The Miami Heat have been on an absolute tear as of late, winning 12 of their last 15 games. While much of it has to do with LeBron James' historic scoring streak, the return of Shane Battier is also a factor. He was sidelined and hampered by a nagging hamstring injury last month, but he has since returned to form.
Battier had an absolutely disastrous streak of play in January. He averaged just 2.2 points in 20.9 minutes per game, shooting 17.9 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from beyond the arc. He started the month 3-of-15 from deep before missing time due to injury.
February has been a different story.
He's averaging 8.6 points on 50 percent shooting, both from the field and from three-point range. Battier has only taken six attempts from two-point range, with the rest of his production coming from deep. The Heat don't need him anywhere else on the floor, so such a statistic is hardly surprising.
The Heat are 7-1 at the midway point of the month. Battier is back as a regular, efficient contributor in the rotation; however, and case could be made that James and Battier are playing off each other.
Defenders cannot leave the 6'8" shooter alone on the perimeter, thereby giving LeBron the freedom to score from wherever he pleases. It might be an unrealistic suggestion, but it is certainly possible considering the timely return of Battier and James' streak.
On the season, Battier is knocking down 47 percent of his three-point shots from the corner. There is a 52.8 percent shot distribution from this area on the floor, and the former Duke Blue Devil has been nothing short of fantastic.
Just how important is Shane Battier to the Heat?
In addition to this, 72.3 percent of Battier's offense comes from spot-up jumpers. He is knocking down 42.1 percent on spot-up threes, which is incredibly efficient yet hardly surprising with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as teammates.
The most notable piece of information, however, is the success rate of Miami with Battier on the floor. In wins, Battier shoots 43.7 percent from three and is the main long-range threat, despite having Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers on the roster.
Conversely, Battier's production as a shooter drops to a dismal 27.9 percent in losses. Whether or not you wish to perceive this as evidence of better opponent defense or the Heat being less efficient as Battier slumps, either scenario sheds light on the same message: He is essential to Miami's success.
The Heat are 3-3 in games he has missed with injury, which is rather interesting given the team's overall talent. Miami is 36-14 on the season, so to understand that three of those losses are in games without Battier, the distribution of importance weighs heavily in his favor.
The Heat shoot 39.4 percent from beyond the arc with Battier on the court (per 48 minutes), dropping to 37.8 percent as he heads to the bench. Miami allows 100.2 points per 100 possessions with its swingman in the game, yet opponents score 103.1 points per 100 possessions when Battier is out.
The statistical difference may be small, but the combo-forward does so much that doesn't show up in the box score. His ability to rotate defensively and apprehend guards or forwards is invaluable, as is his timely placement in moving around the court on both ends of the floor.
Battier is the perfect player for the Heat's system, with a smooth blend of offense and defense that fits seamlessly next to the Big Three. One could argue he is the fourth-most important player on this Heat team.
Seeing him back healthy is a sight for sore eyes in South Beach, but it would seem Battier is locked and loaded for the remainder of the season.
All statistics sourced from nba.com/advancedstats