Ranking the Miami Heat's 5 Most Improved Players This Season

Peter Emerick@@peteremerickSenior Writer IIMarch 7, 2013

Ranking the Miami Heat's 5 Most Improved Players This Season

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    The Miami Heat are absolutely dominating the NBA right now—riding a 16-game winning streak.

    While we shouldn't be shocked at the level of dominance we're seeing from LeBron James and company, it's amazing just how much the Heat have improved as a team.

    Miami's overall improvement is taking place, though, because players are fine-tuning and improving their games on a personal level.

    When you're the best in the NBA, it's easy to get complacent. The Heat have figured out how to avoid that, and it's all because they've challenged themselves to improve on personal levels.

    Warning to the rest of the NBA—it's working for the Heat; they are simply getting better and better. 

5. Chris Andersen

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    Chris Andersen makes this list solely because he's on the Miami Heat roster and in their eight-man rotation.

    Bird man went from sitting on his couch watching NBA League Pass to dropping six points and grabbing seven rebounds in 15 minutes of action against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Sure, Andersen has a lot of room to grow, but for a player who missed a majority of the first half of the season, his development and improvement have been impressive to say the least.

    Continuing to improve is going to be crucial not only for Andersen but also for the Heat. Having an athletic and fearless big man flying off the bench could be the difference between just an appearance in the 2013 NBA Finals, and actually winning it all. 

4. Norris Cole

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    The improvement in Norris Cole's game may seem trivial, but having more efficiency coming off the bench from the sophomore point guard is important to the Heat.

    Not only is he turning the ball over less—averaging just 1.1 turnovers per game this year as compared to 1.6 last season—he's also shooting the ball at a more efficient clip.

    Cole is hitting 41.1 percent of his field goals, and what's even more important is that he's jacking up fewer shots as well—with five field-goal attempts per game as compared to 6.9 attempts last season.

    The theme of the Heat's season is increased efficiency, and Cole has fit well into that. While it may not be the difference between the Heat winning or losing games, Cole's increased level of play is encouraging when you think about the future.

    Mario Chalmers and his up-and-down play will be a free agent at the end of next season, and if Cole continues to improve, the Heat won't have to worry about throwing cash at Chalmers, which would be an enormous weight lifted of the Heat's collective shoulders. 

3. Chris Bosh

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    If you look solely at Chris Bosh's 2012-13 production, it appears that he's on the decline.

    He's scoring fewer points per game, rebounding the ball less and he's even getting to the line less than he did last season.

    The main difference between this year and last year for Bosh though, and the reason why he's on this list, is his efficiency from the field—specifically in his mid- to long-range jumper.

    This season, Bosh is shooting 53.9 percent from the field, which makes this just the third in his 10-year career that he's shot over 50 percent.

    Bosh has become a very reliable option for the Heat within 20 feet, and with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade driving into the paint, that is a very valuable asset for Miami. 

2. Shane Battier

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    If LeBron James wasn't having a historic year, Shane Battier would find his name at the top spot of this list.

    Battier is not only scoring more this season than he did last year, with a 6.6 points-per-game average as compared to last year's 4.8. He's also shooting the ball at a much higher level of efficiency.

    Last season, Battier was shooting sub-40 percent from the field and from beyond the arc. This season, he's shooting 42.3 percent from the field and a ridiculous 43.9 percent from the three-point line.

    What makes his increased efficiency more impressive is that he's jacking up almost double the amount of three-pointers as he did last year—4.5 per game as compared to 2.8 last season.

    Usually, it's the other way around in terms of field-goal attempts and shooting percentage, but that's not the case for Battier.

    While he's not having a career year, Battier is showing that intelligence and effort are more important than youth and raw athletic talent. 

1. LeBron James

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    What makes LeBron James' improvement so amazing is that he's always played at such an elite level. It's awe-inspiring that he's still finding ways to fine-tune and improve his game.

    LeBron is not only grabbing more rebounds and dishing out more assists per game than last season, he's also scoring as many points—27.1 per game—and he's shooting the ball less.

    Last season, LeBron averaged 18.9 field-goal attempts per game, and this season, he's shooting 18.3 per game while hitting a ridiculous 56.3 percent of his shots.

    From the three-point line, LeBron is also continuing to improve. Not only is he putting up more shots—one three ball more per game—he's hitting 41 percent, which is 0.5 percent better than last year.

    Erik Spoelstra apparently is coaching efficiency, because nearly every member of the Heat is playing at a higher level, and LeBron is certainly leading the way.

    The big question now is when will LeBron plateau? Or better yet, will he ever plateau?