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Five Stars: 2002-03

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Miami’s 15th season was a little painful

Pacers vs Heat
Caron Butler

2002-03 would be a frustrating season for the Heat. They posted a 25-57 record, and since their first five seasons, for the first time suffered through consecutive losing seasons. Although Miami’s season was the worst in 10 years, hope was just over the horizon. Their tough finish would lead to a high draft position and the unveiling of Miami-Wade County, but first they had to suffer a little.

First Star

35 Caron Butler 820.8

Butler, a 6’7”, 228 lb. small forward and shooting guard out of Racine, Wisconsin. Born on March 13th, 1980, he played for two collegiate seasons with the University of Connecticut Huskies, averaging 18.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in 63 games. The Heat chose him after he declared early for the draft, selecting him with their first round pick in the 2002 NBA Entry Draft, with the 10th overall choice.

Butler led an anemic Miami team that struggled to score points with 1,201, while the team ranked 28th (out of 29) with just 85.6 points per game. Butler was fourth with 397 rebounds, third with 213 assists, first with 137 steals, and fifth with 31 blocked shots. He also led the team with 2,858 minutes played.

Butler ranked 2.7 wins better than a replacement player, and boasted a usage rate of 22.9 with a 15.1 PER and a team-third 5.1 Win Shares. He made 34-of-107 three-pointers (.318) for Miami, draining 429-of-1032 shots overall (.416) and 309-of-375 from the charity stripe (.824), averaging a team-second 15.4 points, a team-fourth 5.1 rebounds, a team-fifth 2.7 helpers, and a team-leading 1.8 steals per game.

Butler scored 20 or more points on 22 occasions through the season for Miami, with three double-doubles. On New Years’ Day, he made 10-of-15 shots from the field, including two-for-two from outside on his way to 25 points in 32 minutes of a 107-73 destruction of the Atlanta Hawks. On January 14th, in an 88-85 win against the Detroit Pistons, he scored 22 points with eight rebounds, four assists and four steals in 44 minutes. By GameScore, his best night of the season was on March 28th, when he lit up the Minnesota Timberwolves for 35 points on 15-of-22 shooting, with seven assists, four steals, three rebounds and two blocks in a 111-84 Heat win.

Butler spent another season in Miami, earning that seldom mentioned “Sixth Star” in 2003-04, with 9.2 points, 5.1 boards, 2.7 helpers and 1.1 steals in 29.9 minutes per game. During the 2004 offseason, Miami traded him with Brian Grant, Lamar Odom, and two draft picks (Jordan Farmar, Renaldas Seibutis) to the Los Angeles Lakers for Shaquille O’Neal.

Butler played one season with the Lakers (77 games, 15.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 steals), later spending four and a half seasons with the Washington Wizards (310 games, 19.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals), a year and a half with the Dallas Mavericks (56 games, 15.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.4 steals), two seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers (141 games, 11.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists), 34 games with the Milwaukee Bucks (11.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists), 22 games with the Oklahoma City Thunder (9.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 steals), 78 games with the Detroit Pistons 5.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists), and 17 games with the Sacramento Kings 3.7 points, 1.3 rebounds). The Kings bought out his contract for the 2016-17 season.

Second Star

44 Brian Grant 758.8

Grant made the Five Stars for the third time in his three seasons with Miami, and was the only player on the team to play in all 82 contests, starting at either center or power forward. He was second on the club with 2,641 minutes on the floor, and led the team with a .509 shooting percentage, making 344-of-676 overall. He drained 158-of-205 free throws for a middling .771 percentage.

Grant also paced the Heat with an NBA-fourth 837 rebounds, grabbing 241 of them off the offensive glass, ranked second on the team with 47 blocks, fourth with 63 steals, and added 104 assists for good measure. He averaged 32.2 minutes per game and scored 836 points overall, for a 10.3 scoring average which ranked him third on the club. His 10.2 rebounds per game ranked him fifth in the NBA.

Grant totaled 31 double-doubles for the season, scoring 20 or more points three times and collecting at least 15 rebounds on 13 occasions. On February 26th, he scored 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting with 15 rebounds and two helpers in 40 minutes of a 91-82 Heat loss to the New Orleans Hornets. He played a game-high 43 minutes on March 4th, leading Miami with 20 points and 12 rebounds, along with a pair of assists in a 100-91 setback to the Milwaukee Bucks. On April 4th, in a 99-83 loss to the New Jersey Nets, he scored 23 on nine-of-12 shooting, with eight boards, two steals, and two assists.

Grant was one of only three players to put up a Player Efficiency Rating above league average, which is set at 15.0. He set a mark of 15.6, leading the team with 7.7 Win Shares, but his usage rate of 16.0 was the second lowest mark on the team, ahead of only Ken Johnson’s 13.8.

Third Star

5 Eddie Jones 636.2

Jones was also appearing in the Five Stars for the third time in three seasons, although he missed 35 games due to injury. Despite that, he led Miami with 18.5 points, ranking second on the club with 869 overall points. He started in all 47 games that he appeared in, at shooting guard.

Jones led the team with an 18.9 PER, which was no surprise, and ranked second on the club with 6.0 Win Shares. He was also second on the team with 64 steals and with 1.4 per game. He added 226 rebounds (a team-fifth 4.8 per game), 173 assists (a team-second 3.7 per game), and 31 blocks (a team-third 0.7 per game) in 1,789 minutes (a team-high 38.1 per game). He made 291-of-688 field goals (.423), 98-of-241 three-pointers (for a team-best .407) and 189-of-230 free throws (.822).

On December 14th, in a 101-92 Heat win over the Golden State Warriors, Jones filled up the scoresheet with 38 points on 11-for-16 shooting, including four-of-six from beyond the arc, along with six rebounds, five steals, and four assists. Two days later, he played 51 minutes of a 105-100 overtime loss to the Houston Rockets, scoring 32 points with 10 boards, seven helpers, and six steals. On February 28th, he scored 24 with seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and three steals as the Heat came up short in overtime again, to the Memphis Grizzlies by a 126-116 final count. Jones scored 20 or more points 22 times through the season, registering a pair of double-doubles.

Fourth Star

35 Malik Allen 427.3

Allen was a 6’10”, 255 lb. power forward from Willingboro, New Jersey. Born on June 27th, 1978, he averaged 8.9 points and 5.6 rebounds over 127 games in four seasons at Villanova. After going undrafted, he played with the San Diego Wildfire in the ABA and in the IBL with the Trenton Shooting Stars. During the 2001 offseason, he signed on with the Heat.

In his first season with Miami, Allen was used sparingly, appearing in only 12 games and starting twice at power forward. He had 52 points with 38 rebounds and eight blocks in 161 total minutes.

2002-03 would see Allen take a larger role in Miami’s fortunes, such as they were. He started in 73 of his 80 games for the Heat at power forward, ranking second on the club in appearances and third with 2,318 minutes on the floor. He made 335-of-790 shots in total, for a .424 success rate, and added a 97-for-121 performance from the foul stripe (.802). He scored a team-fourth 767 points, a team-third 425 rebounds, a team-leading 78 blocks, and 54 assists with 37 steals.

In 29.0 minutes per game (Miami fourth), he averaged 9.6 points (fourth), 5.3 rebounds (third), and a team-best 1.0 blocks. He rated a 9.9 PER, a 19.7% usage rate, and just 0.9 Win Shares, which ranked him behind the other four stars - plus Mike James, Travis Best, and LaPhonso Ellis.

Allen did have his moments in his second NBA season, racking up five double-doubles and scoring in double digits in 42 contests. By GameScore, his best showing of the season was in the opener, a 100-86 loss to the Orlando Magic in which he scored 22 points on nine-of-13 shooting, with seven rebounds in 33 minutes. On November 19th, he scored 16 with 13 boards and a season high four assists in a 97-93 Heat win over the Milwaukee Bucks. On January 18th, in a 102-101, two-overtime win against the Chicago Bulls, he scored 23 points with five rebounds, a steal and a block in 47 minutes.

Allen played another season and part of a fourth with the Heat, but on better versions of the team did not rank very highly in terms of total contribution. In 151 games in total, he averaged 7.2 points and 4.2 rebounds. On February 24th, 2005, the Heat traded him to the Charlotte Bobcats for Steve Smith.

After 22 games with Charlotte (5.0 points, 2.1 rebounds), Allen went on to play with the Chicago Bulls (114 games, 4.5 points, 2.3 rebounds), the New Jersey Nets (48 games, 5.4 points, 2.7 rebounds), the Dallas Mavericks (25 games, 3.1 points, 2.7 rebounds), the Milwaukee Bucks (49 games, 3.2 points, 2.1 rebounds), the Denver Nuggets (51 games, 2.1 points, 1.6 rebounds) and the Orlando Magic (18 games, 1.3 points, 1.8 rebounds). He currently serves on the Detroit Pistons coaching staff.

Fifth Star

50 Vladimir Stepania 394.7

Stepania was born in Tbilisi, Georgia (USSR) on May 8th, 1976. He eventually grew into a 7’, 236 lb. center, and got drafted out of the Slovenian league in the first round of the 1998 NBA Entry Draft, by the Seattle SuperSonics with the 27th overall selection.

Stepania played two seasons with the Sonics, totaling 53 appearances and playing 9.7 minutes per appearance. His stats per-36 minutes would never really be better, as he averaged 14.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 1.4 steals and an assist during his tenure in the Northwest. He played 29 games for the New Jersey Nets in 2000-01, putting up 10.5 points, 14.0 rebounds, 2.1 helpers, 1.4 blocks, and 1.3 steals per 36 minutes, but unfortunately for him he only played 9.7 minutes per game, again.

Just prior to the 2001 preseason, the Heat signed Stepania to a contract through free agency. He played a then-career high 67 games for the Heat in 2001-02, and scored 11.6 points with 11.0 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.0 steals per 36, in 884 minutes.

In 2002-03, Stepania appeared in 79 contests for Miami, starting six times at center. He scored 441 points with a team-second 554 rebounds, 24 assists, 45 steals, and a team-fourth 40 blocked shots. He drained 185-of-427 shots from the floor (.433) and sank 71-of-134 from the line for a dreadful .530 success rate. Still, believe it or not, there were eight player-seasons with over 100 free throw attempts with worse percentages, topped by Shaquille O’Neal’s 124-for-294 (.422) crime against nature in 2006-07. Shaq was also three of the other seven player-seasons, but I digress.

Stepania played a total of 1,594 minutes for Miami, or 20.2 per game. Both figures were career-highs for the big Eastern European, although the stats ranked just seventh and eighth on the Heat that season, respectively. He averaged 5.6 points and a team-second 7.0 boards. Think about it. This was the fifth biggest seasonal contributor to the 2002-03 version of the Heat. 5.6 points. 7.0 rebounds. Yeah. Still, all things are relative, and for that season, he was the fourth most efficient player on the Heat, with a 13.6 PER and a team-fourth 2.9 Win Shares despite a bargain-basement usage-rate of just 16.4%.

Stepania had seven double-doubles for Miami through the season, scoring in double figures 15 times. His best game of the season, by far, was on New Years’ Day, in a 107-73 rout of the Atlanta Hawks. Stepania scored 16 points on six-of-seven shooting off the bench, grabbing 13 rebounds with four steals, two helpers and a blocked shot in 27 minutes.

Stepania would join the Portland Trail Blazers through free agency for the 2003-04 campaign, and appear in 42 games to average 8.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes, retiring after the season.

The Rest

1 Travis Best 386.4

7 Mike James 385.9

45 Rasual Butler 275.8

5 Eddie House 240.3

25 Anthony Carter 173.6

3 Laphonso Ellis 161.7

21 Sean Lampley 115.0

54 Ken Johnson 17.1

22 Sean Marks 15.7