Every season, outside of the Miami Heat’s Big Three, a player off of the defending champions’ roster rises above the rest and proves his absolute worth as a quality role player off the bench.
Whether it’s the regular season or the playoffs, a role player typically steps up and outshines the rest of his teammates on the opposite side of the pine. Last season, it was Ray Allen who not only had multiple clutch game-winning shots throughout the regular season, but also saved the Heat down the stretch of a win-or-go-home Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
The season before that, it was the combination of both Shane Battier and Mike Miller, who shot lights-out from beyond the arc to put away both the Boston Celtics and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the defending champs’ first title run.
This season, several key players have been added to this veteran-laden roster in order to win a third straight consecutive title. On paper, Michael Beasley seems to be performing the best offensively so far in this young season as a role player for Miami, but what a lot of people have forgotten is that he was the no. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. He is young, so he should be playing at this high of a level — anything less will fail to meet expectations.
The one player that not a lot of people are mentioning, but whose addition on the court adds a whole other dimension to this team in terms of shooting, is Rashard Lewis. Lewis has played his best stretch of games this season since joining the Heat. Lewis matched his season-high 11-point output on Friday against the Dallas Mavericks with a nine-point, nine-rebound effort against the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday, where he also played 33 minutes, the most he has played in a Heat uniform.
Lewis is shooting 50 percent from the field and 47.6 percent from beyond the arc. This is almost 10 percent higher than what he averaged last season in both categories. This has to be attributed to Lewis finally escaping the constant knee issues that have plagued his career over the last few seasons. With a healthy Lewis, the Heat have another stretch forward that can space the floor, and above all else, drill it from beyond the arc.
Lewis will probably never average more than 17-20 minutes a game with the Heat, and that number is potentially based on Lewis filling in for injured players. His placement on the bench in terms of minutes shows just how deep this team truly is.