Since Shaquille O’Neal got traded in the middle of the 07-08 season, the Miami Heat have not had a legitimate center to replace him and Alonzo Mourning in the middle. For the past few years, the Heat have started everyone from Yakouba Diawhara to a no-longer dominant Jermaine O’Neal. Last year the job was between Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Erick Dampier, but this year, Joel Anthony has assumed the role.
I think we can all agree that we love the way Anthony plays, but we all know he is not the center of the future. He does not provide enough size and gets beat a lot. Plus, he still hasn’t figured out how to catch a basketball. This offseason, Miami’s main priority should be finding that big man to replace Anthony in the starting lineup. Joel is better off the bench anyway, as his energy and hustle are what he is good for. Let’s see what the Heat’s options for the future are:
On the Roster:
Joel Anthony: He has done a better than expected job at the starting position, but he is not enough to contain the big guys of the NBA. Expect him to go back to a bench role this year or maybe get traded at some point. Miami loves him, but this is a business.
Dexter Pittman: Got his first start last night against the Suns and got 6 points on 3-for-6 shooting and 4 rebounds in 14 minutes. He did commit 4 fouls though, which he can’t do as a starter. I’ve always liked Pittman. He is a big guy (6’11, 285lbs) and pretty athletic, but he needs to be more disciplined. They would need to make sure his weight stays down and that he is always in shape. I would not be surprised if he started next year.
Eddy Curry: To be honest with you, I have no idea what to make of the experiment with Curry. He hasn’t played much, and when he has, it hasn’t been very well. My bet would be that Curry is not going to be back next year.
Ronny Turiaf: Although he hasn’t played a game for the Heat yet, I would not be surprised if he stuck around in Miami if he played well. We’ll see though, he’ll probably get an offer from somewhere else.
All free-agents named do not necessarily mean they are the best available, but they are plausible money-wise and the Heat could afford them.
Chris Kaman: While he is not young, he would gladly take a low contract to come play for Miami. There have been rumors about him coming to Miami for months, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened this offseason. He would give the Heat at least a year or two as a starter.
Omer Asik: This is probably a reach because he is going to get a big offer somewhere, but he knows what it’s like to be on a championship caliber team. Plus, I’m sure he would love to face the team he played for in the Eastern Conference finals every year.
Draft (Late First Round):
Fab Melo (Syracuse) : If he were to slip, he would be the perfect guy for Miami to make their center. He is 7 feet tall and is a great defensive player. Melo isn’t very good on offense, but he is raw and could be an excellent player. He was declared ineligible for this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Jeff Withey (Kansas): Emerged this season as a legit starter for Kansas and has a lot of potential. Withey is 7’0 and 235lbs., but has room to bulk up. He is very defensively aware and can finish. This guy would be awesome for Miami, but someone may take a chance on him early.
Festus Ezeli (Vanderbilt): Very underrated center from a surprisingly good Vanderbilt Commodore team. Averaged 10 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as a senior, while averaging 13 and 6 as a junior. He’s a big and athletic guy, so don’t be surprised if this guy is the Heat’s future.
Who do you think is going to be the Heat’s starting center next year?