It's difficult to criticize the Miami Heat after they defeated the league-best Chicago Bulls, whose vaunted height and defense were supposed to create problems for Miami what with its lack of a true center.
In the end, the Heat could work around their glaring hole as LeBron James continued his incredible form and Udonis Haslem continued to do enough work to keep the opposing big men at bay.
But for the Heat to win a championship, they need a center. They might just win one anyway depending on whom they meet in the playoffs, but for them to have no troubles in the future, finding someone to fill in next to Chris Bosh in the frontcourt is paramount.
Let's look at whom Miami currently has filling the center position. The Heat regularly make use of a handful of players at center as they try to find the best of their limited bunch for each matchup.
Joel Anthony starts at the moment. When Anthony is the starting center on your team, you have issues. He's small and he is so bad offensively that teams like the Bulls leave him as wide open as can be. He is at least a decent defender, which makes up for his lack of scoring ability. He's also on the All-Star voting ballot. Yeah, OK.
The Heat often go to Haslem with Bosh, really two power forwards sharing the responsibilities. With Bosh's good distance shooting, Haslem is able to clean up offensive rebounds for plenty of second-chance opportunities. Defensively he is fantastic, able to get up and block shots but also able to stay in front of his man, a rare and valuable skill for a big man. However, Haslem is also an undersized center who has struggled against taller defenders in the past.
There is one aspect of his game however that I do not like: his insistence on trying to draw charges. Yes, he has drawn the most charge calls in the league this season. However, attempting to draw a charge is far too hit-and-miss to be considered anything more than a last-ditch desperation play on defense. Essentially, if you have to try to take the charge, your defense has been totally beaten.
Miami also has the great unknown on its bench. Eddy Curry lost close to 100 pounds this offseason in an attempt to get back out on the court. Miami took a risk on Curry, gambling that it would be able to help him shed the necessary weight and give him coaching on his game after a long layoff.
He has only played a handful of minutes but if this works out, the Heat could be looking at having a very good center on their hands for very little money.
But there's the problem for the Heat:
"Could be." "If."
The NBA is not the place for these statements. The center position is the most important in basketball. Without a good center you sacrifice rebounding, defense and the start of your offense.
So, let's say the Miami Heat need to go and find another center, perhaps cutting one of their current batch (likely Joel Anthony). Who who can step in and play at the required level?
The answer is very little for a team like the Heat. Miami as currently built will struggle to land anyone good in a trade without giving up much of its supporting cast. Mike Miller is a walking sprain, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole are likely too valued by the Heat organization to be traded, and is there anyone else on that roster a team would really want to sacrifice height for?
There is the chance they join Chicago in picking up a center for cheap. Both Leon Powe and Joel Przybilla are available and the Bulls are known to have spoken to both about backing up their dominating frontcourt. Miami landing either of these two capable centers should be enough to lock up an NBA championship that it is already heavily favored to win.