3 Ways Kenyon Martin Would Address Miami Heat's Defensive Woes
In a game that could be described as a tale of two halves, the Nets exploited the Heat's lack of size to begin the game, pounding them on the glass for an 11-rebound advantage by halftime and using ball movement to collapse their disjointed defense.
In the second-half, however, Miami's defense and effort were vastly improved, leading to a remarkable come-from-behind win.
The likely takeaway from the game: Miami is just pacing itself through a long season, and that is why it has been getting killed on defense and on the glass.
Here is the stumbling block in that theory, though.
There is a difference between beating an elite team with size and an elite team with elite size.
Kris Humphries and Andray Blatche aren't Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Zach Randolph or Blake Griffin.
For that matter, neither are Kendrick Perkins or Serge Ibaka, two big men who unofficially validated the anointment of small-ball during the NBA Finals.
Now, fortunately or unfortunately for the Miami Heat, there aren't a lot of elite big men in the NBA, particularly in the Eastern Conference.
The positive of that is Miami should be able to use small ball to comfortably land it back into the NBA Finals for the third year in a row.
But the negative is Miami could develop a false sense of comfort in small ball that ultimately comes back to haunt them in the NBA Finals. And keep in mind that, outside of Oklahoma City, all the other elite teams in the West have at least one elite big man on their team.
Enter Kenyon Martin.
Here are three ways the controversial forward could solve Miami's defensive woes.
Martin's Above the Rim Games saves Clippers
If you go on YouTube and type "Kenyon Martin," your first 20 hits will likely be comprised of montages of his greatest dunks and blocks.
Ultimately, the one tool that has helped Martin sustain a relatively long career in the NBA is his athleticism.
According to his NBA.com player profile, Martin's career averages include: 7.1 rebounds per game, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks.
Think maybe the Heat could use someone like him in the middle to help them boost their rankings in those categories?
One quality that Martin shares with LeBron James is that his athleticism, speed and size (6'9, 240 pounds) allow him to guard several different positions on the court.
Now typically, LeBron can be seen guarding the opposing team's best player in the closing minutes of a game because he is their best defender.
But because Miami doesn't want him to burn all his energy on the defensive end, it usually assigns its resident defensive stalwart, Shane Battier, to cover that guy for the majority of the game.
Now, perhaps against the likes Carmelo Anthony or Paul Pierce, who play off the perimeter more than they do the post, assigning Battier won't be a problem.
But against inside-the-paint bangers like Zach Randolph or David West, we've already learned this season that it's only a matter of time before Battier either gets hurt (worst-case scenario) or that Miami's defense collapses as a result of helping him down low (typical scenario).
If Martin were brought aboard, that wouldn't be a problem.
And, given that Miami's small-ball approach inherently feeds off an up-tempo approach, Martin's above-the-rim game should theoretically blend in better on the offensive end than Udonis Haslem has thus far.
Martin put Dirk on his behind
One of the most underrated roles commonly filled on championship-contending teams is the job of an enforcer.
From Dennis Rodman on the Chicago Bulls, Bill Lambier on the bad-boy Detroit Pistons, Kendrick Perkins on the '08 Boston Celtics, Metta World Peace on the Los Angeles Lakers and Stephen Jackson on the San Antonio Spurs, time and again we have all seen the benefits of having one intimidating presence on a team.
As of now, the Heat have Udonis Haslem filling that role.
The only problem is that, in order to really fill that kind of role, opponents have to legitimately believe an enforcer is crazy enough for real danger to be a possibility.
And, well, Kenyon Martin fits that criterion to a T.
He's gotten into fist fights.
He's made veiled threats at NBA owners.
He has a tattoo of a lip mark on his neck.
In short, Kenyon has proven throughout his career that he's not afraid to go that extra mile.
And boy oh boy, how much juicier would the Heat's rivalry against the Celtics be if Kenyon Martin were in the picture?
I have two words for you—Heat-Knicks.
Ah, the possibilities.