Miami Heat: Why the Heat Don't Need a True Center

Joshua J Vannuccini@@jjvannucciniSenior Analyst IIIMay 30, 2012

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 12:  Dwyane Wade #3, LeBron James #6, and Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat poses during media day at American Airlines Arena on December 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Over the last two seasons, the intelligence of the Miami Heat front office has been seriously questioned.

When the "Big Three" of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was formed, the major uncertainty of who would play center exploded into the media. The Heat responded by starting Zydrunas Ilgauskas for the majority of the regular season, in addition to Joel Anthony, Jamaal Magloire and Erick Dampier. This season Heat President Pat Riley added Eddy Curry and Ronny Turiaf to the roster. Most fans remain asking why a solid big man has yet to be added to the roster. However, there are clear, concise reasons behind this.

The Miami Heat is no doubt an offensively dynamic team, and it starts with the Big Three. James and Wade are two of the best scorers in the league, with an array of moves at their disposal. James can shoot, post and drive to the hole, in addition to creating shots for his team-mates.Wade is similar, yet possesses an unmatched ability to split pick-and-roll defenses and slash to the rim. 

Then you have Chris Bosh, who isn’t your classic example of a power forward. He isn’t a physical, rebounding player who spends a lot of time in the paint.Yet he has one of the best mid-range jump-shots in the NBA, as well as supreme quickness for his size. Bosh runs the floor with the best of them, and often uses this aptitude in face-up situations on the block.

Now you have Miami’s role players: Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and James Jones, whose primary responsibility is to knock down open shots made available from the opportunities Bosh, James and Wade create. What is vacant from this near-perfect offensive scheme is a low-post threat.

Yet one glaring possibility is this: do the Miami Heat need one?

Miami’s offensive pace is certainly vivacious with James and Wade on the perimeter. One criticism is that often either player will settle into an isolation play, and attempt to score themselves. Just as often, they are successful doing so.

However, it slows down the rapidity of their offensive sets. Acquiring a low-post center would require them to have position on the low-block, receive the ball, and attempt to score. I don’t mean to question your understanding of what a post-up is, but consider this scenario: once this center is fed the ball and begins to work against his defender, James, Wade and Bosh are all left watching. 

Many may not realize, but just as often as their isolation plays are condemned, so will this envisioned post-up scoring. The Heat’s offense requires constant movement and a fast tempo, much like their defensive sets. Obtaining a player of this caliber would ruin their play style, and significantly slow down their defense.

As the playoffs arrived last season, Miami had Ilgauskas, Dampier, Magloire and Anthony as the only contributors at center. Save for the latter, it can safely be said that all three were low-post players and defenders. Yet as the Heat advanced through each round, all three were put on the inactive list.

Anthony, Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh began to fill in at the five, and Miami went on a run.

They defeated the Chicago Bulls, the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference and their premier rebounders in Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik. They unfortunately were defeated by the Mavericks, as Dallas' defense was too much for James and the Heat to operate.

Yet once again this season, Miami has advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals on one leg with Bosh injured. The dominance of James and Wade led the Heat past the Indiana Pacers, even though their significant weakness was their thin front-line. Roy Hibbert, David West and Tyler Hansbrough did not take advantage of this, for one reason: Miami’s defense. Anthony, Haslem and Ronny Turiaf are the Heat’s rotation players at center with Bosh out, and it has provided them with unrivaled success. If Miami can play at such a high level without a low-post threat, in addition to their All-Star power forward, they certainly can continue without one when Bosh returns.

MIAMI, FL - MAY 24:  Luol Deng #9 of the CHicago Bulls drives against Joel Anthony #50 (R), Chris Bosh #1 (L) and Mike Bibby #0 of the Miami Heat in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 24, 2011 at American Airlin
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

I’m not one to jump on the ‘Heat hater’ bandwagon, but it seems an undeserving amount of criticism is coming Miami’s way in this aspect. Another team that has this same issue is the Oklahoma City Thunder, yet there has been no word of that. They may even be a step back from Miami, as the Heat have an All-Star forward in Bosh. No doubt Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka are solid defenders, but their offensive games are very one-dimensional.

Yet both teams had very successful seasons, and have carried that into the playoffs. The Heat and the Thunder are battling in their respective Conference Finals, continuing without low-post scoring from their big men. Miami is predicted to make a second straight NBA Finals appearance, yet again without a solid big man.

The need for such a player goes against their offensive and defensive style, and would indeed disrupt the chemistry of the team. The roster is extremely dynamic when it comes to people playing out of position. Adding a prototype center to the mix would not only damage Miami’s flow, but tarnish their hopes for an NBA championship.

If Pat Riley foresaw this group coming together, don’t you think he’d have fixed this hole if it were an issue?