The Miami Heat have filled a few gaping holes since the acquisition of the ‘Big Three’ in the Summer of 2010.
Critics said the Heat had a hole in the bench; they filled it with Shane Battier, Norris Cole, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. They said the Heat would have problems at the point; Cole was one of the league’s surprises last year and Mario Chalmers had the best year of his career. They would point out the Heat don’t have any true centers who could aggressively go after rebounds and provide a consistent imposing presence in the post.
The Heat didn’t have an answer for that. They didn’t when they signed Erick Dampier nor did they when signing on Ronny Turiaf. Both players were ineffective by season’s end, although they did serve their purpose in the regular season. Miami has elected to use a smaller lineup come postseason time, as a means to get their fastest, most athletic and top defensive players on the floor. The Heat are able to use that lineup because their top defenders also happen to be their top players.
It’s resulted in the Heat dodging the use of a true center. So much so that the team will likely trot out with Chris Bosh, a natural power forward, as their starting center for the 2012-’13 season. Surprisingly, it’s not that bad of an idea because Bosh did play some of his best minutes last season at the center position. His rebounding numbers went up and his presence on the perimeter was a constant pain to opposing centers, who are far more familiar with their usual home in the post.
The Heat only have two centers on their roster: Dexter Pittman and Joel Anthony. So now you see the reason why this team is willing to send out Chris Bosh as their starting center. They don’t have a choice. It’s either send out your most talented big man, or give it to the 6’9″ shot blocker or the foul-prone third-year player.
Anthony’s size doesn’t exactly translate to effective defense in the post against centers who stand much taller and wider, but Pittman’s size would allow him to do so. Listed at 6’11”, 308-pounds, although he’s probably well below 300 by this point, Pittman is a huge body that can clog up the lane, grab rebounds and hit the occasional layup. For those who haven’t seen much of Dexter, his offensive game is surprisingly sound for a player his size.
The only problem is that Pittman can’t stay out of foul trouble. He’s constantly hacking players over loose-balls and giving up fouls on rebounds, even when the opposition already has the ball. As much as he’s going to get called for his inconsistencies in his post defense, the Heat can’t afford to have Pittman picking up cheap fouls.
Miami wants to play Pittman more. They even gave him a significant chance to prove himself when they gave him the nod to start in Game 3 against Roy Hibbert and Indiana. Instead, the only thing that happened was Pittman missing both of his field-goal attempts and picking up a foul in 3:29. He would play in two more postseason games, providing nothing in the garbage-time minutes he received.
Pittman will now be entering his third year with the team after the Heat guaranteed his contract early in the offseason. He spent most of his rookie season playing in the D-League and he recently averaged 3 points and 2 rebounds per in 35 games with the Heat, six of which he started. His best game came by way of a 16-point outing against the Charlotte Bobcats where he shot 7-of-11 in only 18 minutes worth of action.
He recorded a season-high seven rebounds in 16 minutes against Chicago.
We don’t see everything that’s going on in practice, but Pat Riley obviously sees enough in Dexter to think that he’s worthy enough of a roster spot on this team. While it may appear to be a better option to drop Pittman and pick up someone like Andray Blatche or Josh Harrellson to provide some productive minutes at the five, the Heat have given no indication that they would like to rescind their previous idea of giving Pittman a contract.
It’s even more strange considering how mediocre Pittman was in the Summer League. In four games, Pittman averaged a mere 11.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per, while shooting 69 percent from the field and picking up 5.3 personal fouls per contest. Those are numbers not against NBA-level talent, but D-League level talent featuring mostly players that won’t make an NBA roster this season.
However, if Riley thinks 8.7 personal fouls per 36 minutes is worthy of a contract, then so be it. I’m certainly not about to argue with the decision-maker that brought in LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.