Keeping An Eye On Contenders: Johnson Brings Much Needed Support to Heat

The mention of the Miami Heat doesn’t evoke the same thoughts and feelings as it did just a few seasons ago. For obvious reasons, the Heat have found themselves in some tough spaces since their short reign as one of the NBA’s elite teams. Now that they’ve added veteran Joe Johnson to the mix, they may have a chance to save a season that looked to have taken a questionable turn.

It was a February 9th meeting with the San Antonio Spurs that brought some unwanted news to the Heat. Chris Bosh would suffer a calf injury that has turned out to be much more than originally thought. The possible complications of the calf injury have him and the Heat struggling to keep him available for the rest of the season. Obviously, losing his 19.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game would be a tough pill to swallow for the number four team in the East, who are fighting to stay relevant.

In comes Johnson, who’s previous season was not much to rave about.  The seven-time All-Star may not be the caliber of player he used to be in his prime, but Johnson is still a very capable shooter that can space the floor for the Heat’s brand of small ball. Prior to joining the team, Johnson was putting up 11.8 points, 4.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds on 37.1% three-point shooting with the Brooklyn Nets. He’ll be able to make an instant impact from three-point range because the Heat don’t really have a specific 3-point shooter.

Offensive production has been a weak link for the Heat’s 29th ranked offense. They just don’t have consistent shooting. Through 59 games, they are shooting 37.1% from the field and 31.7% from beyond the arc. Two of their most accurate shooters, Bosh and Beno Udrih (who was waived Monday), are out of action with injuries. Next up is young Tyler Johnson, who is capable, but it really isn’t a big part of his game, and he’s been out since January (shoulder surgery). With a veteran like Johnson in the lineup, they at least know what they have in that area of the offense.

Along with his shooting prowess, Johnson brings a level of experience that the Heat need with Bosh out. Of course he won’t be expected to lead like Bosh did, but he can definitely provide some type of example and insight to some of the younger pieces on Miami’s squad, who see a lot of playing time like Justise Winslow, Hassan Whiteside, and Josh Richardson. Joe’s play making ability and experience will be especially needed within a playoff series, where the rookies will most likely struggle.

In his debut against the Knicks, Johnson poured in 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists in 30 minutes of play. While he was only 1 for 3 from deep, his presence on the floor clearly opened things up for other Heat players like Dwayne Wade to drop in 26 points.

It will be interesting to see how the addition of Johnson will change the playing time of Gerald Green, who is going through a devastating slump right now. In his past three appearances, he is 0 for 11 in 62 minutes. Green has been the Heat’s number one scoring option off the bench, but he may have to figure out how to produce with an adjusted amount of minutes now.

The Heat have won 6 out of their last 10 games. The next six games will only feature one current playoff team (Chicago Bulls), who they’ll play twice. The last 17 games after that will only include 7 playoff teams. Needless to say, the Heat have a chance to finish in the top three of the East. For all the adversity they’ve faced and continue to manage this season, Miami has more to be hopeful for than they probably should.