NBA Miami Heat

Is This The Best Bench in Miami Heat History?

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12-Man Rotation For Miami Heat?

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The starting five of a basketball team always gets the glory and the fame, but the starting five are only as good as the bench behind them. For the “Big 3” and the Miami Heat, it is no different.

Miami has climbed to the pinnacle of the basketball universe in each of the last two years. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have much to do with this success, but three players do not make up a team or play every minute of an 82-game schedule.

During the three-year existence of the “Big 3”, the worst bench was assembled during the 2011-12 season. Even though they won the NBA championship, James, Wade and Bosh did a significant portion of the heavy lifting with limited bench depth.

The 2012-13 championship season was a different story. The bench was crucial in earning back-to-back titles. With players like Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Chris Andersen, it was possibly the best bench since the 2006 championship team.

This year’s bench might be the best and deepest yet. Try to wrap your head this: Wade is the healthiest he has been and the bench has the potential to be the deepest ever. Should David Stern just hand over the trophy now?

I have looked through the players, projected the 15-man roster and studied the preseason stats, and here is my conclusion: this should be the best bench in Heat history and may give Erik Spoelstra the option to play a 12-man rotation.

It is unbelievable to think that Miami could have a 12-man rotation, but here is why that fantasy may become reality.

Shane Phillips is a Miami Heat Writer for Follow him on Twitter @Smphil01, "Like" him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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7. Greg Oden

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Now, I’m not saying that Greg Oden will end up in the starting lineup for Miami or drop 20 points and grab 10 rebounds per game, but I do think Oden could be a pleasant surprise for the defending champs.

Even though his health and durability are a substantial question mark, there have been optimistic signs this preseason. Oden has begun participating in practice and has even thrown down a few dunks.

Who knows what may happen with the 7-footer. He could crack the rotation for the Heat by midseason or he could end up back on the operating table.

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6. Rashard Lewis

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Once a frontcourt staple around the league and an assassin from behind the arc, Rashard Lewis' better days are behind him. He has struggled with injuries over the last few seasons and has not been the same threat he once was.

This season may be different. Lewis and Miami have said that the power forward is the healthiest he has been in roughly four years and has hopes of being a regular in the Heat rotation.

This has the potential to be a huge deal for the reigning champions. Not only can Lewis play inside and pull down rebounds, but he can shoot from all over the court. This will spread the floor and open the lane for James and Wade.

There may be limited minutes to go around for the bench this season if Lewis really is as healthy as he says.

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5. Michael Beasley

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

We all know the troubling and disappointing journey of Michael Beasley, but this could be the season that changes everything.

Pat Riley took a risk bringing back the misfit forward, but it has been a happy reunion so far. Beasley has produced promising numbers in two preseason appearances and may find himself deep in the Miami rotation.

There is no question that Beasley has the skill and ability, but his work ethic and behavior have been the common denominator. The second time in South Beach will prove to be different as both Beasley and the Heat have much more at stake

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4. Chris Andersen

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

There is a bright spot in Chris Andersen’s career and it is not from all those colorful tattoos. After overcoming numerous obstacles throughout his professional journey, “Bird Man” has found his place in South Beach.

Miami signed the veteran center halfway through last season and he was a great acquisition for the team. Andersen provided a great spark off the bench and helped a bit to fix the rebounding mishaps.

Now that Andersen has settled into his nest with the defending champs, I expect him to play a more prominent role this season. He works well in the pick-and-roll and also shines in the baseline/gray zone area.

Watch for “Bird Man” to really help improve Miami’s inside presence and rebounding abilities.

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3. Norris Cole

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Simply put, Norris Cole has been somewhat of a gift to the Heat. Now entering his third season, I don’t think anyone expected him to be an important part of Miami’s consecutive championships.

The young guard has shown tremendous development through his first two seasons and will continue to improve. His quickness and explosiveness allow him to be a threat off the bench and a worthy backup to starting point guard Mario Chalmers.

The Heat bench has shown significant improvement over the last three years, and Cole deserves some of the credit.

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2. Shane Battier

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What is there to say about Shane Battier other than he is a savvy veteran who still has something left in the tank?

Known for his defensive expertise and deep ball threat, Battier has been a vital part of Miami’s championship runs. His maturity and basketball intelligence have really helped the Heat.

He may see decreased minutes this season as the bench is the deepest it has been in years, but he will still be a key player in Miami’s quest for a three-peat.

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1. Ray Allen

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Hands down, Ray Allen is the best bench player for Miami. Even after 17 years, he is still arguably the best shooter currently in the game and that ever lived.

The all-time leader in 3-pointers made, Allen is the sole reason why we are even discussing the possibility of a three-peat in South Beach. His shot heard around the world in the Finals devastated the San Antonio Spurs and saved the “Big 3”.

This season, Allen will continue to be the sharpshooter off the bench and the Heat’s sixth man. He will be the unspoken fourth member of the “Big 3” and will be a critical piece in Miami’s hopes for a third straight title.