If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right?
The Miami Heat are winners of 29 of their past 31 games and are a week removed from having their consecutive wins streak come to an end at 27, good enough for second all-time. They’re the best team in the NBA by miles and the only doubts going into the playoffs are if the Heat can sweep their way through the East.
Everything has gone right for Miami since Super Bowl Sunday back in early February. LeBron James has continued a torrid MVP pace, Dwyane Wade is in rare form, and Chris Bosh is beginning to get back into a rhythm after a slight stumble out of the gate coming off of All-Star weekend.
As for “The Replacements”, Shane Battier and Ray Allen are both shooting the ball well. In fact, they’re competing each other for the Heat’s best shooter. Batter has hit 127 threes and is shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc, but Allen is right on his tail with 126 threes and 42 percent shooting.
The Heat’s nine-man rotation for the playoffs may be set. Barring any setbacks, Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Udonis Haslem, and Chris Bosh will be the starters, while Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Chris Andersen come off the bench.
It’s a great rotation. It’s a rotation that just had the longest consecutive wins streak in 40 years. It’s the rotation that has the Heat with the NBA’s best record. I mean, this is really a spectacular rotation.
But could it get better? The past two games have given us a longer look at a few role players that have fallen out of rotation and haven’t been on the court other than as an injury-replacement or to finish off a blowout.
While Rashard Lewis and James Jones were quiet in the minutes they received, Mike Miller propped up the Heat in their win over San Antonio and early on in the loss to New York.
Miller scored 18 first-half points against the Knicks to give Miami a seven-point advantage going into the half. He was held scoreless in the second half, but finished off the game shooting 4-of-8 from beyond the arc and 7-of-12 overall.
He tied Shane Battier with a game-high eight rebounds, and also garnered four assists, two blocks and one steal.
Against San Antonio, Miller shot 4-of-6 from the perimeter and finished with 12 points, five assists and three rebounds in 24 minutes. He also got 22 minutes off the bench against New Orleans and finished with six points and six rebounds.
The six rebounds was a team-high. ‘Mr. Intangibles’ also recorded a combined 13 points, eight rebounds, and five assists in blowout wins over Orlando and Charlotte.
Before the Heat’s March 24th matchup with the Bobcats, Miller had played in five minutes of a game only once during the Heat’s winning streak. Over a two-month span between late January and late March, Mike Miller didn’t score a point.
Miller is averaging 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds in extremely limited minutes this season. The 18 points he scored against New York was a season-high and he’s missed 23 games either due to injuries or showing up as a DNP on the box score.
With the exception of his memorable Game 5 against Oklahoma City, Miller has underachieved significantly in his first two seasons with the Heat due to recurring injuries and various ailments.
Miller was among the league’s top shooters last year converting 45 percent from beyond the arc, but only played in 39 games of the 66-game season. He is shooting 38 percent this season, as well as a career-low 40 percent from beyond the arc.
It has been a tumultuous ride with Miller, the recipient of a five-year, $30 million deal during Miami’s historic summer of 2010. He didn’t make his Heat debut until late December and dealt with injuries throughout the season and postseason.
2011 was no better as Miller missed nearly half the season. He was hardly used in the postseason, but made the debut of who he was supposed to be when he hit seven of his eight three-point attempts to set the tone in a blowout championship clinching Game 5.
Miller considered retirement, but ultimately decided on a third season with the Heat. He recently turned 33 and there’s been talk of a possibly utilization of the amnesty clause on Miller, in order to ease the luxury tax hit Miami will take this summer.
Considering Allen and Battier are doing twice the job at half the cost, Miller has become expendable. Shooters aren’t the most expensive commodity and the Heat are one of the league’s top three-point shooting teams, and that’s with Miller hardly playing.
The past week, however, Miller is beginning to remind us all that he’s one of top pure shooters in NBA history. He is one of those players who only needs to see one shot go in before he hits a barrage of perimeter jumpers.
Plus, there aren’t many players on the Heat who can contribute at all aspects of the game like Miller can. He may gingerly walk up and down court, but he is fully committed to going after offensive rebounds and making plays happen, as evidenced by the 11 assists in the past three contests.
Advanced metrics aren’t going to help Miller’s cause. Because he’s played so few minutes, his stats in five-game units and his Synergy ratings don’t have a large enough sample size to compute a proper number dealing with Miller’s efficiency.
However, a lineup featuring himself, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh is a +1.27 on offense and is only giving up .96 points per possession on defense, according to 82games.com.
If you want to judge a lineup on 41 minutes of playing time together, be my guest. But it certainly beats those lineups featuring Norris Cole and Ray Allen, which have consistently underperformed in the Heat’s early second quarter scoring droughts.
Miami firmly believes in spacing the floor on the offensive end of the floor, and they’ve accomplished that through Allen, Battier, and Chalmers.
However, Norris Cole’s consecutive bouts with unbelievably bad mistakes and the expected move of LeBron playing more power forward in the playoffs, which would cut out Haslem’s minutes, could open up some room for minutes for Miller.
Cole has been shooting the ball well as of late, hitting nine of his 15 threes in the past six games, but there’s no comparison between him and Miller when it comes to shooting the ball.
What keeps Cole on the floor is a great ability to run the floor and aiding his superstars on the break, while even being an occasional creator of plays in the half-court. Being ranked 83rd in defensive ppp is reassuring, but the fact that he’s ranked 387th in offensive ppp makes you wonder if there is better.
But I’m not going to be the one to want to switch up the rotation near the end of the regular season.
I’m just pointing out that Mike Miller is a better shooter, rebounder, and playmaker than one of the current players in the rotation.