With Shane Battier finding his stroke, the Miami Heat are a nightmare matchup for opposing teams.
When the Miami Heat added Shane Battier this offseason, the old proverb "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer" certainly came to mind. The veteran 6'8" swingman out of Duke added even more depth to an already impressive collection at wing for the Miami Heat. A career 38 percent three- point shooter, everyone expected Battier to thrive in the Heat's system. With the presence of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, Battier was sure to receive some of the most open looks from beyond the arc of his career. It seemed like a perfect fit.
Unfortunately for the Heat, Battier got off to one of the worst starts of his career. In almost every basic statistical category (field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds, assists, and points) Battier is below his career average. Some of this should come as no surprise. No matter how talented a player is; playing alongside the Big Three is going to decrease your stat line, especially when it comes to points and rebounds. There's only so much to go around, especially when Lebron is in the midst of a career year (and maybe one of the greatest regular seasons ever from a pure statistical standpoint).
At the same time, no one could've seen the dramatic decrease in his shooting percentage, especially from beyond the three- point line. The media were quick to panic, with some questioning whether Battier had arrived a year too late. In their defense, Battier was legitimately struggling and over a period of four games- from January 30th to February 5th - Battier attempted 10 three pointers and missed them all. Although the Heat were consistently winning, Heat fans couldn't help but wonder (after seeing Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller never reach full strength last season) if another one of their main additions to supplement the Big Three would never come to fruition.
As always, though, the media were too quick to assess a judgment on a player not even halfway through a season. Let's take a quick look at the circumstances of Battier's arrival in Miami. Battier was arriving in a completely new system after having spent his entire 10- year career with only two other teams in Memphis and Houston. The lockout- shortened season didn't allow him to get a full training camp or much practice time with his new teammates, something a veteran coming to a new team sorely needs. Finally, one can only expect that playing with the Big Three-no matter how open your shots are- takes some serious getting used to.
In Battier's defense, all the while he was struggling with his shot, he was still doing everything else that he has been known for throughout his career. Battier has played solid defense, often guarding the other team's best player when he is in, which allows Lebron and Wade to have more energy on the offensive end. He is also a master at getting his feet set to draw charges, something that is key to the Heat's defensive strategy. In addition, Battier provides another calming veteran voice in the Heat's locker room and by all accounts is a solid, no drama teammate.
To the Heat's relief, they are finally seeing signs of life from Battier at the offensive end. Over his last five games, Battier has taken 15 three-pointers and made eight of them, an impressive 53 percent. Over that same stretch, he has averaged nine points per game, while continuing his impressive play at the defensive end of the floor. At about the halfway point of the season, Battier is finally finding his groove and proving himself to be the player the Heat thought they were acquiring in the offseason.
With the shortened and compressed season the NBA finds itself in, it should come as no surprise that it has taken some veterans awhile to find their game, especially one that has joined a new team. One can only expect that as he grows more comfortable within the Heat's system, his numbers will only continue to improve. If Battier can keep this up, the Heat is even more of a nightmare for any team unlucky enough to face them in a playoff series. Battier's overall game, while not being incredibly flashy or the most pretty to watch, provides the Heat with another glue guy that every team needs to win a championship.
Imagine if the Heat could've thrown Battier on whomever Dallas' hottest shooter at the moment was last year and Lebron and Wade didn't have to expend all that defensive energy chasing Dallas' wing players around. Imagine if Battier could've knocked down his patented corner three every time Wade or Lebron penetrated and forced Dallas out of their stifling zone defense into a man defense, where the Heat had the obvious advantage. With Battier in the mix this year, the Heat are imagining themselves getting a shiny new ring. Yes, it's true, the rich get richer.