The Miami Heat have been in a recent slump, only winning six of their last ten games and regressing in both offensive and defensive rankings alike. Injuries have marred the NBA landscape, and the Heat are no different. Mario Chalmers‘ Achilles injury, Shane Battier’s quad injury, Chris “Birdman” Andersen’s back issues and Dwyane Wade’s knees needing constant rest are just some of the various issues the Heat are dealing with. One positive that has risen above all of the injuries is how the remaining role players are gaining quality minutes and some are even exceeding expectations.
Rashard Lewis has started at power forward for the Heat over the last four games, and he has averaged 5.5 points, 0.75 assists, 1.75 rebounds, one steal and 0.25 blocks per game, which nearly bests Battier in every statistical category this season (Battier’s averages for the season are 4.4 points, 0.5 steals, 0.5 assist and 1.8 rebounds). Although over this four-game stretch the Heat have gone 2-2, many are clamoring about the size upgrade Lewis offers over Battier and are even pushing for Lewis to start in place of Battier. This is an awful idea.
Lewis may have two inches on Battier, but Battier is by far the better defender. Battier has held opponents to 48.5 percent shooting at the rim, and Lewis? 52.5 percent percent. That is a pretty sizable difference, especially considering the height advantage that Lewis has. Battier is also averaging 0.6 blocks per game while Lewis is only averaging 0.2 a game. Again, where size should make a difference this statistic proves otherwise. One of the biggest determinants of a player’s worth to his team is his individual plus/minus point differential, which shows the difference in points scored for and against and opponent. The higher the point differential the better, and Battier currently has a 3.2 per game whereas Lewis only has a 2.2 per game.
Lewis has done an admirable job of filling in for Battier while he has recovered from a quad injury, but there is a reason why Battier has started in all of his appearances with the Heat in the playoffs. Battier’s intangibles make him the best possible player to start for the Heat, and replacing him with Lewis would be a huge mistake in the long run. If a championship is ultimate goal, Battier has to start over Lewis.