Miami Heat: How Does the Team's Front Line Compare With Other Elite NBA Teams?
One of the biggest questions marks surrounding the Miami Heat during the 2010-11 season is how their supporting players will complement the superstar trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
Pat Riley did an admirable job of filling out the Heat's roster after his block-buster moves, and while the flow of players willing to accept less money to join the trio never materialized as some predicted, Riley did get the best players available.
Mike Miller provides the Heat with size on the perimeter, and his three-point-shot will be a deadly weapon that is sure to be utilized when James and Wade attack the basket.
Miller joins a group of steady perimeter role players which include the likes of Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo, but the bigger issues concerning the Heat's supporting cast lie in the paint, rather than the perimeter.
Wade and James are good enough ball-handlers to compensate for any disadvantages the Heat may face on the perimeter, but what happens when the game switches to the paint?
Bosh is a great scorer and rebounder, as his 20 points and more than 10 rebounds per game will attest, but his slender 6'10" frame is much better suited for a finesse game, rather than a physical one.
Bosh has never had the reputation of a stand out defensive player, but his skills in that area will be highlighted since the paint area is perceived as the main weakness of the Heat's team.
How Bosh responds is up for debate and it's not easy to get a picture from his time as a Toronto Raptor because those teams were not exactly known for their prowess on the defensive end of the court.
And defense is what it really boils down to for the Heat's interior players because outside of Bosh, none of them will be asked to contribute consistently on the offensive end.
After Bosh, the rest of the Heat's paint players are a mixture of youth, size, experience, and questionable talent.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juwan Howard are expected to play important minutes for Miami, but Howard is near the end of his career and even though Ilgauskas is long at 7'1", he lacks quickness and has a limited range of mobility.
Udonis Haslem did accept less money to remain with the Heat, and he may be their best defensive option in the post, but he's under-sized at 6'8" and will find it difficult to defend bigger, stronger players.
So how do the Heat's interior players measure up to other elite NBA teams such as the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, and Los Angeles Lakers?
The Heat's cast of paint players are strikingly similar to last season's Cleveland Cavaliers' own post players in terms of size and depth, although it could be argued that Cleveland held an edge in talent.
Ilgauskas was joined on that team by Shaquille O'Neal, Anderson Varejao, Antawn Jamison, Leon Powe, and J.J. Hickson. That group of post players is just as talented as the group Miami will field, but they were overwhelmed by Boston in the playoffs.
Assuming Kendrick Perkins returns healthy from a knee injury sustained during the Finals, the Celtics will present very similar challenges to Miami's team.
Kevin Garnett and Bosh may cancel each other out, although Garnett does have a height advantage and is more inclined to engage in physical battles in the paint.
But the Celtics' combination of Shaquille O'Neal, Perkins, Jermaine O'Neal, and Glen Davis are clearly more talented than Miami's post players, and they are bigger and stronger as well.
Jermaine O'Neal was the Heat's best post player last season, and while he may play a reserve role in the city of Boston, he would have been Miami's second best post option behind Bosh had he stayed.
The Orlando Magic do not have the Celtics' depth in the front court, but they do have size in players such as Marcin Gortat and Ryan Anderson, as well as the league's most dominant post presence in Dwight Howard.
Miami matches up better with Orlando because they have a multitude of fouls to spare on Howard in players like Dexter Pittman and Jamaal Magloire, while James and Wade should have little trouble rotating to defend Orlando's outside shooters.
But, that theory could also work in reverse since Miami does not have one player on their roster who is capable of defending Howard in a one-on-one situation, and that could become necessary at some point.
The defending NBA champion Lakers are the favorites to meet whomever survives in the East, and their core of front court players are arguably the NBA's best.
Rebounding wins championships and the Lakers were the top rebounding team in last season's playoffs—their paint players are long, athletic, talented, and physical.
Los Angeles dispelled the myth of having a soft interior in the 2010 NBA Finals. Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom averaged nearly thirty rebounds between them in the process.
Bosh and Haslem are the only paint players that averaged more than six rebounds per game for the Heat, and during the course of a seven game series could Miami's front court players survive the Lakers' post assault?
James, Wade, and Bosh take a tremendous amount of pressure off the Heat's supporting cast, and James is a great rebounder in his own right, but at some point during the season or playoffs, the performance of the post players will take center stage.
How they perform when that time comes may determine if Miami is able to live up to their status as a prime contender for the NBA title.
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