Why Chris Andersen Is Huge Playoff Asset for Miami Heat

Sam RichmondCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2014

Miami Heat forward Chris Andersen smiles at a fan during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, March 6, 2014, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 111-87. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Darren Abate/Associated Press

The Big Three era Miami Heat are built on sacrificing personal glory in favor of what's best for the team. 

Few embody that ideology like Chris "Birdman" Andersen does. He's not a stat-sheet stuffer. The center averages just 6.5 points and 4.9 rebounds in 19.4 minutes per game, which ranks eighth on the team.

But Andersen gives the Heat all they can ask for, in the areas of the game they most need help in. That's why, for the second season in a row, Birdman is poised to be an integral part of a deep Miami postseason run.

Andersen may be 35, but he sure doesn't play like it. He plays with an unmatched energy that allows him to excel in facets that depend on effort more than skill. Rebounding, for example. 

Birdman does an excellent job on the glass. His 3.0 offensive rebounds and 9.1 total rebounds per 36 minutes rank best on the team (among those who have played more than 150 minutes). Those are valuable rebounds, too.

Chris Andersen's rebounding ability is crucial for Miami.
Chris Andersen's rebounding ability is crucial for Miami.Alan Diaz/Associated Press

Miami is the worst team in the league when it comes to team rebounds. The Heat rely on Andersen to prevent them from getting dominated on the boards to the point where it costs them in the win-loss column.

Andersen's also stout defensively. He's been Miami's premier shot-blocker, and frankly, no one is even close to being as impactful as Birdman is in that respect. Andersen blocks 2.5 shots per 36 minutes. Among those who have played more than 150 minutes, Shane Battier ranks second on Miami with 1.1 blocked shots per 36 minutes.

When we talk about Andersen performing well in areas the Heat desperately need him to, that's what we're talking about.

Birdman is more than just a shot-blocker on the defensive end, though. He does a very good job of simply affecting shots.

Andersen has allowed opponents to convert just 33.9 percent of field-goal attempts in post-up situations this year, according to My Synergy Sports (subscription required). And overall, opponents have shot just 37.4 percent from the floor when Birdman is guarding them. 

While it's to be expected that a player of Andersen's role would excel defensively and on the boards, Birdman's also an extremely helpful player on the offensive side of the ball. The fact that he's so well-rounded has Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick putting Birdman in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation.

Skolnick writes

And he's certainly not the typical Sixth Man of the Year candidate, not when he's averaging 6.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 19.4 minutes per game. But if voters are accounting for two-way contributions to a contending team, he should receive some consideration.

Andersen leads the Heat in field-goal efficiency with an astounding 67.1 shooting percentage. 

Unlike former Heat center Joel Anthony, Andersen has functioning hands. Miami can use Birdman in pick-and-roll plays, and he can be trusted to convert after cuts to the basket. That helps the Heat to still have a versatile and dangerous offense when starting center Chris Bosh heads to the bench. 

Andersen has attempted 36 field goals as the pick-and-roll roll man and made 33 of them, according to My Synergy Sports. That 91.7 conversion rate ranks No. 1 in the NBA.  His 73.7 shooting percentage on shots attempted after cuts to the basket also ranks 17th in the league.

And going back to his work on the offensive boards, Birdman provides plenty of points on putback dunks.

While his tattoos might be, Andersen's play isn't flashy. He comes in and plays 20 minutes a night and does the dirty work and many things, like a cut and finish at the rim, that aren't typically going to make the highlight reel. But those are the types of players teams need to win.

The Heat are full of stars, but what's helped push them over the top the past two years in many cases is their depth.

Look for Birdman to help make that true for a third straight year.