Udonis Haslem had been a regular starter for the Miami Heat for much of his career, until this season. The power forward started the 2013-14 NBA season poorly. He averaged career lows in rebounding and points per game. So, Erik Spoelstra did what any coach would do, he looked to someone else and that someone else was Shane Battier.
Although it is a much smaller lineup for the defending champs, Battier is a savvy veteran who offers adequate defense, a threat from behind the arch and a team player. Maybe Battier is getting old, but whatever it is, it should be time for Spoelstra to try someone new in the starting lineup.
Currently, Battier is only averaging 4.5 points per game and 1.8 rebounds, the lowest number of his career. His numbers have seen a drop, especially over the last five games and Monday night was no better. The forward had zero points and two rebounds in 17 minutes against the Utah Jazz. The Heat still got an easy win, 117-94, thanks to another great group performance from the “Big 3”. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 77 points. It’s hard to beat Miami when the “Big 3” play that well, but they will need production from their role players down the stretch. So why not start someone different instead of Battier?
It makes sense to try new lineups early in the season, I can’t figure out why Spoelstra insists on going with Battier. Spoelstra should really try starting Chris Andersen or Michael Beasley. Andersen will give the champs more size and length inside. If Spoelstra would rather stick with the smaller lineup, then go with Beasley. He has proven he can score and he gives a bit more length and athleticism than Battier, but I don’t think Spoelstra is quite ready to let Beasley off the leash.
It will be fine to continue to start Battier as long as Miami is winning, but as soon as the ship goes South and he puts up a goose egg as a starter, the critics will scream bloody murder and a change will have to be made. Battier might be better off as a bench player. At his age, it makes sense.