The Miami Heat and Erik Spoelstra may have the deepest roster that the team has seen in years, thanks to the brilliant mind of Pat Riley and the attractiveness of the “Big 3″. South Beach has been a safe haven for aging veterans, has-beens and misfits. Some how, amidst the carnage of careers past, the Heat have created beauty and success.
Players such as Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis have been able to extend their NBA careers with Miami. Not only are these three players in their mid-30s, but they are also contributing on a high level and even earning spots in the starting lineup.
Then there are the misfits. Chris Andersen and Michael Beasley have both been granted second, third, fourth … I don’t have enough fingers to count how many times these two have been given another chance. Anyway, both are making the most out of it and are making solid arguments for the starting lineup.
Now, we know that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers are locked into the starting five, leaving one spot left. That final spot could go a number of ways. Spoelstra has fallen in the love with the smaller, quicker lineup. Since Udonis Haslem‘s usefulness has plummeted, Spoelstra has turned to Battier as a starter. Ever since Battier became a starter, his production has dropped and Miami gives up too much size to teams like the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs.
The fifth spot in the starting five comes down to three candidates: Lewis, Beasley and Andersen. All three make a great case as to why they deserve to start. Beasley has shown great growth in maturity over the first third of this season as he has waited patiently for his opportunity, and has made the most of every minute. He is averaging 11 points per game, but he gives up a lot on defense.
Andersen provides great shot blocking, solid rebounding and high-flying dunks, but his offensive repertoire is very limited. Lewis can score from anywhere on the floor, including the post and 3-point line. He is also going to rebound and play defense while not giving up much size, but his age and knees are a worry.
As the season approaches the halfway point, Spoelstra will have to begin to think about a set starting five down the stretch. I believe his best bet is to go with Lewis right now, or at least until Beasley begins to show improvement on the defensive side of the ball. It is time to show some consistency in the rotation because the playoffs will be here before you know it.