NBA Miami Heat: 5 Reasons Team Needs Bench Player Quality, Not Quantity
Not even the combination of the talent of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh could roll out a championship with Joel Anthony and Mario Chalmers as the Miami Heat's fourth- and fifth-best players for the postseason.
With the hype surrounding the acquisitions of the Big Three during the offseason, it was easy to believe that a trio of this magnitude could bring about a championship with little to no help. All three players are under 30 years old, in or near their primes and considered some of the best players in the game. Wade and James are arguably the first and second best today.
Since the Boston Celtics' big three that was assembled in the summer of 2007 won a championship in its first season together, how couldn't a team with three players of the magnitude of Wade, James and Bosh not win it all as well?
Even with James, Wade and a top-tier power forward in Bosh, the Heat still had their fair share of obstacles. They had to overcome the losses of their two top bench players and the inconsistency of every player not named Dwyane Wade or LeBron James. With no reliable offensive or defensive threats, outside of Anthony, the Heat struggled down the stretch as teams began to expose their flaws.
Since the team had to rely on the seventh, eighth and ninth men for the majority of the season, there was a heavier burden than expected on the big three to perform and exceed expectations. It also proved that the team could use some help on its bench outside of Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem.
These injuries hurt the Heat, but it was also a blessing in disguise for the team as it showed that they would need some sort of help in desperate situations.
The Need for Reliability off the Bench
Playing without their two best players off the bench proved that the Miami Heat needed some consistent help from players that could prove that they were the sixth- and seventh-best players on the team.
Without their fourth- and fifth-best players in Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller, the Heat were reduced to desperate measures by looking towards the deepest parts of their bench. Rather than having Miller and Haslem coming of the bench first, the team instead brought in the likes of James Jones and Mario Chalmers, or whichever point guard was benched at that time, as their top shooters, and Juwan Howard and Joel Anthony as their main post threats.
Needless to say, these options hardly matched the output that Haslem and Miller would have put in. With Miller sidelined by injury to start the season and struggling the rest of the way, the Heat looked towards Jones, Chalmers and Eddie House as their core group of shooters. Jones was consistent hitting 43 percent from beyond the arc but faltered late and was benched for most of the postseason.
House and Chalmers were all too streaky as they went through hot and cold stretches.
The help in the post was underwhelming to say the least. The Heat went through a myriad of centers to not only fill the void of center, but at backup power forward as 17-year veteran Howard picked up duties in the post whenever Chris Bosh was off the floor. With no Bosh on the floor, the Heat had no offensive threat in the post or at the power forward and center position rendering the two spots useless on the offensive end.
The Heat had a number of players that can momentarily fill the void, but they weren't consistent enough. They lost their two most consistent players that were supposed to help ease the weight on the shoulders of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade Bosh. Instead, they got players who were constantly taken in and out of the rotation because of just how inconsistent they played through some stretches.
Consistent Shooters Are a Necessity
The Miami Heat thought that they had picked up their sharpshooter for the low price of $30 over the next five seasons when they signed Washington Wizard Mike Miller.
What they got was a melee of frustration and disappointment as Miller constantly suffered from nagging injuries and a heap of off the court drama that dealt a blow to his psyche for most of the season.
Even before the start of the season, Miller had to deal with one of the most significant injuries a shooter could deal with when he hurt the thumb on his shooting hand during a practice. He'd sit out the first two months of the season and would return on December 20th where he would go scoreless after attempting four three-pointers.
He wouldn't hit his first three-pointer until January 15th and wouldn't score in double digits until January 22nd.
Miller might have returned, but he wasn't the same player that was only a season removed from connecting on nearly 50 percent of the three-pointers he attempted. Injuring your thumb on your shooting hand causes a lot of hardship for a player that primarily relies on shooting as any shooter needs to use their thumbs for the purpose of taking long distance shots. Miller is a career 40 percent shooter from deep and the 36 percent he shot last season was the second-worst percentage of his career.
With Miller sidelined by various ailments, the Heat had to depend on other players who they didn't expect would have to step up so suddenly. James Jones was the most reliable option for awhile until fading away after a hot start, Eddie House was much too streaky of a shooter and would sometimes take shots that shouldn't have been taken and Mario Chalmers was just plain inconsistent at every aspect of the game.
The Heat had as many shooters as they could have needed, but none of them were consistent enough to rely on. The team would go through spells of having each of those players in the rotation because of how streaky they were with their shots. Miami needs to find a shooter it can rely on if Miller cannot return back to form and they'll need to go out in the free agency pool and find their man.
A Need for a Resourceful Big Man
If Joel Anthony proved anything to us last season, it's that offense isn't a gift that every NBA player possesses.
Something like catching a ball without turning it over isn't something that every professional basketball player is equipped with. The Miami Heat's starting center for the majority of the postseason was Anthony, a solid defender and a terrific teammate but offensively a huge liability. Teams would lay off of him and pay most of their attention on the Big 3 and whichever inconsistent point guard was starting at the time.
If a player who averaged two points and less than four rebounds per game is the starter, then there aren't too many options that the Heat could honestly rely on.
Players that have taken a stab at playing center on the Heat last season include Erick Dampier, Jamaal Magloire, Juwan Howard, Chris Bosh, Dexter Pittman and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was the starter for the majority of the season until his inability to jump or consistently hit a jump shot proved too be too much of a liability for the Heat on both sides of the ball.
None of these players could provide the defensive resistance or offense necessary to either be legitimate starters or reliable options off the bench. For the majority of the postseason, the team didn't even have a pure center out on the floor and it hurt them when they played against teams like the Chicago Bulls who had pure front courts or the Dallas Mavericks who had a number of athletes and pure centers that could play in the post.
The Heat have enough centers and they proved that none of them could be the legitimate center that they were hoping to be. A 6'9" starting center won't cut it, and neither will three centers with one foot in retirement.
If Players Are Injured, Quality Is Needed
Even though the Heat possessed the summer's three top free agents and arguably the two best players in the world, it still wasn't enough as they lost their fourth- and fifth-best players who were supposed to come in and be the rebounders and shooters that the Big 3 couldn't always complete.
With Haslem out, the team lacked possibly its top hard-nosed defender and its best rebounder. He provided the post defense necessary to deter opposing power forwards, something that Chris Bosh couldn't always do, as well as grabbing the rebounds that the Big 3 couldn't always get. Since the teams other top rebounding producers were Dampier, Magloire and Howard, it was obvious that the team needed a player like Haslem filling up the middle on defense and knocking down easy mid-range shots on offense.
Aside from having Haslem out, the team also lost Miller for most of the season due to a thumb injury at the start of the season, a number of finger and shoulder injuries and a concussion. Miller was projected to be the team's main perimeter threat considering that he shot 48 percent from deep the previous season and was a career 40 percent three-point shooter. Without him, the team was forced to use inconsistent shooters that couldn't provide the consistency that Miller would have.
Rather than relying on Haslem and Miller, the team was forced to rely upon the likes of aging veterans that could trudged their way up and down the court as well as shooters who could sometimes hit shots from deep whenever they were feeling it on a particular night.
The Heat need one or two players that they can rely on rather than four or five players who were only seldom reliable.
Already Proven That Quality Means More
Championships are won by teams, not individuals.
For a moment at the end of the 2010 season, we thought that the combined efforts of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, coupled with a few inconsistent players, would be enough to take home a championship. Once we saw a few key members of the Big 3 struggle, James in particular, the team had no players off the bench that they could truly rely on.
Udonis Haslem returned in the Conference Finals, but was hardly the player who could provide the same blue collar work ethic that he had done so for seven consecutive seasons. Mike Miller was inconsistent all season long as his shot and confidence were at a level that we had never seen from a player who had been a terrific shooter for the duration of his career.
The Heat had plenty of players that could step up, but infrequently as their inconsistencies deterred them from becoming anything more than a momentarily substitution.
All the aging veterans and all the inconsistent point guards in the world couldn't save the team and support the Big 3. It proved that quality outweighs quantity on any occasion and it showed so last season as players like James Jones, Eddie House, Juwan Howard and Joel Anthony were supposed to be replacements for Miller and Haslem.
With no player providing the support and consistency necessary, the Heat were forced to rely on players that shouldn't always be relied on for an important stretch. Over the offseason, the organization needs to look toward players who can be relied on for an entire season and not just for a month.
Reliable players like Shane Battier or Tayshaun Prince will be up for grabs once free agency begins, and it would be a necessity for the Miami to pick them up rather than a number of players who can momentarily fill the void.