It's no secret that Pat Riley is uncomfortable with rookies.
If one was to take a look into Miami's recent past to try and find a Heat rookie who was able to make an impact only one name would come to mind, Dwyane Wade.
It's not that Riley hasn't tried, Michael Beasley was supposed to be Miami's player of the future and well...we all know how that turned out. Nevertheless, even with Riley's annoyance of rookies both Shabazz Napier, as well as James Ennis, are seeing burn in the Heat's rotation and as a result are starting to grow comfortable in the system.
To say I was skeptical of Shabazz Napier becoming a relevant part of Miami's system is an understatement. I wrote numerous articles during the offseason addressing areas of concern, and seriously considered the possibility of him not making it through training camp. This wasn't some sort of vendetta against Shabazz, there was serious worry spawned from his below average summer league outings, to his discomfort with NBA basketballs. Napier has proven me wrong, and I couldn't be happier.
With Norris Cole under-performing, Napier has found himself playing a lot of minutes and taking advantage of them. It's not uncommon to see Napier playing the whole fourth quarter due to his shooting prowess and ability to perform in the clutch. While he still needs to be polished, Napier already conducts himself like a pro on the court. He hardly panics, and given the opportunity has no trouble shooting the big shot. Obviously this is a consequence of him leading UCONN to a national championship, but it's gone a long way in gaining Erik Spoelstra's trust.
Napier is fearless, standing at just 6'1 he has no trouble exposing holes in the defense and driving to the rim. He can also be seen multiple times throughout a game diving for loose balls, something that veterans (excluding Kobe) rarely try to do. Napier also has solid court vision, and knows when to get his teammates involved. Shabazz's potential was made evident versus the L.A. Clippers in mid-November.
Shabazz Napier is still a rookie, and that alone should give Miami a lot of hope for the future, but also makes Norris Cole expendable in the interim. Regardless, from what I've seen thus far, I'm officially on the Shabazz bandwagon and can definitely see him as Miami's future point-guard.
I like James Ennis, he's extremely athletic and with that comes enormous potential. Regardless he's really been under-performing for the amount of playing time he's been getting recently. While Ennis' minutes have fluctuated consistently during the season due to Miami's many injuries he has been anything but consistent. Unlike Napier, Ennis is very raw. He's spastic, jumpy, as well as explosive and that often affects his decision making in key situations. That being said, I'm not worried about Ennis. He's in a professional environment and will continue to develop throughout the season. The fact that he's finding minutes as a rookie just goes to show that the coaching staff has faith in his potential.
Ennis will be a very good NBA player in the future. It just probably won't be this year. While we wait for his breakout season we can still look forward to plays like this.
Miami's rookies are playing well. While most likely not rookie of the year candidates, they're right where they should be in Miami's veteran system. The future is bright for Heat faithful, and this is but a glimpse of the franchise's future.