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There is a strong misconception swirling around regarding the NBA's newest, baddest team in the land, the Miami Heat. Because of the Heat's incredible offseason overhaul, they are constantly picked on.
Nobody likes the new kid in town, especially when he's better than you.
"They don't have enough depth," was one terribly misguided attack. Then the man, the myth, the legend, Pat Riley, went out and surrounded his Hall of Fame core with one hell of a bench. He somehow convinced Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Zydrunas Ilgauskus, and Eddie House, among others, to sign for significantly less for the chance to create a dynasty in South Beach.
That one doesn't bother me nearly as much as "The Heat are inferior defensively," which was created from pure ignorance. That statement is more absurd than Mike Tyson blowing over $400 million in earnings over his turbulent boxing career, and then appearing in one of the most popular comedies ever (The Hangover) out of necessity to feed his drug habit.
Joel Anthony and Zydrunas Ilgauskus figure to man a majority of the minutes at center for Miami next season. With Bosh starting at power forward and Anthony likely the starting center, that is a high quality defensive combo down low. Be patient, I'm about to prove to you why.
When one thinks of the NBA's premiere defensive centers, Dwight Howard and Kendrick Perkins come to mind.
Miami's centers are actually a step above, statistically speaking. Yes, I said above, as in better. Easy now, I would still rather have a Dwight Howard or a healthy Kendrick Perkins over an Anthony or Ilgauskus. Hear me out.
Howard's matchups last season scored 39.4 percent of the time, according to Synergy Sports Technology. Kendrick Perkins finished with an even better mark of 39.3 percent. Those two are among the best defensive presences in the league.
Anthony held opponents to 38.1 percent shooting, a full point higher than the two big names mentioned above. He also finished third in the NBA in blocks per 48 minutes with 3.96. Howard finished just behind Anthony for fourth, while Perkins finished 13th.
Ilgauskus blew them all out of the water, managing to hold his opponents to just 34.3 percent shooting in his 20.9 minutes a night. He isn't the superior shot blocker that Anthony or Howard is, but his ability to play efficient post defense more than makes up for it.
He might be slow footed, but at his size and length he will disrupt the offensive player just by standing there. Size is important in the NBA, just look at the Lakers.
Obviously the numbers aren't everything, and both Miami centers didn't log as many minutes because they were in backup roles, but these advanced statistics measure individual defensive efficiency. Both Miami Heat centers graded excellent in that department.
It is likely with the increase in minutes, Anthony's defensive efficiency will level off some, but why would he be any less effective? Then consider Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem will man the power forward spot along side him. Haslem is as good as a defensive power forward as you will find in the NBA. Just look at the 2006 NBA Finals tapes when he gave Dirk fits. Bosh is active and long, with quick hands and good defensive instincts.
Miami's perimeter players are some of the best help-down defenders in the NBA. Both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have perfected the art of attacking the ball from the weak side, leading to a plethora of blocks and steals.
Starting point guard Mario Chalmers has one of quickest set of hands in the league and has a knack for narrowing passing lanes. He finished fifth last year in steals per 48 minutes with 2.42 (Wade finished fourth with 2.44).
Miami can throw out a devastating defensive lineup of Anthony, Haslem, James, Wade, and Chalmers. It would be like placing a lid on the the opponent's basket.
Don't forget that Miami was second in the league last year in defensive field goal percentage during the regular season, and that was without an athlete like LeBron on the perimeter defensively. They return the team's better defenders in Wade, Haslem, Anthony, and Chalmers.
Just because Wade and James are two of the game's best scorers, doesn't mean they aren't great on the other side of the court.
Often times people have a tendency to overlook a player's defensive ability when that particular player grades off-the-charts as a scorer. Do Wade and James sometimes have "lay off" defensively? Sure, but come playoff time, that "slack" behavior will disappear. All of the stars do it during the regular season to preserve their energy. The NBA regular season is a league of fourth quarters anyway.
Some might argue the Heat don't have enough size, and beef, down low to defend the likes of Shaq, Dwight Howard, and a monstrous Lakers front line. Zydrunas Ilgauskus is 7'3", 260 pounds. Rookie Dexter Pittman is small as well, standing 6'11", 300 pounds.
Hell, Jamaal Magloire can bang, as he is one of the league's best hackers. They can sacrifice his six fouls when the need arises, the only reason they re-signed him anyway.
Although Miami is going to be one of the greatest teams ever on the offensive end, a point that nobody in their right mind would argue, they will prove to be just as good on the other end as well—you know, the side of the court where championships are won.