Jun 20, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Ray Allen celebrates on the bench after game seven in the 2013 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena. Miami defeated San Antonio Spurs 95-88 to win the NBA Championship. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Will the Miami Heat supporting cast hold up in the playoffs?

A team’s bench plays a crucial role in its quest for the playoffs. The bench is much more crucial if the team is to go deep and compete in the finals. The Miami Heat have the Big Three, but the Heat need more than their three stars to win again this year, especially considering how competitive this season has been.

Let us take a close look at the bench of the Miami Heat and their season so far.

According to Hoopstats.com, the 2013-14 Miami Heat bench’s per game averages are:

MIN PTS REB AST BLK STL FG% FT% TO
2013-14 18.5 30.4 14.1 5.9 2.0 2.9 .467 .757 4.4

They are only 18th in the league in points scored, 20th in rebounds and 19th in assists, but according to Hoopstats.com, Miami’s bench is always holding its own against their opponents’ bench on a game to game basis. In fact, their efficiency differential is plus-4, which is 8th best in the league in that category.

If we compare their bench stats against the top four teams in the NBA, here are how the other three are doing this season:

MIN PTS REB AST BLK STL FG% FT% TO
San Antonio 21.2 45.4 17.0 11.1 1.4 3.3 .487 .805 6.1
Oklahoma City 19.2 31.9 15.9  7.0 1.8 3.2 .445 .741 4.6
Indiana 15.4 25.8 13.8 4.3 1.6 2.1 .426 .721 4.2

Let’s take out the Spurs from the equation. Their bench is pretty much out of this world in terms of scoring, but Miami’s bench is holding its own against the other two teams. They are scoring just as much as OKC’s bench and is doing more than the Pacers’ second unit. The difference in steals, blocks, turnovers, free throw percentage and assists are not really significant. Again, we go back to the stat we mentioned earlier: efficiency differential. The Miami bench is always able to adjust and do just a little more than their opponents’ bench.

And this happened even if the Heat dropped key reserve Mike Miller from their roster after winning back to back titles last season. 

Miller time-is up

When the Heat organization decided to amnesty sharpshooter Mike Miller in the offseason, it looked like they made a huge player sacrifice to gain cash: around $17 million in amnesty tax. Miller was one of the key players in the Heat’s two title runs and gave the memorable performances in the finals. This includes the 7-8 three point shooting in Game 5 of the 2012 finals.  He also went 3-4 in Game 6 of the 2013 finals including that famous “one shoe shot”.

After letting go of Miller, Heat president Pat Riley had this to say:

“Mike had an incredible impact on the Miami Heat; helping us to three finals appearances and winning back-to-back World Championships. This was a very difficult decision for me personally, the Arison family, Erik and the entire Miami Heat organization. Mike was one of the best we have ever had here, and will be sorely missed.”

Miller’s three-point bombs will surely be missed come playoff time. But if we take a closer look at the Miami Heat’s season, the bench has even produced more statistics this year as compared to the previous two seasons where they won championships:

MIN PTS REB AST BLK STL FG% FT% TO
2013-14 18.5 30.4 14.1 5.9 2.0 2.9 .467 .757 4.4
2012-13 18.0 28.6 12.3 5.2 1.9 2.5 .442 .765 3.9
2011-12 17.1 23.0 14.2 4.2 1.4 2.4 .415 .746 3.8

Key Additions

Key additions to the Miami bench this year are Greg Oden and Michael Beasley. Although Oden has been starting for the Heat lately, he was part of the bench earlier this season. Oden has played in only 22 games and is averaging 3.0 points per game and 2.2 rebounds per game. Beasley is doing 8.0 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game. Another new comer is Toney Douglas, who is contributing 3.4 points per game and 1.4 rebounds per game.

The addition of these new players offset Miller’s departure and even gave the Heat more bench stats in the regular season so far, but as to whether these three new players will make a difference in the playoffs as Miller did, that remains to be seen. Head Coach Eric Spoelstra is very optimistic:

“Greg’s not here to be the Hibbert-stopper. He’s here to make a championship team better. That’s why we went after him so aggressively. He does some things because of his size we haven’t done before. (But) that’s not exclusive to the Indiana Pacers.”

Spoelstra knows that he can’t look past the Pacers, but he’s got a lot to look forward to. He’s got his old reliable veterans back, including Ray Allen.

Jesus Saves

The Heat have retained four of their key reserves from their title run. Ray Allen came in 2012 as an unrestricted free agent. He was part of the Boston Celtics team that won the title in 2008. Allen’s post season and championship performances are well documented.

Allen “saved” the Heat’s season last year, when he hit the biggest shot of his career. Allen nailed a triple with 5.2 seconds left to force overtime. Miami prevailed in the OT extended the series to a Game 7.

Rest of the Cast

Here are the current season per game average for the Heat’s key bench players:

MINS PTS REB AST BLK STL FG% FT% TO
Ray Allen 26.7 9.7 2.9 2.0 0.11 0.71 .442 .920 1.2
Chris Andersen 19.5 6.7 5.2 0.3 1.37 0.48 .656 .700 0.7
Rashard Lewis 16.0 4.2 1.7 0.9 0.16 0.90 .425 .790 0.5
Udonis Haslem 12.2 3.1 2.9 0.3 0.32 0.16 .471 0.550 0.4

These numbers are not really spectacular although they are good. It’s not what you expect from these key veterans. But in case you’ve not noticed, they are starting to make their move now that the finish is in sight.

In the last 10 games, Ray Allen is averaging 30.6 minutes per game, 15.9 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, 1.9 assists per game. Allen is hitting 40.9 from the three point territory and is making 2.57 three pointers per game during this period. He’s missed three games, including the one against the Pacers due to an ailment. But there’s nothing serious except that his scoring has started to pick up.

Chris Andersen is logging 20.4 minutes per game and is averaging 8.6 points per game 7.0 rebounds per game, 1.7 blocks per game in the Heat’s last 10 outings.

Udonis Haslem, an old fixture in Miami, has resurfaced lately. He is playing16.9 minutes per game and doing averages of 6.0 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game and shooting at 66.7% from the field. Look for him to be key in the post season.

And then there is Rashard Lewis, the heir apparent to Mike Miller’s playoff role. Lewis’ numbers look inconsistent and pale compared to what he can really do as a player. But he’s with the Heat and everyone has a role to play. But he’s always ready. Lewis has played the Heat’s last three games. He has logged 21.0 minutes per game and contributed 9.0 points per game and 1.7 rebounds per game while shooting 50.0% from the field.

Built for the Title

The season numbers may not really be that impressive for the Heat’s reserves. But remember that these are veterans with a lot of playoff and championship experience. Take a cue from Big shot Rob. The guy seemed to lag along the entire season and suddenly hits big shots in the post season. Allen and Lewis can do that. Haslem and Anderson will provide the muscle inside the paint and will get the help of Oden. Michael Beasley and Toney Douglas will give good numbers.

Dwyane Wade has this to say about his team:

“That’s one of the great things about our team. There’s always a guy who has proven himself in this league that’s always ready to step up when we need it. And it’s not just one guy.”

Wade’s right. A mark of a great team is the ability of its guys to step up when the others are struggling. Miami has shown that in the past two seasons. Sure they have the King, but like Arthur, he’s got worthy knights who will die with him in battle to protect Camelot. In the case of the Heat, they have the enough firepower to complete the three-peat.

 

Editor’s note: This was a guess post from Justin Becker of FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com. You can follow him on twitter at @NBAFantasyInfo, and you can follow the Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues Google+ Page. For more NBA basketball news visit FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com, a fantasy basketball blog.

Tags: Miami Heat NBA NBA Playoffs