Insightful stuff from Dwyane Wade on Michael Beasley on the eve Mike Miller reminds us what the Heat is missing
A familiar theme for the Heat played out here in Chicago on Friday, but it had nothing to do with the defending back-to-back champions.
Remember that fan favorite and savior off the bench the Heat removed from its books to save money this summer? You know, the indispensible Mike Miller, who suddenly became dispensable a few days after Heat president Pat Riley said the team had no plans to amnesty. That Mike Miller was in Chicago on Friday and playing for the Memphis Grizzlies against the hometown Bulls.
So, as Miller lit up the Bulls' defense — 14 points, 4 of 5 from three-point range — me and good buddy Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report were cracking stone crabs in downtown Chicago and watching the game on TV, but mostly kicking ourselves for not being at United Center to interview Miller after the game. Of course, I'm pretty sure how that interview would have gone:
ME: "Great game, Mike. How's it been going this season?"
MILLER: "Oh, you know, bro. It's all good."
ME: "The Heat's three-point shooters have fallen off a bit this season, got any suggestions?"
MILLER: "Just let it fly, man."
And then, basically, a hilarious conversation off record that would never be printed in any newspaper anywhere ever.
For the record, Miller is shooting 44.6 percent from three-point range for the Grizzlies and averaging 20.7 minutes per game. Among the Heat players averaging at least 20 minutes a game, not a single shooter is anywhere close to that percentage. Mario Chalmers leads the team's regular rotation players with a three-point shooting percentage of .391.
Of course, it's not like Miller would have even qualified for that category last season. At this point last year, Miller was anchored to the bench as the Heat spun off 27 victories in a row. So, while comparing Miller this season to the Heat without Miller isn't exactly fair, it's also kind of exactly the point. Because here's the thing. Miller is shooting 44.6 percent from the field this season as a regular rotation player. Playing just about every role possible during the 2013 playoffs, Miller shot 44.4 percent from three-point range.
And that's remarkable.
Miller stays ready and he's consistent, and those are attributes every team values as the winter begins thawing into spring. (Except for South Florida, of course, where there is neither a winter nor spring, but only the annual migration of Quebec license plates to mark the seasons ... and lots more rain.)
Miller's contract was expensive, yes, but that's the way it goes with the best insurance policies. Numbers and experience tell us Miller would have shot around 44 percent from three-point range this postseason whether he started the games or came off the bench. Beyond the projected numbers, Miller would have given Heat coach Erik Spoelstra confidence to make the necessary lineup adjustments from series to series.
MIKE MILLER'S MANY ROLES IN THE 2013 POSTSEASON:
—For most of the first three rounds, Miller came off the bench in spot duty.
—But be started for Dwyane Wade at shooting guard in Game 4 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
—Miller then returned to the back of the bench...until Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals ... with the Heat trailing the Pacers 3-2 in the series. Miller went 2 of 2 from three-point range in that must-win scenario.
—Miller came off the bench in the first three games of the NBA Finals and went 9 of 10 from three-point range.
—Lastly, in his last games with the Heat, Miller was inserted into the starting lineups of Games 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals. The strategic move allowed Spoelstra to slide LeBron James to power forward, which created one of the series' key mismatches. James averaged over 31 points in the final four games of the Finals.
Does the Heat have a player in reserve this season as versatile as Mike Miller? Maybe so. Michael Beasley could, in theory, come off the bench to provide instant offense. After all, he's shooting 45 percent from three-point range this season. But could Beasley also start in place of Battier or Wade in a pinch in the playoffs? Miller's greatest skill with the Heat was his ability to stay ready for any role defensively and remain a consistent threat from the outside. He could affect a game without ever touching the ball. Is Beasley ready for that responsibility? Could he affect a game in a positive way without ever touching the ball?
The Heat would like to give Beasley consistent minutes, especially with the playoffs inching ever closer, but the offensively gifted former No.2 overall pick has had difficulty integrating himself into the team’s defensive schemes. Sure, Beasley had 11 points against the Spurs, and that's great, but gaining trust with Spoelstra, James and Dwyane Wade will be more important for Beasley over the next few weeks than any shot he makes.
“It’s up and down for [Beasley],” Wade said. “Of late, he has been playing very well for us as he’s trying to get back into his rhythm. We’re going to need him, and we hope that he continues to get the concepts of what we’re trying to do.
“Because we’re going to need him at some point.”
Trusting Miller's aptitude was never a concern. Trusting Miller's injury-prone body? That's a different conversation all together, but Miller never needed consistent minutes, or any minutes at all to find his rhythm or "get the concepts." He was just always prepared to play any role necessary.
In other words, the Mike Miller Replacement Project is an ongoing business.