Part one of the Hot Hot Hoops Roundtable featured grades for the starting players. Part two has the HHH crew taking a look at "the other guys"....
Following an injury-riddled 2010-11 campaign, a lot of Heat fans wanted to see Miller amnestied. I wouldn't have been heartbroken if the team had done so, but Miller has rewarded Riley's patience and returned to being one of the league's premier long-range shooters. His 51.8 3pt percentage is 2nd in the NBA, and Miller is shooting a career-high 51.5 percent from the field. Miller's improved shooting has been one of the main factors in the Heat's vast improvement against zone defenses, even if the media has been slow to catch onto Miami's success. His salary still leaves him vulnerable to a trade if Riley decides to make a move, but Miller is doing what he was brought here to do. He's also earned a spot in the crunch time five alongside Wade, James, Bosh and Haslem.
Finally healthy (relatively speaking) as a Heat player, Miller has been playing as originally advertised. The confidence in his shoot is back, his ballhandling capabilties and willingness to recklessly throw his body around all have made him a popular player at the AAA. Hopefully he can stay healthy into the playoffs at this high level. Hopefully.
In a stark contrast from last season, Miller isn't hesitant to shoot open jumpers anymore – and he's making them, shooting 51 percent from the field and 52 from downtown. Moreover, Miller still offers the rebounding and hustle plays he typically gives. While his expensive contract may make him vulnerable to a trade during the 2012-13 season – the harsher luxury tax rules kick in the following year – it now looks like Riley was wise to keep Miller on the Heat.
The four-year guard from Cleveland State University had no summer league and an abbreviated training camp, but still emerged as a quality backup. He still takes some ill-advised shots and needs to work on his outside shot over the summer – the NBA 3-point line seems just out of Cole's range – but he still offers speed and energy off the bench.
The Heat's point guard rotation is incomparably better this year, and Cole is a big reason why. The rookie gives Miami a speedy, high-energy guard off the bench, something it sorely lacked last season. While the hype following his breakout performance against Boston early in the season might have led to unrealistic expectations, Cole has steadily improved over the first half of the season. On a defense-first team that wants to get out in transition, he's a perfect fit. Cole sometimes plays a little too fast, but that's the role he's been asked to fill and he'll learn how to better harness his energy in time. Still, the Heat hit a homerun with this draft pick.
The Heat finally have a young, athletic backup point guard at what a nice refreshing change it's been. The rookie still has some growing pains but other than that he's been a more than solid pick-up on draft day. The kid has guts and he's bound to have a shining moment during the playoffs. He's only going to get better.
Battier was a bit of a disappointment up until recently when his shooting form finally came around. Before that, he was doing well on defense but started slow due to injury. Before that, it could have been argued that James Jones deserved minutes ahead of Battier. He's given the bench more depth while taking on big defensive assignments that otherwise would have been assigned to either Wade or LeBron. He's also a solid pro and a good presence in the locker room.
After struggling with adjusting to a new team and fighting through a quad injury suffered in training camp, Battier's play the past two weeks has been encouraging. His real value will not become apparent until the playoffs, anyway, when he can ease the defensive burden on Wade and James by defending perimeter players who the Heat's superstars would otherwise be responsible for. Despite his early shooting struggles, Battier has always been a solid team defender and intelligent player, two attributes that never go through slumps.
The 10-year NBA veteran seemingly couldn't make a shot for the first month of the season, but has since turned it around. Even at age 33, he still offers great perimeter defense: he blocked a potential game-winning layup from Joe Johnson in Miami's triple-overtime win over the Atlanta Hawks and forced Kobe Bryant into some tough shots in the Heat's meeting with the Lakers.
The Miami Heat's second-leading all-time rebounder has bolstered Miami's frontcourt lineup, averaging eight boards in just 26 minutes a game. Like Battier, Haslem's jump shot was off before becoming more accurate of late. Having a healthy Haslem is like making a huge offseason trade for the Heat, and he will receive minutes in crunch time.
Haslem's return to the rotation is a big reason why the Heat have been so formidable this season. His contributions were sorely missed last season. The usual rebounding and defensive presence is still there but the jumper has to be knocked down consistently especially since defenses leave him wide open and aren't getting burned for it.
Haslem is shooting his lowest FG% of his nine-year career and it's not even close. I suspect this is due in part to the fact that, like Bosh, his opportunities have decreased. He has found his stroke over the past three games, however, so perhaps things are turning around for him. UD's role is to haul down rebounds and make sure nobody on opposing teams takes any liberties with Wade or James. Haslem is another guy whose value increases in the postseason, when those two roles will become more important.
Although Jones has only played in blowout situations since Wade and Miller returned from injuries, the Miami native made three 3s in the Heat's first two games of the season. He may not have a spot in the rotation unless Riley trades or amnesties Miller, but it's good to know the Heat have a solid player who can contribute if a wing player gets hurt.
With the addition of Battier and Miller's return to health, Jones has become an afterthought. It's not his fault, per se, but the other two are more versatile players while Jones is strictly a catch-and-shoot player with defensive limitations. However, he's a valuable insurance policy should one of the Heat's wing players go down. We saw in Game 1 of the Boston series last year the impact Jones can have on a game, but he's superfluous to a full-strength Heat roster. Jones might see more minutes as the regular season winds down and the Heat try to rest up before the playoffs.
Jones hasn't played much simply because Miller and Battier have more variety to their game and are shooting well, the only true skill Jones can provide. He's still an excellent insurance player in case one of them is unavailable.
Pittman has received a chance this season, already having played 105 minutes this year (for comparison's sake, he played 11 minutes in his rookie campaign). But Pittman has failed to show a lot in his time on the court. In recent games against Dwight Howard and DeMarcus Cousins, Pittman didn't even play until mop-up time. If he can't get on the court to defend those high-caliber centers, why is he even on the team?
As desperate as the Heat are to give major minutes to a big man, Pittman hasn't done much with the chance and it's back to limited minutes of service. Maybe the lockout didn't exactly help him from a conditioning standpoint but he needs to provide something when he's out there without fouling every minute.
Pittman shows flashes of ability, but that's not enough to stick around in the NBA, let alone on the Heat. He put together a couple solid games at Orlando and Washington before injuring his shoulder, but has been a disappointment since Miami selected him with the 2nd pick of the 2nd round in 2010. Despite losing about 100 pounds (a feat he is to be commended for), he's still too slow to find a role in Miami's swarming/scrambling style of defense. His 2012-13 salary is not guaranteed, and Pittman might be cut loose after this season if he doesn't show more than he has to this point.
Curry has a more distinguished NBA resume than Pittman, but the two share a lot of the same limitations that will preclude them from earning minutes in Miami. Curry hasn't been a productive player since the 2007-08 season, and despite losing a ton of weight, his mobility is still an issue. His salary is completely unguaranteed this season, meaning Miami can abandon this project as soon as it finds a more attractive alternative (Chris Kaman, perhaps).
He offered some hope in the Heat's win over the Los Angeles Lakers last month, but Curry hasn't shown much of anything since then. Although he's lost weight, Curry still has trouble moving up and down the court. Curry's lack of mobility make him an ill fit for this team.
We all knew this was going to be a long-term project so it's not a shock that he isn't ready to produce in an NBA game. The investment has been minimal and anyone else that deep in the bench was going to play much anyway. We can judge the Curry experiment when it's actually over and look back on it but for now it's still a question mark.
Harris played in the D-League last year, but has shown he deserves a spot in the NBA in his limited opportunities this season. A dangerous shooter, Harris had nine points and 11 rebounds in the Atlanta Hawks overtime win. If the Heat trade or amnesty Mike Miller, Pat Riley knows he still has Harris waiting in the wings, in addition to Battier and James Jones.
Harris has played nicely when he's actually had a shot. If the Heat continue to blow out opponents, he could still play of course, but a stint or two in the minors might be a nice break from sitting on the bench. He won't see any action in the postseason though but it's still great that the Heat gave him a roster spot instead of a creaky veteran on his last legs.
Harris fought his way onto the roster with an outstanding training camp, and could have a long-term future in Miami. He's fared well in his limited minutes, including a 9-point, 14-rebound performance in the Heat's triple overtime win at Atlanta in January. He probably won't see a lot of playing time this year, or even next, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Harris earn a spot in the rotation in 2013-14 when the luxury tax becomes a factor. With punitive penalties going into effect that season, Harris would likely be a low-cost alternative to Battier and Miller. The Heat are almost better off hiding Harris this year, as he will be a restricted free agent following the season. Extended minutes could result in another team poaching Harris ala Wesley Matthews.
Howard seems like a really nice guy, and he's probably great in the locker room. In fact, I'm almost sure he is, because his skillset is no longer NBA-caliber. His body has been entirely sapped of the athleticism that has allowed Howard to have a 17-year career. For all of Miami's perimeter depth, they are alarmingly thin up front. As the depth chart stands now, the Heat are a Bosh, Haslem, or Anthony injury away from relying on Howard for important minutes. I'll let that nightmare marinate in your thoughts.
It's hard to fault him for being too old but you almost wish Big Z didn't retire and take up this roster spot instead. Howard is even slower than he appeared last season and is only suitable for spot duty in extremely limited minutes. He's a great veteran and locker-room guy but the Heat are in trouble if he sees extended action.
Diego - C
With Haslem healthy and LeBron James playing more of the power forward this year, Howard has only played in blowout situations this season. Sure he's part of the reason why opposing teams have made the final scores more respectable in garbage time, but he's a 39-year-old who stands behind Bosh, Haslem and James on the depth chart. Would you expect anything more?