Given Josh Harrellson's unique skill set and size, the Miami Heat made what seemed to be a wise decision when they signed him in September. Prior to the season, it was speculated that Harrellson would carve out a small role spelling Chris Bosh at the 5.
However, throughout the first quarter of the 2012-13 season, Harrellson's role can best be described as non-existent. That's a problem, and the Heat need to create a role for him now.
Harrellson appeared in his third game for the Heat on November 11 against the Memphis Grizzlies. He played four minutes, (which brought his season total to 10), made both of his attempts from the field (one of them being a three-pointer) and grabbed four boards.
Harrellson hasn't seen the court since, which is quite mystifying considering that performance did a fine job of showcasing two specific skills that he brings to the table: rebounding and outside shooting.
While the Heat have shown they can win without being a very good rebounding team (29th in the league in rebounds per game and a 16-6 record), it's still an area in which they would obviously benefit from improvement.
Harrellson can certainly help in that regard. In only 14.6 minutes per game as a member of the New York Knicks last season, Harrellson averaged 3.9 boards, which equates to a solid 12.8 rebounds per 48 minutes.
By comparison, Bosh's current backup, Joel Anthony, averaged the same 3.9 rebounds per game last season as Harrellson, although his came in 21.1 minutes per contest (8.9 rebounds per 48 minutes). And the results have been even worse this year, with Anthony current averaging 7.9 rebounds per 48 minutes.
Also, considering the team's style of play, Harrellson's long-range shooting and ability to space the floor should help earn him some playing time.
Much of what makes Chris Bosh so valuable to the Heat's offense is his outstanding range. This season, Bosh is shooting an absurd 60.0 percent on shots from 16-24 feet away, according to Hoopdata.
Defenders have to respect Bosh’s shot, which can create easy scoring opportunities for other Heat players. But when Bosh comes out in favor of Anthony, that element coming from the center position disappears. Anthony is an abysmal offensive player with no range and defenses regard him as such.
That wouldn't be the case with Harrellson.
Even at 6'10" and 275 pounds, Jorts has got some solid range. Last season with the Knicks, Harrellson knocked down 33.9 percent of his 1.6 three-point attempts per game. That range can definitely space the floor in a way that Anthony is incapable of.
The rationale behind having Anthony in the rotation and Harrellson on the bench is quite clear: Anthony is a very good workhorse-like defender and the Heat are trying to focus on improving their defense. However, while he's not as defensively skilled as Anthony, it’s not as if Harrellson is a poor defender. Last season, Harrellson as a center held opponents to a low 12.4 PER, according to 82games.
Still, what Harrellson’s case to play really boils down to is that he would provide a needed boost in rebounding and he fits in very well with what the Heat want to accomplish offensively (as opposed to Anthony).
Harrellson recently spoke about his lack of playing time to the Sun Sentinel:
"It's really tough," the outside-shooting big man said of showering before games and then changing into street clothes. "I wasn't used to it. The first five, six games, it was kind of mentally draining, thinking about not dressing. But right now, my mindset is a whole different level. I'm just going out there and supporting my team.
While it's good to see Harrellson is keeping a positive attitude about his time on the bench, hopefully the big man is given an opportunity soon to prove he can be much more than a supporter.