The only person who thought that Mike Miller would be back in the Heat's lineup this soon....was Mike Miller. It was more likely that he would be back on the court sometime in January, but Miller's thumb healed up quickly and he worked his butt off to make sure he would be in game shape whenever he would get cleared to return.
Meanwhile, the Heat had began playing some great basketball over the past few weeks and while doing that had found themselves a solid rotation that was working quite well. Guys like James Jones and Mario Chalmers have been playing well in their roles while Eddie House seems to have played his way right out of regular minutes.
Now that Miller is back you better believe that he'll be a regular in the Heat's main cycle of players coming off the bench. He can play either of the guard positions as well as some small forward, all depending on what kind of lineup Erik Spoelstra wants to go with. Outside shooting is where Miller is most deadly but since he is so well known for that teams sometimes forget or underestimate how well he can handle the ball and play off the dribble.
Defensively Miller is a great asset to have coming off the bench and can provide a similar boost to when Udonis Haslem is brought in to games and energizes the Heat's defense. I'm not sure how well Miller would do guarding some of the better point guards in the league, but otherwise he is going to be able to fill a lot of voids for Miami.
The question that remains is whose minutes are going to be sacrificed at the expense of Miller getting around 25-30 every night? Before the season started, the obvious guy who would be behind him would be James Jones. But with Miller's injury, Jones has stepped up big time and emerged as the great outside shooter he had been in the past.
I still think that Jones will lose some playing time to Miller but Erik Spoelstra will likely find a way to keep J-J in the rotation. Remember, its not just making shots that Jones does well for Miami. He leads the team in drawing charges and unlike many reserve shooting threats throughout the league, Jones isn't a defensive liability.
The other main options to lose minutes are the point guards, Carlos Arroyo and Mario Chalmers. Miller replacing either of them during the game would mean that Dwyane Wade or LeBron James would take over at the point. Considering that both of them carry the ball up the floor on a regular basis, it wouldn't be a stretch for either of them.
Arroyo has been starting for Miami all season and continues to be the safe play for the Heat. He rarely turns the ball over, averaging 0.7 per game, and is still one of the leagues top percentage shooters from 3-point range at 51.2%. He's also shot the ball well in general, hitting 49% from the field, but isn't a great defender and while his percentages are high he's not really considered an offensive threat.
As for Chalmers, he takes a lot more chances and appears to have more confidence on offense but that translates to a lower shooting percentage then Arroyo. One thing that bothers me is that Rio makes some poor decisions shooting the ball, putting up bad looks and taking shots either with way too much time left on the shot clock or when there are much better options on the floor.
Neither of the Heat's point guards are particularly good on defense but Chalmers has quicker hands and comes up with a lot more steals which lead to fast break opportunities for Miami. If Miller is in the game for either Arroyo or Rio, it will likely be Dwyane Wade covering the opposing point guard. I think the overall team D will be better with Miller out there because of how solid a defender he is. The Heat will still have a hard time with some opposing point guards but at least the help defense will be better.
It will be interesting to see which direction Erik Spoelstra goes when working Mike Miller into the rotation but either way I think that the Heat will be a much improved team. Granted, you never know how a team will respond when their routines and minutes are disrupted but considering so many players had been looking forward to getting Miller back in the lineup, they also had to have been expecting that he would be getting a regular dose of minutes. That being the case, I can't see there being any problems with getting him back in the lineup.