Leave it to Pat Riley to convert one of the Miami Heat’s biggest weaknesses into one of its strongest points of attack.
Compared to what the Heat are planning on rolling out for the 2012-’13 season, it makes the 2010-’11 team, the original blueprint, look vastly inferior if you compare their rosters. The ‘Big Three’ was in its first year and were planning to rely on Mike Miller, James Jones, Mario Chalmers and Eddie House as its resident three-point shooters. Since then, they have added on Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, dropping House in the process.
In two years, the Heat garnered two of the league’s top veteran minds who also happen to be some of the league’s most consistent shooters. However, Miami might not have gone after either of those players had Mike Miller performed up to the idea the Heat had for him when they signed him in the summer of 2010. Miller was coming off the best year he had in his career where he shot 48 percent from beyond the arc with Washington.
Miami signed Miller to a five-year deal worth $30 million; each member of the ‘Big Three’ and Udonis Haslem took paycuts in order for the team to have the cap space to sign the three-point threat.
At the time, it was a great idea. Miami’s offense didn’t need to be complex because of the talent that inhibited the starting lineup. That talent would work together with each other and with the rest of the team, with Miller being the key recipient as one of the league’s most feared and consistent deep threats. A career 40 percent three-point shooter working with players who require double teams for $30 million was a steal.
In two seasons that has yet to happen. Injuries have ravaged Mike Miller’s career to the point of the thought of retiring from back surgery. He shot 36 percent from deep his first season and 45 percent in his second year, although he did play in only 39 games and sporadically played throughout the season. In the NBA Finals, he hardly played until Game 5; he wasn’t durable enough to keep up with the pace and played ten minutes or less in the four games leading up to his sudden resurgence.
Miller went into the offseason contemplating back surgery and decided to forgo it. If all goes well during training camp and preseason, he’ll be ‘healthy’ for a Heat season opener for the first time. He was sidelined with a thumb injury in 2010 and was rehabbing from sports hernia surgery in ’11. We can only guess as to how Miller is feeling at this moment, but I could guess that it’s not where he’d ideally be.
With Miller’s status up in the air and training camp less than a month away, the Heat have to begin to wonder how he will end up fitting in with a team that now has two more shooters–both can play his position–and would be willing to give up time to those two. Because when it comes down to it, the Heat are going to have the player who’s the most able-bodied and ready to run. Miller has been able to run because his commitment to the game is otherworldly, but it’s necessary to always have your best options on the floor.
And when there’s a three-point shooter who hasn’t shot below 35 percent in his 16-year career on the team, there’s only more reason for Miller to see his role diminish. Plus, the Heat have a few players who can play the two and three, ideally Allen, Lewis, Battier and maybe even some James Jones.
However, Miller still has a shot. We know it’s there. We saw what he did in Game 5 and we’ve seen him have games previous to that. The capability still resides in him, but the only way the Heat get to see that on a consistent basis is if he’s 100 percent and is capable of getting up and down the floor without having a significant hop in his step. Miami can actually afford to wait by this point with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis set to be the team’s primary three-point shooters.
If the Heat haven’t utilized the amnesty clause on Miller yet, they’re not going to now. He’ll have two years left on his contract by the end of the year and dropping him would be pointless. There’s been so much time invested already that they may as well rest Miller as much as they can and hold out hope that he’s capable of staying healthy. At some point he’s going to get healthy with enough time off his feet and enough rehab.
Resting him until the end of the season and getting him healthy into the playoffs would be a huge boost heading in. Although it’s doubtful that Ray Allen and Shane Battier are going to end up not hitting wide-open shots, adding on another consistent threat in time for the postseason would only add another dimension. The Heat have the ideology to spread the floor; having more shooters wouldn’t hurt.
For now it’s too early to determine Miller’s role with the team. There aren’t any updates regarding his status, other than knowing that he’s forgoing back surgery that may have put an end to his career. But even when he’s healthy, the Heat are still going to go with the more consistent shooter in Allen and the better defender in Battier. Miller will get his minutes in, but it will end up being 20 minutes per at most.
Until then, just remember this.