Biggest Standouts of Miami Heat Preseason So Far
So, why can't they have the common decency to at least give the preseason to their opponents? It's not enough that they're a year removed from winning 66 games and a second consecutive championship, but a three-game winning streak to start the season? Now they're just being selfish.
The Heat have opened the preseason with a win over the Atlanta Hawks, as well as a pair of wins on a back-to-back against the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats. Dwyane Wade missed two of those games, LeBron James shot a combined 5-of-15 in the first two, and Ray Allen went 3-of-19 overall.
Miami has been propped up by the other member of its "Big Three" and some unexpected contributors off the bench. Everybody but the usual suspects has been thriving for the Heat early on in the preseason, including a pair of roster hopefuls.
It's a great sign for the Heat to be winning games without the help of their two largest influences, even if it may be occurring in the preseason. With the departure of Mike Miller and the need for there to be less energy wasted on the regular season, it's a priority for the Heat this season to receive far larger contributions from their bench.
That's exactly what they've been receiving. Several roster hopefuls and players with pressure being put on them to perform more than usual this season have all stepped up to the plate, each displaying himself in enhanced positions and roles that could actually impact the rotations of the looming regular season.
With James and Wade backing off and allowing others to increase their roles, we take a look at three players in particular who have met the challenge.
Wade's recovering, and that means it's time for the Heat to experiment with Chris Bosh as their secondary scoring option.
Rarely have the Heat employed Bosh in such a role. Although he's had his moments, he's mainly been perceived in the offense as a complementary piece rather than the All-Star he is. Instead of allowing him to utilize his full repertoire, the Heat have reduced Bosh to the role of a shooter, using him to create space and take his defender out of the paint.
The first two games of the preseason, however, have featured Bosh as a primary option at times. He debuted with 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting in only 20 minutes while also converting his lone three-point attempt and making all six of his free throws in the preseason opener against Atlanta.
His performance against Detroit in the following game was what really opened some eyes. Going against one of the league's better and more intimidating defenders in Andre Drummond, Bosh repeatedly made the second-year center look foolish with his consistent pull-up game and his ability to get to the basket.
Bosh finished with 28 points on only 16 attempts, made his only three-pointer and got to the line for four attempts in 24 minutes, 31 seconds of action, leading the Heat to a 112-107 victory over a Pistons team equipped with a formidable frontcourt.
His recent seven-point, seven-shot performance against Charlotte came in a low-scoring win where LeBron led the Heat with 20. Still, the message was sent that Bosh is capable of consistently putting up 20 points when he's given the chance.
The sudden increase in Bosh's workload comes during Wade's recovery from a knee injury he suffered late in last year's regular season. Wade has played once in Miami's first three preseason games, and LeBron appears to be still getting his legs back, leaving Bosh in a situation where he can finally play a role reminiscent of the one he had in Toronto.
Since recording a usage rate as high as 28.7 percent in his final year with the Raptors, his recent usage rate of 22.7 percent was the lowest of his Heat tenure.
He's easily been the most impressive player for the Heat thus far. He's displaying all the signs of a player who's nearing a possible contract year, as well as of the player we know he's capable of becoming when given the chance. The obvious problem is Wade and James dominate the ball, and if they're not scoring, they kick it out to the open shooter.
Since it is a contract year, and since the coaching staff will want to monitor Wade's minutes, this could be the season Miami finally rewards Bosh with the role he's deserved. Judging from the early portion of the preseason, Miami could be debuting a hierarchy that we have never seen before.
How long did it take Michael Beasley to make an asinine play that would further push the idea that he will never thrive in this league?
A little less than 10 minutes. In his re-debut for the Heat, Beasley made highlight reels when he was caught repeatedly punching himself in the head following a traveling violation. It was later revealed Beasley needed medical attention for a swollen eyebrow, but the Heat claimed that it came from an inadvertent elbow.
While the NBA world was once again ridiculing Beasley, his respectable performance was swept under the rug. He scored nine points on five shots, grabbed two rebounds, had an assist and blocked a shot in only nine minutes, 18 seconds worth of action. He scored in a variety of ways, attacking the rim and hitting jumpers.
He was basically doing the things we've all expected him to do since he was drafted second overall in 2008.
Beasley proved the performance was no fluke in his next game, when he played 19 minutes and recorded 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting to go along with five rebounds. He made one of his three three-point attempts and got to the line for four attempts.
He attempted nine combined free throws in his two appearances.
It's inspiring that Beasley is pouring his heart into this, even if he does reveal it by way of inflicting damage upon his own cranium. What's more important, however, is what Beasley can provide for the second unit. On a Heat team with nothing but veteran shooters coming off the bench, Beasley is a change of pace.
Outside of Norris Cole, he's one of the few players who can come off the bench and consistently create their own shots. Beasley hasn't exactly lived up to expectations, and don't expect that to happen here. But it's now not necessary for him to play a large role in the rotation, which takes some of the pressure off of what he needs to provide.
In fact, it's still in doubt where exactly Beasley will fit in the rotation. Miami's bench is as deep as it's ever been with Beasley, Roger Mason Jr. and Greg Oden now on board, and it's leaving the coaching staff with questions to answer. The staff must now find a way to incorporate Beasley in the rotation, because it's apparent he can give the Heat something they've never had before off their bench.
If the Heat can get 10 points and five rebounds out of Beasley on a consistent basis, it's a significant win for them. With no expectations weighing him down and being in an environment that will only aid any situation that arises, the Heat may have stumbled upon their latest diamond in the rough.
Roger Mason Jr.
Quietly, the Heat just added another veteran shooter, with Mason expected to take one of the final two roster spots. The 38 percent career three-point shooter was offered a non-guaranteed deal by the Heat a few weeks before training camp. The lack of interest in Mason follows a year where he played in 69 games, starting in 13, for the New Orleans Hornets and shot 42 percent from the land of three.
Mason now joins a plethora of Heat shooters on the bench. Those shooters already included Allen, Lewis and Jones, as well as Battier, Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers, Chris Bosh and LeBron James. Each one of those players is absolutely lethal from beyond the arc, and it's no wonder why Miami was one of the league's best three-point-shooting teams last year.
In the only game he's played for Miami thus far (a sore quad has kept him out the past two games), Mason showcased a surprising amount of versatility on top of his shooting ability. He made three of his four three-point attempts, with the only miss being a tease, to finish with 14 points. But it was his six rebounds and four assists that really caught the eye of the coaching staff.
The 6'5" Mason can also contribute on the defensive end. He's just another weapon in the deep arsenal of the Heat bench.
As stated before, Mason being added to the bench fills out a roster that may be the deepest in the league. With as little movement as Miami made this offseason, it still managed to replace Mike Miller, Juwan Howard and Jarvis Varnado with Greg Oden, Michael Beasley and Roger Mason.
There are 15 players on this roster who can contribute on any given night. It's the first time that's been possible in the three years of "Big Three" basketball.
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