NBA Miami Heat

Who Will Be the Biggest X-Factor Off the Bench for the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Playoffs?

April 18, 2014; Who Will Be The Miami Heat's X-Factor Off the Bench in the 2014 NBA Playoffs?

Steve Mitchell- USA Today Sports

With the regular season officially over, the Miami Heat are vigorously preparing for their first round matchup of the playoffs, which is against the Charlotte Bobcats. Throughout the Heat’s last three playoff runs, one role player has risen above the rest to help support the starting lineup in achieving the consecutive championships the franchise has won. The clutch shooting of Mike Miller helped bring home the title in 2012, while in 2013, it was Ray Allen’s Game 6 saving three-pointer that helped bring the Heat back from a five-point deficit late in the game. Who will be the Heat’s champion off the bench this year?

That will be none other than Chris Andersen.

This season hasn’t been the greatest for the Heat’s supporting cast. Sharp shooters like Allen and Shane Battier are definitively showing their age, and it would seem that the Greg Oden and Michael Beasley projects ultimately failed.

The lone bright spot for the Heat’s supporting cast has been the outstanding play of Chris “Birdman” Andersen. Not only has Andersen led all bench players in PER, but also leads the entire team in blocked shots per game, and is the team’s third highest rebounder. This is all while averaging 19 minutes a game, which is just the team’s eighth highest.

Andersen has been a key component in the Heat’s team tenacity and energy this season, and will once again be relied upon to bring that spark off the bench in the playoffs. Andersen averaged a ridiculous 80 percent from the field in the 2013 NBA Playoffs, and that was after being signed just four months before by the Heat. Imagine what his production will be like this time around now that he is accustomed to the Heat’s system.

As stated earlier, since the Oden experiment seems to have all but failed, Andersen’s presence in the paint will be relied upon heavily in the playoffs, especially if the Heat end up playing the Indiana Pacers or the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. If Andersen plays anywhere near the level he did in last year’s playoffs, though, the Heat’s road to a third straight title will be significantly easier.

Jared Doyle is a Miami Heat writer for RantSports.com.

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