3 Heat players who need to step up to lift Miami out of the play-in race

If these three players step up over the next nine games, the Miami Heat should secure a guaranteed playoff spot.

Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers
Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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With just nine games left to go in the regular season, the Miami Heat control their own destiny when it comes to avoiding the play-in tournament for a second straight season. The Heat are jockeying with the Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers for seeds 6-8.

The sixth seed for the Heat is obtainable, and while the Heat have been having one of the most injury-riddled seasons in franchise history, they still have a chance to right the ship. The play-in tournament is dangerous, and last year is a testament to that. They were very close to being knocked out by the Chicago Bulls after having lost to the Atlanta Hawks.

Even though players are popping up on the injury report for what seems like every other game, the Heat still have some guys who need to either step up their level of play or maintain what they have going right now. If these players can raise their play, it could be enough to secure themselves a playoff spot.

3. Jaime Jaquez Jr.

The first player who needs to step up his play is Jaime Jaquez Jr. He's been struggling since he came back from an injury in February, but the injury plus the inevitable rookie wall has made it a tough look for him. Maybe the most concerning thing is that the struggle has been consistent and as it gets close to postseason time, that's one guy the Heat cannot afford to have play poorly.

Over the past five games that he's played, he has an average of 9 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game on 34 percent shooting from the floor and 22 percent from three on nearly 4 attempts. Putting it all together with a true shooting percentage of 42.7 percent, which is extremely bad, to say the least.

[Related Reading: 3 Ways Jaime Jaquez Jr. can develop into a top-10 forward in the NBA]

Getting a young guy like Jaquez into rhythm will be difficult because an 82-game season isn't something he's experienced yet. It does seem a little ridiculous for the team to miss his energy and production that much, but then again, it's really not.

When active with a healthy feel of the game, he came up big and even found himself closing games. They miss his sneaky back door cuts, the crafty finishes around the rim, the extra passes that generate open looks for shooters, these are all things that this team is missing right now and it shows not only in the win/loss column, but just off pure eye test as well.

If Jaquez can regroup and figure things out, there's no reason they can't beat up on these bad teams and even catch some of the other teams in the play-in/playoff race off guard.