MIAMI- After 11 seasons in the NBA, and being moved, Shane Battier seems to have finally found a home in South Beach.
Known as a great defender, and good three point shooter (38% career average), the Heat brought in Battier this past season to do just that. Coming off the bench while starting only ten games, Battier struggled for the Heat only averaging 4.8 PPG on 33% shooting from three point land. He, along with with the rest of the bench were considered the weak links of the Heat team, and the reason they wouldn’t win the NBA championship, but like they say all somebody needs is an opportunity.
Battier’s opportunity came in an unexpected way, when Chris Bosh went down with an abdominal injury for the Heat in game one of the second round of the eastern conference playoffs vs the Indiana Pacers. The injury forced LeBron James to move to power forward position, moving Battier into the starting line-up. Battier, who struggled with his shot and defending Carmelo Anthony in the first round of the playoffs, was now expected to not only starta void for the Heat team.
It was from there where Battier thrived for the Heat the rest of the playoffs especially in the NBA Finals. It was in the Finals where Battier averaged 11.6 PPG and shot 57% from three point land propelling the Heat over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Battier, scored 17 points in both games one and two including nine three pointers, and 24 points combined in games 3-5 including seven three pointers.
It wasn’t just Battier’s shooting that excelled for the Heat, but his stingy defense also helped as he defended the likes of Kevin Durant, James Harden, Thabo Sefolosha, etc. Upon being inserted into the starting line-up, Battier realized his role on the team as a stretch forward who could make the three point shot, and a hard-nosed defender on the other end.
Battier excelled so much that when Bosh did return from injury, he was inserted as the starting center leaving Battier in the starting line-up, which should carry over into the 2012-2013 season. With James establishing his post-game, Bosh bulking up to take more bruising in the paint, Battier should be expected to once again start at the 3 position as one of the Heat’s best three point shooters and defenders.
The Heat have moved to a more traditional offense where they will look to get the ball down low to James and Bosh, where they can either shoot or pass out to open players like Battier, who should flourish in this kind of offense.
What was once seen as a weakness, became a positive when Battier stepped into the starting line-up for the Heat this past post-season and it seemed like a move that not only helped himself, but his teammates around him as James finally decided to post his 6’8″ 260 pound frame while forcing Bosh to play stronger down low checking centers.
Look for an even better season from Battier in year two now that his role has been finally defined after eleven seasons and three teams.