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Is Shane Battier the Miami Heat’s Missing Link?

Shane Battier - Miami Heat glue guyNothing like player-driven free agency to spark preseason NBA interest. If the action around the 2010 summer’s “The Decision” wasn’t enough for you, perhaps you’d be satisfied with a 1 week pre-season that so far has included a (1) David Stern veto, (2) trade request by the NBA’s best (and perhaps only decent) center and (3) the breaking up of a Lakers dynasty only 1 year removed from going to 3 straight NBA finals.

If you’re Chairman Mao, er, David Stern, do you really *want* the NBA to go back to the boring days of the 80s and 90s? Where players thought they had no power and stayed with the same loser franchises year after year? Imagine the fun if Nique had gone up to Mike Fratello and told him he only wanted to be traded to the Houston Rockets and play with the Twin Towers? Or if Alex English demanded a trade to Detroit to actually give them some scoring? Or even if Magic had demanded his head coach be fired so he could play for the Lakers’ color guy? Wait, that actually happened…but look how it turned out!

In all of the current craziness however, the most important free agent move to date may have been overlooked: Shane Battier signing with the Miami Heat. In this writer’s move, this signing alone puts the Heat in the pole position to win this upcoming year’s NBA championship.

Here’s why the Shane Battier signing was so important for Lebron & co.:

 

1.     He is the Ultimate Glue Guy.

Look up the definition of “glue guy” in Webster’s and you will almost assuredly be staring at a picture of Shane Battier. And considering the way the Heat team crumbled in the final stretches of last season’s Finals, they needed something a little stronger than Elmer’s to put the pieces back together. Battier will be a strong locker room presence, and do the little things that will allow Lebron and Wade to continue grabbing headlines (Chris Bosh: please take notes).

This is a significant upgrade over Mike Miller, whose only real contribution to the team would have been the ability to drain the 3 pointer, and once that left him last year (shooting a miserable for him 36%), he was practically worthless. Battier has been known to hit the occasional clutch 3, but even absent that, he brings so many intangibles to the table that will benefit the Heat.

 

2.     Defense, Defense, Defense.

Shane Battier playing defense on Kobe BryantWe all know defense wins championships, and Battier is a long wing who loves to D it up. He has an impeccable track record, winning the Defensive Player of the Year award 3 times while at Duke, and repeatedly shutting down some of the best scorers in the NBA. Perhaps most importantly for the Miami Heat, this track record has been stellar against two superstars that may be likely opponents for the Heat should they make a return to the NBA Finals in 2012: Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.

Against Kobe, Battier is famous for employing his (now often copied) hand-in-the-face technique to throw off Bryant’s jumpers. In the head to head match-up, the two players have faced each other 33 times, with Battier fairing relatively well at a 14-19 W-L record, considering the general talent discrepancies between their respective teams. The total stats in these match-ups is listed below.

Player G FG% 3P% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PPG
Kobe Bryant

33

42.9%

31.9%

5.3

5.1

1.9

0.6

3.2

28.8

Shane Battier

33

41.5%

36.4%

4

1.8

0.8

0.9

1

9.8

Battier has managed to hold Kobe nearly 3 points below his career FG% and 2 points below his 3PT%. While Kobe has maintained a respectable scoring average, these points have clearly come at a less efficient pace vs. what he is able to do against the rest of the league, and observant NBA fans have noted that Battier generally gives Kobe a difficult time.

A similar story applies to Kevin Durant, but perhaps even more striking, in 12 head to head matchups, Battier’s teams have completely dominated Durant’s Thunder, winning 9 of 12 games. The H2H statistical breakdown is as follows:

Player G FG% 3P% TRB AST STL BLK PPG
Shane Battier

12

0.464

0.378

4.4

2.3

1.2

0.8

8.4

Kevin Durant

12

0.45

0.405

5.3

2.9

0.9

0.8

21.6

Durant’s FG% is 1 full point below his career FG% of 46.2% with a significant dip in PPG by over 4 points per game. Battier’s length in these games counterbalanced to an extent the amazing wingspan of Durant as noted by Charley Rosen after a matchup in last December 2010.

Most compelling for the Heat, the addition of Battier on defense will allow them to put Shane against the opposing team’s best wing player, allowing Lebron and Wade the freedom to do what they do best, rotate onto double teams and cause havoc playing in the seams. A scary thought given the Heat were the NBA’s best defensive team already last year (when motivated).

 

3.     He had a 3.96 GPA while leading his high school basketball team to 3 state championships, being awarded Mr. Basketball for Michigan and winning the Naismith Award.  

I felt a little ashamed about the inadequacy of my own life while writing this last point. Like Britney Spears, Battier had accomplished more than I ever will by the age of 18. Unlike Britney Spears, his career didn’t subsequently go into a complete nosedive until he ended up a divorced, overweight mom who lives off Starbucks Frappucinos.

More to the point however, Shane Battier is a well-rounded, intelligent basketball player. His dedication to studying the opposing player’s tendencies is now the stuff of NBA legend. Furthermore, he brings a calmness and stability to a Miami Heat locker room that has a familial relationship to Chasing 23’s favorite basketball mom, Gloria James and a newly minted headcase who calls himself the King.

 

In short, Shane Battier completes the Miami Heat. And when we look back on the shortened 2011-2 NBA season, we will likely realize that in the craziest week of free agency, the least crazy guy may have made the biggest difference.

Related posts:

  1. Will A Miami Heat Championship Ruin David Stern’s NBA?
  2. A Postmortem on the Miami Heat

Discussion

2 Responses to “Is Shane Battier the Miami Heat’s Missing Link?”

  1. There is no doubt – the Heat will win it all in 2012. Book it.

    Posted by theheatison | December 14, 2011, 10:34 pm

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  1. [...] Battier was a nice pick-up for the Heat; he remains a solid “glue guy” whose defense will come in handy against the likes of [...]

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