I posted over the summer that I believed the Heat got tremendous value from their vet minimum free agents and the MLE. I am now eating my words near the end of the season where the supporting cast has not played at a championship level.
One player I thought could make a difference was Z. What I didn't account for was how much he has washed in the last two years. Last January, he began a steep descent in stats until he wasn't a factor in the playoffs. This may have been due to a decline in minutes (we don't know which is the correlating factor) because of Shaq and Hickson. Perhaps more telling was the season before, where he seemed to peak in January and hit a wall in February/March. I'll call this the veteran's wall: vet's who's bodies aren't up for the grind anymore hit a wall. This year? He seems washed.
Same story for Juwan Howard in 09/10. He had a nice (shortened) April, but showed the same late-season fade. You don't have to go to stats to see that Bibby is aging (although his defense yesterday wasn't completely atrocious, he knocked down shots, and generally took care of the ball).
Losing Haslem early was tough. I still think they need to figure out their rotation, and I think it's gotta involve younger guys like Jones, Anthony, House. Miller has been a complete waste of the MLE; it could be that he's still off from the injury, but he's a pro, I don't buy that he can use that excuse. Last night against the Thunder, the difference was when both teams collapsed on defense, the Thunder could hit open shots. House and Jones could help there.
So I was wrong about the vets contributing. Now what do the Heat do? If I'm Spoelstra, here's my lineup: Chalmers, Wade, James, Bosh, Dampier. I sub House for Wade, Anthony for Dampier and let Bosh and LeBron play, with House as a kickout. This unit needs to focus on defense. Then I sub Bibby for Chalmers, Jones for LeBron, and Miller for Bosh, play Bibby, Wade, Miller, Jones, Anthony, and let Wade drive and kick. I think this unit can score on you. Then, my final sub is James for Bibby, Bosh for Jones, Dampier for Anthony, and close with James, Wade, Miller, Bosh, Dampier (or another center, or a guard if they go small).
This involves the young guys, the critical guys I think the Heat need for the playoffs. When (if) Haslme returns, limit Dampier and Anthony in his favor. Is this the way they should go? All I know is I think they could knock down more jumpers and made last night's game better. Is it a plan for the playoffs? You make the call.
Bracket predictions soon!