COMMENTARY | The Miami Heat and LeBron James have pushed the Indiana Pacers one step closer to elimination in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals. While LBJ continues to get his numbers, Chris Andersen is quietly emerging as a possible NBA Finals MVP, should the Heat prevail. Is it time for a Big Three makeover that includes the Birdman?
So, LeBron James scores 30 and the Heat take Game 5 against the Pacers Thursday in South Beach. While the results of the game were in doubt, it's hard to make the case against James getting his numbers; LeBron has been in the 30-something points club for some time.
Arguably, not as apparent is a Heat teammate who has been - without question - a key player in the road to the NBA Finals.
Sure, Chris Andersen is known for coming off the bench and entertaining fans with energy, grown man blocks and bewildering play down low in the paint. That's what Heat executives hired him for. So far, it's working and fans love it.
Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade, one leg of the Big Three, is nursing a worrisome knee injury which has prevented him from exploding to the rim as he's done over the years.
This year in the playoffs, Wade is averaging a meager 13.9 points per game (46 percent) and shooting 71.7 percent from the line (third lowest in his nine-year NBA career). Clearly his impact on offense against the Pacers is marginal at best.
Although Andersen is averaging only 7.1 points per game in the playoffs, he is shooting 86 percent from the field and 75.8 percent from the line.
A closer look on paper reveals the real deal about Birdman's contributions to the Miami Heat. According to Basketball Reference, Andersen's True Shooting Percentage (combination of 2-point field goals, free throws and shots from downtown) is 86.1 percent.
By comparison, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are rated at 61 percent and 49.9 percent, respectively. In other words, Birdman is more productive on the floor than two members of the Big Three.
And get this: Chris leads the Heat with a Win Share (contributions of wins by a player per 48 minutes) of .359. James, Bosh and Wade rank second, fourth and eighth (.273, .171 and .121), respectively.
I'm aware that it's a hard sell to claim Andersen has more talent than the best NBA player on the planet and the 2006 NBA Finals MVP. But Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley are likely happy they picked up the phone and sealed the deal with the 6'10" former Denver Nuggets big man.
Many times in the past, a player-spectator on the bench cried out to prove himself worthy of inclusion in the big games, to shine like the rest of the starting gems.
Chicago Bulls player, Nate Robinson, comes to mind. Although his team didn't close the deal in the playoffs this season, it's fair to say that the tiny big man gave the Windy City hope in the absence of Derrick Rose.
And then, my mind turns to the NFL when Tiki Barber got his big moment in 1997. That year, the University of Virginia running back was drafted by the New York Giants to be called in for third down conversions at best.
However, after Rodney Hampton retired that same year, Barber had his moment on the gridiron. Long story short, Barber became the New York Giants career rushing leader. Imagine that?
Good things come to those who wait and Chris Andersen has waited long enough. Earning the 2013 NBA Finals MVP trophy may be a far stretch if conventional rules still apply. But if the microscope goes a bit below the surface, Birdman has to be included in the mix. No question about that.
But first, LeBron James and the Heat must finish their business with the Pacers in Game 6 Saturday and then make quick work of the idling San Antonio Spurs.
When the smoke clears and the feathers settle, the Birdman and Heat will be there to collect the prize.
Bradley is a professional writer, journalist, sportswriter, and avid fan of the NBA, Motorsports, NFL, PGA and all things tennis. He keeps a watchful eye on Miami Heat developments.
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- Dwyane Wade