Heat.
Lewis doesn't yet have great lift in his legs, after two seasons of knee trouble, but he did dunk a couple of times earlier in the season. And while he's still not much of a rebounder, he has progressed enough defensively that Erik Spoelstra felt comfortable starting him in Shane Battier's absence.
His primary strength remains his long-range shooting, especially from the corner, which is a staple of the Heat offense; he has connected at a 16-for-32 clip.
Allen has more dimensions to his game at this stage, showing off some ball-handling ability, as well as a willingness to drive to the rim.
But, for a combined cost of $4.4 million, the former Sonics are giving the Heat an average of 19.8 points per game while making more than half of their shots.
Money very well spent so far.
Best of the Bunch: Battier Has Delivered
Loose balls don't stay loose long with Shane Battier around.
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Shane Battier loves statistics, even while learning to live with their limitations.
The Duke graduate asks for detailed scouting reports (with empirical tendencies) of every opponent he faces, so that he knows which way they will move before they do.
It was easy to know what the Heat's first move would be, when Battier became a free agent in the summer of 2011. Battier didn't necessarily fill a positional need on the Heat, not with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mike Miller already at the swing spots. But he fit the franchise creed, with the Heat always looking for intellectual, professional players.
That professionalism was critical to the Heat's 2012 championship and not just because, after a slow start to the season, Battier started sinking threes.
With Chris Bosh out due to an abdominal injury, the Heat needed to play differently, and that meant spreading the floor while LeBron James slid down to the post. It also meant alleviating James of the burden of banging with traditional power forwards.
So, round after round, from David West to Brandon Bass to Serge Ibaka, Battier took on bigger men, using his grit and wit...and agitating plenty along the way. It is one of the great paradoxes of the NBA that one of its nicest guys, and best teammates, is one of the opponents that others find most annoying.
As it turned out, the statistic that mattered, when it came to Battier's three-year, $9 million, contract was this:
One championship, in which he played a major role.
And so his was an addition the Heat would make every time.