Many basketball fans were shocked when the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals in just five games. For years now, the Spurs have been viewed nationally as an aging and deteriorating roster – one that is unable to compete with the young and upcoming teams around the league.
What the Spurs proved to the world is experience and overall team chemistry is severely underrated when it comes to winning championships in the NBA. How else could you explain the three core players (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili) combined age of 107 years old running through the likes of a LeBron James and Kevin Durant in their prime?
In others sports (NFL, NHL, and MLB), we see the young, under the radar teams coming out of nowhere to capture titles fairly often. The 2013-14 Seattle Seahawks are the latest example of this trend.
In the NBA? Not so much. There is a steep learning curve in the league and one that almost always sees players (even the great ones) experiencing years of losing before ultimately winning a championship. Yes, it even happened to Michael Jordan, who was beaten up by the Detroit Pistons for years early in his career.
What does this all mean? Experience in the NBA is more valuable than it may initially appear.
With the Miami Heat beginning the post-LeBron era, I felt it was necessary to break down the roster in terms of experience heading into the 2014-15 season. In my eyes, the Heat will still be competing for a championship come playoff time. Let’s take a look at some of the notable experienced Heat players on this year’s unit:
The face of the franchise is without a doubt Dwyane Wade. The #HeatLifer (as he self-proclaimed) has been with the organization since being drafted out of Marquette University in 2003.
Wade has appeared in 719 regular season games and 152 playoff games over his 11-year career. He has reached the NBA Finals five different years and captured three world titles (2006, 2012, 2013).
The heart and soul (and co-captain) of the Miami Heat is Udonis Haslem. Like Wade, Haslem has been with the organization since 2003, when he was signed as an undrafted free agent rookie out of the University of Florida.
Haslem has appeared in 715 regular season games and 138 playoff games over his 11-year career. He has reached the NBA Finals five different years and captured three world titles (2006, 2012, 2013).
Since joining the Miami Heat in 2010, Bosh has played in four straight NBA Finals and won two of them (2012, 2013). For his career, Bosh has played in 796 regular season games and 89 playoff games.
Bosh is expected to take on a bigger role (both on the court and in the locker room) for the Heat this season following the sudden departure of LeBron James.
Mario Chalmers has proven to be one of the more valuable second round picks in recent NBA Draft history. Chalmers has been with the Heat since 2008 when he was drafted out of the University of Kansas.
Chalmers has appeared in 439 regular season games and 99 playoff games over his first six years in the league.
Luol Deng was the 7th pick in the 2004 NBA Draft as a 19-year old kid after one year at Duke University. He would spend the next 10+ seasons as a leader of the Chicago Bulls before spending some time with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season.
Now a member of the Miami Heat, Deng adds even more valuable NBA and Olympic experience to the roster. For his career, Deng has appeared in 677 regular season games and 48 playoff games.
Norris Cole has accomplished quite a bit since he entered the league in 2011.
3 seasons – 3 NBA Finals appearances – 2 World Championships. Enough said.
After struggling both on and off the court earlier in his career, Chris “Birdman” Andersen has found a home with the Miami Heat. He has been a major contributor off the bench for the Heat, helping them to each of the last two NBA Finals (winning in 2013).
For his career, Andersen has appeared in 596 regular season games and 69 playoff games.
A few years ago, Danny Granger openly expressed his displeasure towards the Miami Heat via twitter. Now, Granger is a member of the Miami Heat and is expected to be a key reserve off the bench. Funny how things change!
Luckily for Heat fans, Granger brings some additional experience from his previous seasons with the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers. For his career, Granger has appeared in 556 regular season games and 35 playoff games.
Josh McRoberts had a very slow start to his career after being drafted in 2007. Since then, however, he has really improved in every aspect of his game and was rewarded with a 4-year, $23 million contract in Miami this offseason.
For his career, McRoberts has appeared in 350 regular season games and 15 playoff games. His most recent playoff experience came last season as a member of the Charlotte Bobcats against these very Heat. In that series, he averaged 38.5 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, and 3.8 apg.
You may be wondering why Miami Heat rookie Shabazz Napier is on this list of experienced players on the roster. Although Napier has no NBA experience yet (obviously), his college résumé is worth pointing out.
Napier is one of the few collegiate basketball players to ever win a National Championship as a freshman (2011) and as a senior (2014). Napier would save his best for last, as he led the 7-seeded UConn Huskies over the Kentucky Wildcats in the championship game last April. Napier proved time and time again that he can step up when it matters most, something Heat fans are anticipating in the NBA as well.