Miami Heat Center Preview: Chris Andersen Still Soaring


Analyzing Last Year’s Performance

Chris Andersen was the feel-good story of the 2012-2013 season. A late addition to the team, he fit well and provided an instant energy. His performance that postseason was a major factor in Miami’s second-straight championship. And last season, the Birdman (pardon the pun) really took flight.

He played in 72 regular-season games, averaging nearly 20 minutes per game even at 35 years old. His scoring per 36 minutes (12.4) was among the highest marks in his career, just above his 12-season average (11.2). He even experimented with a long-range shot that drove the home crowd wild, going 3-of-12 from long-range. But there’s no denying his strength, as you can see below:

Despite the increase in minutes, Andersen shot a career-best of 66 percent. He challenged for every rebound and displayed his usual knack for finishing at the rim. Cruising along through the playoffs, many expected him to duplicate the success of the previous title-run. Unfortunately, a thigh injury hampered him through the Indiana Pacers and, later, against the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Head coach Erik Spoelstra even referred to Andersen as the “human bruise,” indicating the veteran was suffering through various physical problems. Versus the Spurs, Andersen never scored over five points and averaged just over five rebounds per contest.

How LeBron’s Departure Impacts His Role

No other player seemed to thrive as much from the chaos provided by James as Andersen. From the moment he joined the team in 2013, he had an unmistakable chemistry with James. If LeBron commanded the double-team on one side of the baseline, then you could be sure that the “Birdman” would be swooping in from the other side to collect a rebound or finish the pass at the rim.

But how much of that is gone for good? None of Andersen’s teammates command the attention of defenders the same way James did. But Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and even Josh McRoberts aren’t averse to driving to the rim, freeing up Andersen to do what he does best. However, only Wade and McRoberts have the passing chops to feed Andersen as he continues to work his way around the basket so his continued impact will depend on his teammates’ ability to feed him at the rim.

Projections for this Season

Andersen’s stunning commitment to Miami – especially when friend and former teammate James was actively luring him to Cleveland – was one of the best and least-publicized moments of the summer. Chalking up the decision to simple “loyalty,” Andersen’s forever ingrained himself as part of the Heat family.

And while he’s far from a multi-dimensional player, I expect Andersen to be the same active player he’s always been, even at 36 years old. Spoelstra will continue to use him as the sparkplug off the bench (in 12 seasons, Andersen has only started a remarkable 10 games) and he’ll adapt to his new teammates as he always has. But, as athletes are fond of repeating, “Father Time remains undefeated,” and Andersen will probably struggle at times this season, especially with Miami’s lack of bulk at the center position.

Playing in just 65 games this season, Andersen will average 6 points and just over 4 rebounds per game. But it won’t matter to fans, who will appreciate his high-flying effort while with Miami, even when the Birdman’s wings are eventually clipped.

“Why I’m Excited” – Ehsan Kassim

More so than Wade, Bosh, Haslem, or any returning Heat member, I was the most excited when word hit the street that Birdman was returning to Miami. Birdman is an energetic guy that does all the dirty work, ala Haslem, but he has a different aura about him. Maybe its the Mohawk?

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