For 12 years, Chris Andersen has made a career out of energy, intensity, solid defense and an awesome nickname. He never once averaged more than 10 points per game, only averaged more than 20 minutes per game three times in his career, and was often better known for his hairstyle and tattoos than his play on the court.
When Miami signed him last year it was an afterthought. Nobody expected him to contribute much and most thought that he would simply be used as a defensive enforcer and antagonist to get under the opposition's skin. Birdman averaged 4.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and a block in just 14.9 minutes per game for 42 games during last year's regular season. He played his role well and brought energy to a Miami second unit that needed it, but his true value was not realized until the postseason.
|Efficiency Rating||True Shooting %||Effective Shooting %||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Win Shares/48 Minutes
|2012-2013 Regular Season Stats||17.4||63.1%||58.5%||125||100||0.207|
|2012-2013 Postseason Stats||24.9||81.5%||80.7%||150||99||0.309|
Andersen was spectacular during the Heat's run to their second consecutive NBA Championship. Despite only averaging 6.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game, Birdman's energy, offensive efficiency and defensive presence cannot be overstated. The advanced metrics speak for themselves. The Heat center posted a monstrous 81.5% true shooting percentage, an 80.7% effective shooting percentage, a massive 150 offensive rating, a 99 defensive rating, a 24.9 player efficiency rating and .309 win shares per 48 minutes. Those numbers are straight up ridiculous!
Birdman rode his momentum from last year's post season into this season. His true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage, offensive rating and win shares all improved from last season and he was rewarded with an increase in minutes. In result, Andersen's points, rebounds and rejections all increased this season as well.
Although his playoff numbers are not quite as gaudy as last season, Andersen has once again been impressive this postseason. So far this postseason Birdman ranks fifth among all players in field goal percentage (62.5%), seventh in player efficiency rating (21.9), fourth in true shooting percentage (66.3%), eighth in effective shooting percentage (62.5%), second in offensive rating (133.6) and third in win shares per 48 minutes (.236). Not too shabby.
As good as Birdman has been, for some reason he is still only playing 17.5 minutes per game. With the way he has been playing Erik Spoelstra needs to strongly consider moving Andersen into the starting lineup, especially against a Pacers frontcourt featuring Roy Hibbert and David West.
Other than future hall-of-famers LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Andersen has been the Heat's best player through the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals. After scoring 14 points in Game 1, third most on the team behind only James and Wade, Andersen grabbed a team high 12 rebounds in Game 2. Additionally, the Heat center posted a monstrous +25 plus/minus in Game 2, a Heat playoff high other than his own +28 in Game 1 against the Bobcats.
While Andersen has thrived against the Pacers the other heat big men have struggled. Chris Bosh has scored just 18 points, making only eight of his 21 shots and posting a -20 plus/minus. Udonis Haslem has been even worse, scoring only seven points and grabbing only five boards, with a -24 plus/minus.
The small-ball lineup with Bosh at center that Coach Spo loves to play has been rather ineffective against the Pacers. Bosh has been dominated on the glass by Hibbert who, before playing the Heat, was struggling on the glass this postseason. Hibbert has out-rebounded Bosh 22 to 8 through the first two games of the series. In addition, with Bosh starting at center, one of LeBron or Shane Battier is constantly forced to guard West. Both James and Battier are out of their comfort zone guarding much bigger players and have historically struggled when matching up against the Pacers power forward.
Inserting Andersen into the starting lineup will immediately help solve these problems. The Heat center is coming off of a 12 rebound performance and should continue to be more effective than Bosh in keeping Hibbert off of the glass. With Andersen at center, Bosh will slide over to power forward to guard West which should take some pressure off of LeBron on the defensive end and allow him to expend more energy on offense.
There is some precedent for the Heat to go with this lineup. During the regular season, the Heat outscored opponents by 13 points per every 100 possessions that both Andersen and Bosh were on the floor, which is significantly better than both the combination of Bosh and Battier (plus-10.5) and the combination of Bosh and Haslem (plus-5.2).
Simply put, the Heat are a better team with Andersen on the floor this postseason. They're a +46 with Birdman in the lineup this postseason, and +28 in the Eastern Conference Finals alone. Not only is Andersen's size and production going to be huge for the remainder of the series against Indiana, but if the Heat make it to the finals, it could be even more important in a potential matchup against Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw and the Spurs' dominant frontcourt.
If you ask me, it's time for Coach Spo to insert Birdman into the starting lineup, play him more minutes and never look back.