2012 NBA Playoffs: Why Lack of a Center Cripples Miami Heat's Title Hopes

Joye PruittSenior Analyst IApril 19, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 12: Ronny Turiaf #21 of the Miami Heat battles for a rebound with Taj Gibson #22 and Ronnie Brewer #11 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on April 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Heat are not a squad that you can count out because of a single grievance.

Whether it is because of a couple of late season failures or just because fans believe their star pupil lacks the mental capabilities to carry the franchise throughout an NBA Finals series, Miami is stacked to epic proportions with an all-around game that could crash any title contender’s hopes.

Yet, Miami isn’t flawless, as no franchise in the league is. Their shortcomings are often blanketed by their propensity to play around them. Still, there are things that Miami may be exposed for during the playoffs that could rout their title hopes before they can be realized.

A trend among analysts that have thoroughly examined the Miami basketball team points toward their lack of a center as the organization’s Achilles' heel.

The Heat do have two of the top-10 players in the league, one being a heavy MVP candidate, but a reason why these stars have not been able to exhaust their potential on the court is because they are trying to make up for the lack of a strong presence in the low post.

Between rebounding, offensively and defensively, and raw power defensively around the rim, Miami is missing out. Just think how ridiculously power-strung a team with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the wing; Chris Bosh and a dominant center in the paint; and a growing option at the point in either Mario Chalmers or rookie Norris Cole would be.

They don’t have that dominant center, however. At the beginning of the season until recently, they were relying on Joel Anthony to fill that void. Last season, he was the king of being a cardinal facet of Miami’s roster without loading the box scores.

His immeasurable defense would force players away from the basket because he shifted the potential of a clean look and his hustle was incomparable. Behind Udonis Haslem, he was Miami’s dirty-work kid.

This season has allowed the public to discover a new avenue of Anthony’s game, one that does not include that consistent grind and stark defense that we saw last year. Anthony is growing inconsistent and has never been much of an option offensively.

He’s averaged 3.3 PTS and 3.9 REB to date. Nothing to gawk at. Nothing to look forward to in the playoffs.

Anthony is solely a defensive specialist who needs to turn the corner on his offensive contributions or he will never be a true factor for a championship contender.

He improved earlier this year, offensively, but not enough to keep Miami from searching for depth at the position.

Ronny Turiaf, the Heat’s starting center, was seen as a steadier line of offense. The three-man scoring ploy was getting a tad bit old. The responsibility cannot be restricted to James, Wade and Bosh. Turiaf’s signing was supposed to highlight a turn of events in Miami’s offensive scheme.

The biggest difference between Turiaf and Anthony is that new starter was speculated to be more refined in his offense. He has a high motor, is athletic, is a hustle defender and provides veteran experience at the position.

However, bringing Turiaf in has not seemed to have the impact the franchise may have hoped. Watching him play defense is fairly decent. When the matter of scoring comes into play, he becomes another liability.

Miami needs scoring from the center position to become solid favorites in the championship and in any of their series against teams with more able low-post players such as the Chicago Bulls (Joakim Noah), the Oklahoma City Thunder (Serge Ibaka), the Orlando Magic (Dwight Howard) and even the Los Angeles Lakers (Andrew Bynum).

Each of these men are stable fractions of their team’s offense and Miami may have to go toe-to-toe with either of these franchises on their way to an NBA title, the Western Conference teams only being met in the NBA Finals.

Miami has a few ways to overthrow their deficit at the position, including Bosh’s presence. Yet, the gap is too big to be filled by Bosh alone.

The Heat need to search for a solid center/offensive option this summer to prepare for an 82-game season. If not, they could be a raving disappointment for the rest of their compilation as South Beach giants.