5 Role Players Who Must Play Well Down Stretch For Miami Heat
Bring in The Cavalry
Many think that since the Miami Heat have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, winning should come easy, but there are more than three players on the court and on a team. It takes a collective unit to reach the ultimate summit and claim the NBA Championship. In order to reach that summit, the team must have a group of players with great chemistry, an understanding of their teammates’ abilities as well as their own and a burning desire to win.
Over the last few years, Miami has been able to sign players with these qualities, and under the supervision of Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley, they have produced titles. I enjoy the old basketball saying that “your team is only as good as its bench,” because so many look beyond that tidbit of truth. People usually look at the stars or the starting five on the court, but really it matters who is on the bench. If there is no bench contribution, there is no winning.
Despite what the general public thinks, that old adage rings true for the Heat. The defending champs need a solid group of role players to back the “Big 3” and help guide the team. James, Wade and Bosh need each and every single one of their teammates as they do each other.
Now that the season is approaching its conclusion, Miami has its sights set on a third straight championship. Whether or not they accomplish this incredible feat is yet to be decided and will play out over the next few months, but there are factors controlling the outcome. Some of those factors sit on the bench each and every night. Here are five role players who must play well down the stretch for the Heat.
Shane Phillips is an NBA Writer for RantSports.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneRantSports, "Like" him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also email Shane at ShaneRantNBA@gmail.com.
5. Greg Oden
Greg Oden could be the X-factor and secret weapon for the Heat. Spoelstra and Riley have taken extreme caution with the 7-footer given his injury history, and it has started to show some promise. Oden has played in 14 games, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in eight minutes. More importantly, Miami is 12-2 in those 14 games.
No one, including Spoelstra and Riley, know what will happen with Oden, but the hope is that he is some type of factor come the playoffs. Everything has been encouraging so far, and if the center continues going in the right direction, he could be a significant power in the Heat frontcourt.
4. Ray Allen
Ray Allen proved to be a valuable asset for Miami last season and might have earned his entire contract with that one fateful shot in the 2013 Finals. Once again, the Heat will need Allen to be on his game. The great jumper shooter’s stats are a bit down, but what do you expect from a 38-year-old? He is still averaging 9.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists. I expect his experience and veteran leadership to kick in come May.
3. Michael Beasley
Michael Beasley is an interesting story because of his past and the type of season he is having. The best way to describe Beasley’s second stint in South Beach is redemption, and he is playing quite well. The small forward is averaging 8.6 points and 3.4 rebounds in 15.9 minutes, but his defensive struggles have caused inconsistencies in his playing time all season.
When his head is on straight, Beasley can be a monster. Spoelstra and team have worked hard to keep Beasley in the right direction, and it has paid off. Coming off a 24-point performance against the Houston Rockets, Beasley looks to be gaining traction in the rotation. As long as his defense does not lack, he will be a major contributor into the playoffs.
2. Chris Andersen
Miami has continually struggled in the paint and on the broads year after year. Those struggles have nearly cost them the title on numerous occasions, and once again they face the same issues. Chris Andersen has come on strong after being signed late last season and has shown promise in the frontcourt.
The Heat need players to rebound and Andersen can do that. Spoelstra has increased his minutes this season, and depending on Oden’s status this postseason, Andersen could be seeing more playing time.
1. Norris Cole
Norris Cole has transformed into a mature, young player with plenty to offer Miami. He is currently having the best season of his young career, averaging 7.3 points, three assists, 2.2 rebounds and one steal. He is also shooting career bests from the field, three-point and free-throw lines
A huge plus to having Cole is his defensive ability. Thanks to his quickness, Cole can really pressure the opposing team’s point guard and take some pressure off of Mario Chalmers. Cole is capable of being the sixth man for Miami, and they will need him to be if the three-peat is to become reality.