Top 5 Bench Players For the Miami Heat
The Importance of a Solid Bench
It is pretty hard for the same five guys to play a full 48 minutes for 82 games. The key to success is a great starting-five surrounded by sound role-players. This remains true even for the “Big 3” and the Miami Heat.
The contracts of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are a heavy financial burden for owner Mickey Arison and GM Pat Riley. Under the current NBA collective bargaining agreement and salary cap, it doesn’t leave much flexibility in filling out the rest of the roster, but even the “Big 3” need some help.
Riley has done a tremendous job in recruiting low cost veterans and granting misfits a second chance. In many instances, the back-to-back championships on South Beach would not be reality without the contributions of a Picasso-like bench.
Sure there are handful of has-beens and former household names littered amongst the Heat roster. These beat and battered veterans are just riding the tidal wave of success until it crashes into the shore or Riley hands them the pink slip. Names such as the ageless Juwan Howard or Rashard Lewis can be found covered in sweats and waiting for garbage time, but the bench also holds some hidden gems.
However, Riley managed to piece together a roster around the financial Everest of the “Big 3” is executive genius. The mesh of stars, veterans and miscreants looks like a volcano ready to explode but has been nothing but success. Here are the five bench players that mean the most to Miami’s success.
5. Chris Andersen
It could be the hair, maybe it’s the colorful tattoos or even the catchy nickname “Birdman”. Whatever it is, fans always go crazy when Chris Andersen steps onto the court.
Andersen has been surrounded by off-court issues including a two-year suspension for substance abuse problems and a "catfish" investigation while with the Denver Nuggets, but Pat Riley likes to take chances and it paid off.
“Birdman” brought great energy off the bench to American Airlines Arena during the playoffs and rattled off a streak of 16 consecutive field goals made while shooting 81 percent. His lanky arms and athleticism gives him great shot blocking and rebounding abilities.
The Heat will be looking for solid contributions from Andersen this season as they look to improve on rebounding and their inside game. Riley will continue to keep “Birdman” in line as the big man will bring a spark of the bench for the defending champs.
4. Norris Cole
Miami and Norris Cole are both fortunate and lucky. Cole started his career with the best team in the NBA, in a beautiful city, and already has two rings. The Heat received a solid surprise when they acquired the point guard through a series of draft night trades. Anyways, it's two years later and both parties are very happy.
Rocking the “Fresh Prince” flat top, Cole has grown into a respectable backup to Mario Chalmers. Averaging about 20 minutes and six points a game through his first two seasons, Cole provides adequate relief time for Chalmers and Miami.
He has had the luxury of being mentored by some of the best athletes and minds in the game. Cole’s quickness and agility make him a reasonable threat alongside the “Big 3”. At such a young age, he will continue to improve and play a bigger role in South Beach.
3. Shane Battier
A good perimeter shooter, a better defender and a fantastic flopper, Shane Battier has been a critical part of Miami’s back-to-back titles.
Battle tested and worn, Battier has been an incredibly durable player throughout his career. Even at the ripe old age of 35, Battier can still lockdown and hang in there with some of the NBA’s greatest. The defensive prowess and ability to hit the from beyond the arc, provides Miami with a great bench player.
Coming off his best season with the Heat and of the last three years, the veteran averaged over six points per game and shot 43 percent from three. Battier will continue to play an important supporting role to the “Big 3”.
2. Udonis Haslem
The importance of Udonis Haslem to Pat Riley and the Heat organization is very significant, otherwise the power forward would not have remained in South Beach for a decade.
Haslem has been with Miami as long as Wade and has been through it all. From the beginning of greatness and the 2006 championship, the rough years after Shaquille O’Neal’s departure and the glory days of the “Big 3”, Haslem has been there.
He played a crucial role in the ’06 title and has remained a solid supporting cast member during the “Big 3” era. Although Haslem is coming off his worst season where he only averaged four points and five rebounds per game, his role with the Heat is critical. Haslem revealed that he played much of the season with a torn meniscus. He underwent surgery to repair the tear at the beginning of the summer and is expected to be ready for training camp and the regular season.
Miami has really struggled with an inside identity and continues to search for an answer. The opportunity for Haslem to shine is right in front of him, he just needs to take advantage. The Heat will need him to play well and improve his numbers. Look for Haslem to have a much better year and play a bigger role for the defending champs.
1. Ray Allen
Arguably the greatest shooter the NBA has ever seen, Ray Allen has been draining the long ball for over a decade and a half. His sharp shooting ability is unmatched and as the all-time three-point field goal maker, he is the best bench player Miami currently has.
Known for the shot that saved the “Big 3” and James’s career, Allen was the fourth highest scorer last season for the Heat, averaging about 11 points per game. Even at the age of 38, Allen can still knock down the three and continues to play at a high level.
After exercising his player option for this season, Miami will continue to look to Allen for big contributions off the bench. Allen also provides coach Erik Spoelstra the opportunity to play a smaller, quicker lineup of Chalmers, Allen, Wade, James and Bosh.
We will have to wait and see who the next victim of Allen’s long ball dagger is; I know San Antonio still has nightmares about it.