Ranking the Miami Heat’s Top 5 Small Forwards; Could Butler surpass LeBron? – Denver Post

With 2022-23 marking the Miami Heat’s 35th season, the Sun Sentinel unveils a series of “5 to 35” thoughts from writer Ira Winderman, which covered the franchise’s entire 3 1/2 decades.

After opening the series with a look at the five greatest games in team history, five moments that changed the franchise, the team’s biggest famous fans, five of the biggest personalities over the years, five notable Heat Lifers and the rivalries that have defined the franchise, we started our position-by-position breakdown with the top five shooters and point guards since the franchise’s inception in 1988, moving today to small forward.

1. LeBron James. He arrived on a smoky stage at AmericanAirlines Arena in 2010 in free agency, advancing to the NBA Finals in each of his four fleeting seasons with the franchise, with championships in 2012 and 2013.

An argument could be made – amid Erik Spoelstra’s positionless approach originally designed for James – that he also presents himself as the franchise’s best center, power forward, shooting guard and playmaker in the franchise.

At one point, the distance between James and the franchise’s second-best small forward of all time was the ultimate chasm – until . . .

2. Jimmy Butler. Three years later, Butler has already helped the Heat to an NBA Finals (2020) and in one of his own shots to another (2022).

Like James, it was versatility that made Butler particularly effective in approaching Spoelstra. Except perhaps for time at center, like James, he played the other four positions on the pitch, excelling in each. This season, that role play could include some intense forward action in Spoelstra’s closing line-ups.

In another comparison to James, Butler found his Heat experience liberating. For James, that meant a path to the championships. For Butler, the opportunity to overcome the controversy of his tenure with the Chicago Bulls, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Philadelphia 76ers.

3. Rice Glen. With his apologies to Rony Seikaly, Rice arrived as the Heat’s first star, the franchise’s first-ever lottery pick, as the No. 4 selection in the 1989 draft.

Rice’s ability to stretch defenses with his 3-point shot not only opened the Heat’s eyes to his possibilities, but also that of the Charlotte Hornets – used as the linchpin of the 1995 franchise change trade for Alonzo Mourning.

To this day, the bond between Rice and the Heat remains strong, with Rice serving as a Heat scout and team ambassador, as well as a presence at summer camps for the team’s youth.

4. Jamal Mashburn. If it hadn’t been for the addition of James in 2010, an argument could be made that Mashburn would have become the most versatile small forward in the Heat’s more than three decades, a skilled forward who was also at ease to attack the rim than throw feathered sweaters. .

Mashburn helped stabilize the Heat in those 90s playoff matchups against the Knicks, arguably unfairly dumped with his 2000 offseason trade to the Hornets as a scapegoat for those losses.

One has to wonder what might have been had Mashburn been featured in Spoelstra’s positionless approach.

5. Shane Battier. The classic case of the right player at the right time during a three-year Heat tenure that ended in 2013-14.

With the Heat coming off a disappointing 2011 NBA Finals loss to the Mavericks, Battier was added the following offseason to provide stability for the veterans. He did just that, with stifling defense and timely 3-pointers, with the Heat winning their Big Three championships in Battier’s first two seasons, advancing to the NBA Finals in all three.

Among those who certainly deserve consideration in this role are also Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Antoine Walker, Willie Burton, Bruce Bowen and Mike Miller.

To be continued: We continue our positional evaluations, with the top five power forwards over the years as the franchise turns 35.


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