With another glorious NBA season upon us, ESPN has performed its yearly task of ranking 500 NBA players. While you’d like to think that this finally adds some legitimacy to the which-player-is-better debates, it actually adds more fuel to the fire because of how controversial some of the rankings are–Kobe Bryant out of the top five and behind a Laker teammate is a prime example.
For now, we take a look at where the Heat’s championship roster, as well as their new acquisitions, finished amongst the league’s 500 players.
500. Eddy Curry
Yes, Eddy Curry was ranked the worst player in the NBA after somehow being ranked 493rd the year before.
Curry was signed by the Heat prior to the start of last season following an enormous weight loss that resulted in over 100 pounds being shed. He would debut in a win against the Los Angeles Lakers, where he surprised many with 6 points and 3 rebounds in only six minutes worth of action. From then on, however, minutes would be sporadic for Curry and he would only be featured in 14 games.
His best game came when he started the season finale against Washington, where he tallied 10 points, 4 rebounds and 1 block.
He is currently without a team and was recently worked out by the Nets.
476. Juwan Howard
After 18 seasons, Juwan Howard finally received the first championship ring of his career, even if his influence on the court wasn’t always prominent.
38-years-old at the time, Howard played in 28 games and managed averages of 1.5 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in garbage-time minutes. With Udonis Haslem back from injury and the Heat electing to use LeBron James and Shane Battier at the four, Howard wasn’t needed nearly as much as the previous season when he was featured in 57 games.
Juwan was mostly used as the wise veteran, guiding the younger players and keeping spirits high.
464. Terrel Harris
Undrafted out of Oklahoma State, Terrel Harris did as well as you’d expect from someone you’ve probably never heard of before he joined the team.
In 22 games, Harris averaged 3.6 points and 2.3 boards per. His best game of the year came in a triple-overtime win over Atlanta, when he recorded 9 points and 14 rebounds in over 40 minutes worth of action.
Harris was recently invited to training camp and will be looking to make one of the Heat’s final two roster spots.
454. Dexter Pittman
When was the last time the NBA had a champion that had four players in the bottom 50 of the ESPN NBA rankings?
To be honest, 454th seems a bit too low for Dexter. Although he was only featured in 35 games, it’s not as if Pittman was awful. He featured some solid footwork on the offensive end, enough to score 16 points in only 18 minutes in a win against Charlotte. Pittman had four games of 10 or more points last season.
Pittman’s problems when it comes to rebounding and staying out of foul trouble offsets any sort of progress he makes on the offensive end.
316. Ronny Turiaf
Now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, the Heat will no longer have the towel-having maniac that is Ronny Turiaf.
Turiaf played some solid minutes when needed, providing the Heat with a big man who could eat up some fouls and finish some plays near the rim, but was limited in the postseason.
265. Norris Cole
A solid first-half propelled Norris near the top amongst his rookie classmates, but a poor second-half led to him dropping all the way down to 265th.
Cole finished last season averaging 6.8 points, 2 assists and 1.4 rebounds per on 39 percent shooting from the field. When he’s confident, he can consistently hit the mid-range jumper and play aggressive enough to speed past defenders to get into the lane. However, his speed has limited his minutes, due to how frantic he can be when leading a fastbreak.
When the Heat gave Cole minutes in the postseason, however, he simmered down and began making smart plays that resulted in Norris given more time.
257. Rashard Lewis
The Heat will obviously be hoping that Lewis finishes a lot higher on this list at the start of the 2012-’13 season.
Lewis is appropriately placed at 257th because of how awful he was last year in his final season with the Wizards. Rashard shot a mere 24 percent from beyond the arc and only 39 percent from the field in 28 games. He would get traded to the New Orleans Hornets, before being bought out and picked up by the Heat.
Lewis is in heavy spirits this year and will be looking to prove many wrong.
252. James Jones
Not sure how, but James Jones was ranked ahead of Norris Cole.
There’s no doubting that Jones is one of the league’s premier three-point shooters when given consistent minutes. He shot 40 percent last year from deep, making it the third consecutive season he has shot over the 40 percent threshold from beyond the arc. This comes a year after converting a career-high 123 three-pointers in 2011.
However, Jones’ is incredibly limited on the defensive end and has a lot of trouble keeping his defender in front of him. Outside of taking the occasional charge, Jones is a liability on defense and it’s why his minutes in the rotation were reduced so heavily.
236. Mike Miller
It’s been quite the fall for Mike Miller, who finished 169th in these rankings the year before.
Had he not played so well in Game 5, Miller may be out of the top 300. He dealt with another injury-plagued season where he was only featured in 39 games, averaging a mere 6.1 points. The past two years have been the worst of Miller’s career, despite shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc last season.
Miller will have a chance to redeem himself this year. He’ll be entering the season without any injuries holding him back for the first time since coming to Miami, but there is still a preseason and training camp to endure through as well.
209. Joel Anthony
Yeah, I’m not sure how this happened, either.
To be fair, Joel did improve his offensive game last year. He is now beyond missing easy dunks and layups, moving up to actually catching and finishing, even going as far as equipping himself with a hook shot whenever he’s given the chance to take it. His defense was phenomenal as usual, averaging 1.3 blocks and 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes.
Anthony has been featured less with the Heat moving to a smaller lineup. With a shooting big like Rashard Lewis now on the squad, Anthony’s role could be further reduced.
129. Udonis Haslem
It’s surprising that Haslem finds himself this high after the 2011-’12 campaign he had.
Playing in his first full season since tearing a ligament in his foot the year before, Haslem had obvious trouble in his lift, which threw off his rebounding and jump shooting abilities. As a result, he averaged career-lows across the board to the tune of 6 points and 7.3 rebounds per, as well as shooting only 42 percent from the field.
Whether or not it was the loss of his cornrows to blame, I cannot exactly say.
107. Shane Battier
Battier could have found himself much lower on this list had he not followed up a dismal regular season with a superb postseason.
The veteran had a difficult time finding his shot in his first year with the Heat, shooting a mere 34 percent from beyond the arc that was well below his career average of 39 percent. He averaged a career-low 4.8 points on 39 percent shooting from the field and garnered only 2.4 boards per.
It was Battier’s defense, however, that earned him a ranking this high. His work against opposing forwards was phenomenal as it allowed LeBron James to get enough rest to preserve his energy for the later moments of games. Battier also stepped it up in the playoffs with 38 percent shooting from deep.
104. Mario Chalmers
So close, yet so far for Chalmers, who comes only a few spots away from cracking the top 100.
Chalmers had a tremendous bounceback season last year that followed two dismal years, which led the Heat organization to questioning on whether or not they wanted to stick it out with their inconsistent point guard. Through 39 percent shooting from deep and 9.8 points per game, however, Mario kept a starting job and played a vital role in the playoffs.
Mario moved up 51 spots from the year before.
64. Ray Allen
The only non-big three member within the top 100, Ray Allen maintains his standing as one of the league’s deadliest players, despite hitting the age of 37 over the summer.
Because when you convert a career-high 45 percent from beyond the arc the previous season, you deserve to be known as a lethal veteran. It wasn’t a fluke, either, as Allen shot 44 percent in a 2010-’11 campaign where he was far healthier and played in 80 games, as opposed to this past season when he played in only 46 and was even replaced by a younger Avery Bradley.
Allen will become the Heat’s sixth man and will be looking to become an integral part of the team.
18. Chris Bosh
That’s right: the Miami Heat have three players within the top 20, which is something that could not be said last year after Chris Bosh was ranked 24th.
Bosh finished higher this season because of the better transition he made to becoming a third scoring option, as well as showing how missed he is on the court during the Heat’s postseason series against Boston. Without Bosh, the Celtics proved that packing the paint and throwing double teams at Dwyane Wade could have been enough to stop the Heat. While James’ receives all the credit for beating the Celtics because of his Game 6 performance, it was Bosh’s 18 points in Game 7 that might have proved the most vital.
Bosh averaged 18 points and 7.9 boards per last year, while shooting 49 percent from the field. His move to center could vault him even higher if he plays at the position as well as he did at the end of the season and in the playoffs.
8. Dwyane Wade
Following a season where he couldn’t get on the floor without dealing with some sort of ailment, Dwyane Wade saw his stock fall nearly out of the top ten.
Fortunately for our sanity, Wade remains within the top ten and could end up within the top five again if he returns as determined as we expect him to be. It may be a little difficult with word coming in that Wade still isn’t at 100 percent, but Wade has triumphed over adversity before–his 2008-’09 campaign following a slew of injuries and surgeries will forever be remembered by the Heat fanbase.
Wade’s numbers dropped to 22.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per, but his .497 shooting percentage was the second highest of his career. The increase in his shooting percentage over the past two seasons has stemmed from the influence of having LeBron and Chris as teammates, as well as putting in more effort to score in high-percentage areas without having to drive.
1. LeBron James
Appropriately recognized as the best in the world, LeBron James retains his spot as the league’s best player for a second consecutive season.
And why wouldn’t he? He only won league MVP, an NBA championship, Finals MVP and a gold medal last year–something that hasn’t happened since Michael Jordan did it in 1992. Not only did he take home nearly every one of the NBA’s accolades, but he also averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.9 steals per, while shooting career-high’s field-goal percentage (53 percent) and three-point percentage (36 percent).
James dominance was put on full display in the NBA Finals with the Oklahoma City Thunder failing to find any player who could limit him. His triple-double in the series clincher was icing on the cake for the league’s best player, besting the league’s number two player in Kevin Durant.