The Miami Heat are officially the only team in the playoffs to have swept their opponent out of the first round, which is a welcome sign for a team that was struggling mightily just weeks before the playoffs even began. Each game seemed to show how deep the Heat truly were, with multiple role players coming off the bench and scoring in the double digits.
One player in particular that has seen a huge spike in playing time is James Jones. Once delegated to the furthest end of the bench, Jones averaged 16 minutes a game throughout the first round, while averaging 7.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG, and 1.0 APG. More importantly, Jones is shooting over 46 percent from beyond the arc, which is the highest percentage of any Heat player thus far in the playoffs.
The Heat relied on Mike Miller’s 3-point shooting more often than they would have liked to throughout the 2012 and 2013 NBA Playoffs. If Jones is going to continue averaging at least 16 minutes a game, then he will have to fill this role for the Heat. With Shane Battier and Ray Allen (notorious Heat sharpshooters) both being in horrendous shooting slumps, Jones may end up with meaningful playoff minutes, potentially making this the most important postseason of his career.
Miller brought other intangibles to the lineup that Jones just isn’t able to, such as high rebounding numbers and quality defense. Jones is notoriously slow-footed on the defensive side of the ball, and this was extremely apparent when the Bobcats would purposely switch players on Jones, so that he would become isolated in one-on-one defensive matchups against quick guards.
Outside of Jones’ defensive lapses, his ability to score efficiently from beyond the arc is not something the Heat will take for granted, and this is why Jones will fill that essential “Mike Miller” role for the Heat. With some of the defending champs other sharpshooters in a perpetual funk, Jones is now one of the most reliable 3-point shooters on the Heat’s roster, and we all know how much the Heat rely on shots from beyond the arc.
Just ask Ray Allen about Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals.