Whenever you discuss an NBA juggernaut like the Miami Heat, whose roster includes the star power of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and more, it can be difficult to properly assess each player’s role and significance to the team.
As humans, we tend to allow ourselves to be prisoners of the moment. And as fans, we can sometimes fall into the trap of overlooking the machine as a whole, disregarding the small but essential parts that allow the machine to run smoothly.
In other words, we have a tendency to both overrate and underrate players, especially with a team showered in the national spotlight like the Heat.
If anything, there are far more underrated than overrated pieces on Miami’s roster. That’s usually the case whenever you have someone with James’ caliber overshadowing everyone else.
However, for the sake of this discussion, we’ll take a look at two players who can fit these descriptions.
Overrated: Greg Oden
Yes, Greg Oden hasn’t even played a game for Miami yet, but I’m already giving him the title of Miami’s most overrated player.
But let’s be clear, this isn’t me condemning the Heat for signing the former No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 draft.
Not by any means.
This is about tempering the unrealistic expectations that seem to be floating around South Florida regarding Oden and what his production will look like as a member of the defending champions.
In short, Oden will not be the deciding factor in whether or not Miami wins its third straight title next season. He may very well help the Heat on their journey, but it’s not like Erik Spoelstra would have been sweating bullets had Pat Riley failed to reel the big guy in.
Fans expecting Oden to barge back into the league and average 20 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game will be vastly disappointed.
Quite frankly, it can be argued that it would be unfair to place such expectations on Oden’s shoulders at this point in his career. Yes, he may be one of the bigger bodies in the league, but the fact of the matter is, Miami will be lucky if he’s even a shell of what he once was. If Oden can give the Heat 10 to 20 minutes per night and stay healthy, Riley and Spoelstra will be happier than toddlers on Christmas morning.
The bottom line is, the Heat don’t need Oden to be the No. 1 pick of the 2007 NBA draft.
And barring a shocking development, he won’t be. The Heat are not asking much more of Oden than that he play, which means remaining healthy.
Underrated: Dwyane Wade
Remember when I mentioned “prisoners of the moment” earlier? It’s safe to say that term could aptly describe a majority of Dwyane Wade’s detractors this past postseason.
Even with a solid overall NBA Finals performance, capped off by a fantastic Game 7 outing, Wade’s critics insisted the Heat’s franchise guard was more detrimental than helpful to the team down the stretch.
He can’t stay healthy. His production has fallen off at an alarming rate. He and James can’t share the floor.
Such denunciations of Wade were endless, as his doubters kicked under the rug facts that suggested otherwise.
Facts like Wade starting 69 games for Miami over the course of the regular season, or posting one of the most efficient regular seasons of his career.
Wade shot a career-high 52 percent from the floor and averaged 21.2 points, five rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
The critics were choosing to ignore all of this as they allowed themselves to be prisoners of Wade’s health and poor series against the Indiana Pacers. And it’s difficult to blame them, as that series was more painful for Wade and the Heat as a whole than they would have liked.
The key is to look at the big picture.
Sure, there’s no doubt Wade is on the back end of his career and his time as a productive starter may be limited. But let’s not deem his flame with the Heat to be extinguished until that day actually comes.
He showed us all he’s still more than capable of playing at an elite level, when he posted 23 points and 10 rebounds in Miami’s Game 7 win over San Antonio. He showed us all he’s still capable of remaining healthy for over 80 percent of the regular season as he helps his team compete for the best record in the league.
Until further notice, Wade remains an integral factor to this team's success.