3 Miami Heat Role Players Who Must Step It Up by NBA Playoffs Time

Sam RichmondCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2013

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 02: Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat shoots a free throw during a game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Arena on January 2, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Miami Heat have stars galore, so it's easy to forget about the importance of their role players at times.

However, we saw in the Heat's 2012 championship run what significant impact guys like Shane Battier and Mike Miller can have in the quest to win it all.

But if some of this year's Heat role players are to become postseason heroes, they will have to pick up their game. Let's take a more in-depth look at three of those guys and how they need to improve.


1. Ray Allen

The Heat brought Ray Allen in primarily to hit corner three-pointers, and to be fair, he's done that pretty well. He's cooled off considerably after shooting 51.0 percent in November, but Allen is still converting 41.5 percent of his long-range attempts.

However, Allen hasn't been the huge plus to Miami that many envisioned him being. The Heat have actually been a much better team when Allen isn't playing, as the picture below shows.

It's not as if Allen was expected to be a defensive stopper, but his lack of mobility has worsened this year, turning him into an even greater defensive liability than expected.

With that being mostly an unfixable issue because of his age, Allen has to be an extremely formidable offensive option for him to be helpful to Miami's cause.

And considering the amount of open three-pointers that are created for Allen because of guys like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, there is room for improvement in that respect.

Allen doesn't have to return to his November form, although it would be nice, but he needs to start hitting around 44 or 45 percent of his outside shots, like he did last season, come playoff time.


2. Norris Cole

Prior to the start of the season, there was much hope that Cole would improve greatly in his second year in the NBA. While Cole has been a better player this year than last, it hasn't been by much.

Even though he's cut down on his turnovers (1.6 per game last year and 1.1 this year), Cole is still a tremendous offensive liability. The Cleveland State product is ranked dead last in PER (player efficiency rating) for point guards who qualify.

Think about that for a second. He's ranked 77th out of 77.

Cole hasn't shot the ball well or been an adequate distributor, and Miami's offense takes a big hit when he's on the court. Take a look at the chart below, which shows how much the Heat score per 100 possessions when he's playing compared to when he's on the bench, according to 82games.com.

Cole is a high-energy player and a great on-ball defender. Still, Cole has been too much of a weakness offensively for coach Erik Spoelstra to give him serious playing time in the postseason if he stays at this level regardless of defensive ability.

Cole needs to make more of an effort to distribute if he is to earn that playing time. Norris has great scorers playing alongside him, and he needs to start taking advantage of that.


3. Mike Miller

The Heat haven't been playing Miller very often this season, and for good reason. Miller has become one of the NBA's more fragile players and Miami wants to keep him healthy.

Miami is being so protective of Miller because they know what kind of weapon he can be in the postseason. He can rebound and is a huge asset with the long ball, even if his current averages say otherwise (37 3P% and 2.2 rebounds per game).

The Heat are obviously good enough that they don't need Miller to win a championship; however, we saw in last year's NBA Finals that when Miller has it going, he's sure nice to have.

As postseason time approaches, Miami should put Miller back into the rotation, even if it's just for a very small role, so he's not rusty when they deploy him.

It's never a bad thing to have too many shooters in the postseason, and Miller is certainly one.