The starting lineup for the Miami Heat at the beginning of the season looked very similar to the one they utilized on their back-to-back championship runs. Over the course of 11 games, though, the lineup is starting to change based on the absurd amount of depth this team has.
Udonis Haslem was the de facto starting power forward for the Heat at the beginning of the season, but after being out for four games with severe back spasms his starting position has been taken over by Shane Battier. Battier may not have the size or aggression that Haslem exploits, but his ability to stretch the floor with the three point shot and play stealthy defense gives the Heat an edge they haven’t had previously with Haslem.
Haslem’s role could become even less significant based how well the bench has been playing as of late. After the Heat’s dominating victory over the Orlando Magic, 120-92, this is now the fourth straight game where most if not all of the starters sat out the entire fourth quarter. This game plan has been great for a multitude of reasons, but primarily because it allows for the role players to get quality minutes and build chemistry with the second unit. Players like Michael Beasley and Rashard Lewis have been stellar off the bench, and this has led to a steady reduction in minutes for Haslem. Over the course of the last two games, Haslem has seen his minutes go from eight a game to six. Again, this is mostly due to the amount of depth this team has, but it makes you wonder: will this be a permanent switch? Will Haslem end up with the same role that Rashard Lewis had last year?
The only way for Haslem to gain more minutes at this point in the season is to outperform the players ahead of him on the rotation. Specific match-ups may also determine this, but a large part will be what can Haslem bring to the table that these other players can’t? As of right now, not a lot. The Heat’s depth has been overwhelmingly good. So much so that it has forced Erik Spoelstra to take the Co-Captain of the Heat and reduce his role in such a way that his presence on the court has little to no impact. The depth off the bench is a great problem for the Heat coaching staff to have but not so great for the ten-year veteran.