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Why James Jones Deserves a Larger Role in the Miami Heat Rotation

Peter OwenCorrespondent IIFebruary 8, 2012

Despite being a deadly three-point expert, Miami Heat forward James Jones has fallen out of favor in coach Erik Spoelstra's rotation.

That is partly down to a lower standard of play by Jones, but also due to fellow forward Mike Miller recovering from injury and returning to action.

Miller and Jones are much the same offensively—both are noted for their three-point prowess. It is important to understand why Jones has fallen behind Miller in the rotation (looking from a stats-based perspective). Let's take a look.

Per 36 minutes, Jones is shooting at a paltry 43 percent to Miller's pretty crazy 58 percent. Fifteen percent more shots are falling from Miller's hands than Jones's. That alone is nearly reason enough to take Miller ahead of Jones in the Heat rotation.

Miller is shooting 53 percent from behind the three-point line this season, again a huge deal better than Jones' 42 percent mark.

This is a running theme across the board. Miller is out-rebounding Jones at a rate of 5.3 to 3.0 rebounds per 36 minutes. Miller is averaging around 1.3 assists per 36mins to Jones's 0.7.

And the final stats-nail in the coffin is Miller's 13.6 to 10.7 points per 36 minute advantage.

That's why Jones isn't being played. The reason why he should be is evident to any who have watched this lockout-shortened season.

Injuries.

LeBron James has missed games, Dwyane Wade has missed games and Miller has missed games. This is why Jones needs time on the court.

With so many injuries occurring, players further down the rotation on all teams need to be ready to step up when a teammate goes down. None is more true in the case of Jones, who brings some needed shooting depth to a team that only has just two other standout three-point shooters (Mario Chalmers and Miller) on its roster.

If either Chalmers or Miller goes down, Jones is going to have to fill in a considerable void in scoring. He will need to shoot that long-range ball better than he has been in order to force defenses to respect him and guard him tightly. There's nothing worse than replacement players being so limited offensively that opposing defenses simply leave them unguarded on the court.

With Jones able to step into the lineup and produce instantly, the Heat can go deeper into their rotation in a season that is rewarding those teams with deep, talented benches (Chicago, Philadelphia). Going deeper also reduces the general wear and tear on star players once the crucial playoff series arrive this spring. Despite Jones only being able to cut back the Heat's star players' minutes by a fraction, that could be the difference at season's end between a series win and a series loss.

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