Analyzing Last Year’s Performance Despite the Miami Heat not winning the NBA Championship last ..."/> Analyzing Last Year’s Performance Despite the Miami Heat not winning the NBA Championship last ..."/>

Miami Heat Small Forward Preview: Rise, James Ennis


Analyzing Last Year’s Performance

Despite the Miami Heat not winning the NBA Championship last season, they can still boast that they have a player coming off a championship on their 2014-2015 roster in forward James Ennis.

After being selected 50th over by the Atlanta Hawks and then sent packing as a draft day package to the Miami Heat, James had to take his talents to Australia last season. Although the Heat preferred for Ennis to stay in the states and play on their NBDL team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the Heat had neither the cap room nor the roster spot to keep Ennis on their 15-man roster. So Ennis opted for a pro-deal in Australia.

The 22-year old did not disappoint in his season overseas, as his debut featured him breaking the Perth Wildcats for most points in a debut (25). On the season, Ennis averaged 21.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game whilst shooting 46.8% from the field in 33 games.

His great debut season landed Ennis on the 2014 All-NBL first team. Ennis also placed third in MVP voting in the league and was the MVP of the Wildcats championship team.

Ennis was the young, electric player that the Heat lacked in the NBA Finals, as the San Antonio Spurs thrashed them. His athleticism would have helped the Heat counter the Spurs younger players that ran circles around their veterans, who looked to be done.

How LeBron’s Departure Impacts His Role

Looking to lower payroll, hoping to move out of the luxury tax situation, and bringing youth to the roster, the Heat were planning on giving Ennis a shot to make their final roster out of training camp regardless of what LeBron James decided to do. If LeBron were to return, there would be less time for Ennis to play and develop his skills in game.

LeBron is no longer in Miami and we shouldn’t expect to see Ennis’ role with the Heat expand just yet. Ennis is going start the season near the end of the Miami Heat bench, but there will be chances for him to secure a spot in the rotation, much like Michael Beasley did last season but could not secure. Ennis is third on the Heat depth chart at SF, behind the likes of Luol Deng and Danny Granger. Both Deng and Granger have injury histories that should make the Heat weary about their chances of playing a full 82-game schedule. The Heat also have a player at shooting guard, in Dwyane Wade, that has his own share of injuries.

The first crack at playing time for Ennis could come either at the shooting guard or small forward position, depending on the health of the guys ahead of him at his position and the effectiveness of the players backing-up Dwyane Wade at the 2-guard. If Ennis can show the Heat staff he can handle NBA minutes against the best of the best in the league, he’ll then see an increase in minutes.

Ennis is very much going to be in a Michael Beasley role, but with a little more leeway. Beasley was already in his 6th season with the Heat last season, this will be Ennis’ first season. Beasley had baggage he brought to Miami, Ennis does not. Beasley played on a team with LeBron James, Ennis will be the biggest James on the team. If Ennis plays well, he’ll likely earn a spot in Coach Spolestra’s game plan. If he doesn’t, he’ll need to take advise from veteran Udonis Haslem on how to stay ready to enter the game cold, when his team needs him.

Projections for this Season

Ennis played spectacular basketball for the Miami Heat during the Summer League, averaging 17.2 PPG on 52% shooting during the Orlando Summer League. Those numbers were great, but should be taken with a grain of salt, as the NBA schedule is more rigorous and should test Ennis a lot more.

Playing time and the uncertainty of his role make Ennis a tough player to project for the season. He could click from the beginning of the season and combined with Granger and Wade not staying healthy, earn a bigger role on the team. He could also struggle in his first bout against NBA talent and see the guys in front of him stay healthy and keep their effectiveness.

By the end of the season, I’d expect Ennis to play between 50-55 games, averaging 8-12 minutes a contest. Obviously that little of time won’t alllow him to do much damage, but I’ll project him to average around 4.5 points and 3 rebounds in the minutes he’s given. It’s not asking too much from a young and promising player.

“Why I’m Excited” – Wes Goldberg

With the new era in Miami comes a newfound importance of developing talent. James Ennis is exhibit A. After spending a year over seas Ennis will come to the NBA and the Heat will expect him to contribute. His ability to get the basket and play above the rim haven’t been seen out of a first-year NBA player in these parts since Wade entered the league. The Prince of Perth, King James Ennis has arrived. All hail.