This year’s Miami Heat boasts a collection of star players unprecedented in NBA history.
Thus far this team has been pretty good defensively in most areas. They allow 43.8 percent shooting from the field, which ranks seventh in the NBA. Their defensive three-point percentage ranks fifth in the league at 32 percent.
Interior defense is not one of their strengths. The most glaring hole of all is the lack of size and toughness inside. Even casual basketball fans can see it. Most of the problem is on the boards.
The reason they lost in Memphis Saturday night was because of their inability to close out possessions. If you give up second chance points on a repetitive basis you are going to lose.
Udonis Haslem, at just 6'7", 235, is the Heat’s most physical big man. And with him likely out for an extended period of time with a foot injury, Miami’s interior will be tested further as he is the best rebounder and post defender on the team.
They certainly have the length in Chris Bosh (6'11") and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (7'4"). But neither one of those players are considered by any means “beefy”. They can get away with it if they’re physical and play bigger than their weight.
Haslem does. Bosh and Ilgauskas do not.
LeBron James at 6'8", 260, plays big, but most times is defending the perimeter. Can’t we just clone the guy and have him play three spots at the same time?
After 13 regular season games, players like Emeka Okafor, Zach Randolph, Glen Davis and Paul Millsap have dominated the Heat inside.
Joel Anthony’s shot blocking was supposed to deter the opposition from getting to the rim. However, nobody is afraid of him and he has no offensive game to my knowledge. His value to the team has been in question. He has since lost his starting job to Ilgauskas.
When the opposition is getting easy shots on a consistent basis it’s a cause for concern, especially if they aren’t doing the same on the offensive end. It’s a massive disadvantage over the course of a game when one team is taking much more high-percentage shots than the other. It is simple statistics.
Let’s take a look at the current big men on the roster who could receive more minutes.
The rarely used Jamaal Magloire (6'11", 260) is a brute who has lost most of his offensive skills. In fact, if you see his feet leave the ground it’s as miraculous as a solar eclipse. Still, he is certainly physical, partly because he has to be to survive.
He rebounds well because of good positioning and physical play. Why not give him a few minutes during each half to rebound, set some screens and bang some heads?
Then there’s the more intriguing option in rookie center Dexter Pittman (6'11", 290). He has great size, hands, and nice touch inside. Who cares if he has been labeled a developmental player. I find it difficult to believe he cant play 10-15 minutes a night against a team’s backups and provide some much needed muscle on the interior.
Can it hurt to try him out? Playing alongside the Heat’s trifecta of stars will make him look better than he is on the offensive end.
Juwan Howard is another viable option. The 16-year NBA veteran is a solid post defender. His drawback is he’s not going to intimidate anyone from going inside. He’s an old man by NBA standards at 37. Still, he can contribute in limited minutes.
It’s clear Miami needs to acquire some beef from the outside.
One free agent center who would be an excellent fit is Erick Dampier, who stands 6'11" weighing 265 pounds. I’ve endorsed his signing for months. I still cannot fathom how a veteran center who is an elite rebounder is still available.
Although he’s 36, he played at a high level last season. Dampier’s 17.9 rebound rate (a measure of rebound efficiency) last season ranked 18th in the NBA. He’s also very efficient on the offensive end. He has shot above 62 percent from the field in each of the last four seasons. He’s not going to get you 20 points and 10 boards but at least he can contribute on both ends in an efficient manner.
Why hasn’t Pat Riley signed him? If it’s because he wants two years instead of one, I still say ‘so what’? He’s invested in excess of $300 million on three players. If adding another piece for another few million is going to increase the odds of winning a championship he must pull the trigger.
He gave $15 million to Joel Anthony for crying out loud. Admit you were wrong on this one, Pat. Sign Dampier.
The Heat brass can preach all they want about how happy they are with the current state of the roster. But if Miami keeps getting battered inside, who is going to listen?
It’s time for the Heat to go out and get some muscle.