At long last, the sweepstakes to join the Miami Heat and ride the bench to a potential championship are over.
After holding a camp to decide who will be the final two players to join the team, the organization came to the conclusion that it should be center Mickell Gladness and power forward Jarvis Varnado who will round out this roster.
I’ll wait for the collective “who’s” and “huh’s” to pass before we get into describing just who Gladness and Varnado are.
For Heat fans that were really paying attention and watching game’s all the way through, you’ve probably seen Gladness, a product of Alabama A&M, before in a Heat uniform. He played eight games with the team last year before receiving waivers in February, and eventually joining the Golden State Warriors where he would finish the rest of the year.
Gladness received more playing time in Golden State and ended up averaging 3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per, with high’s of 14 points and 9 rebounds in 38 minutes in the final game of the season.
Mickell scored two points in eight games with Miami, but did have those two points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in 8 minutes against Charlotte, although he also had two turnovers and two fouls.
Gladness was invited to partake in the Summer League as a member of the Heat and impressed enough to earn a chance to make the final 15-man roster. The 6’11” center will be seldom used, as expected, but will be looked at as a possible option to begin garnering minutes at center. Even though Chris Bosh is the starter, the race for second string is wide-open, after Dexter Pittman concluded the Summer League with disappointing results.
If you’re expecting Gladness to solve any scoring woes inside, don’t. He is primarily a shot-blocker, with an average of 6.3 blocks per game in his second year at Alabama A&M to back up the claim. It was also his best attribute with the Warriors; Gladness had a 4-block game against New Orleans in 29 minutes and also had 3 blocks in only 13 minutes against Denver.
The Gladness signing is perfectly understandable; the Heat needed a center that could be an imposing presence in the middle and they got one.
However, it’s the Jarvis Varnado signing that’s a little questionable. Don’t get me wrong now: Varnado has the potential to be an excellent defender. Taken with the 41st pick in the 2010 draft by the Heat, Varnado, taken out of Mississippi State, was taken for the obvious reason of him being an excellent defender. How do we make this assumption? Probably because he’s the NCAA’s Division 1 all-time shot blocker.
Among Varnado’s accolades, he’s a recipient of the 2010 NABC Defensive Player of the Year and the 2010 Lefty Driesell award, as well as being the 3-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year and even the 2009 SEC Tournament MVP.
Varnado is also one of only two players to ever record 1000 points, 1000 rebounds and 500 blocks in a season. The other person? Oh, just David Robinson.
The Heat drafted him in 2010, but have had him playing overseas since. He first played with an Italian League team in Carmatic Pistoria, where he would average 15.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per. He would play in the Israeli Basketball Super League the next year.
Now Varnado finally finds himself wearing a Miami Heat uniform. However, the move comes across as a little redundant since the Heat have Joel Anthony, who also happens to stand at 6’9″ like Varnado and is a great defender with long arms…like Varnado. While Varnado’s offensive repertoire is far more superior than Anthony’s, he’s still a raw player and the Heat would prefer him to have some time under his belt before he gets into the game.
Perhaps he could be looked at as a possible successor to Anthony. Joel’s contract is trade bait for Miami and the team could get useful pieces in return if they couple Anthony with the first-round pick they received in the draft-day trade with Philadelphia. Otherwise else, it seems that the Heat are signing Varnado for some size and a player with the potential to become a consistent presence in the rotation if he works hard enough.
Either way, don’t expect these two to begin receiving minutes. Varnado is behind a depth chart that includes Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony and Rashard Lewis, and that becomes even more congested when you add Shane Battier and LeBron James to the mix. Gladness, however, is in a far better situation where he could potentially begin receiving minutes as soon as early in the season. The Heat will be keeping an eye on Pittman after guaranteeing a contract and if he doesn’t pan out, Gladness could take those minutes.
Of course, rotation minutes will be extremely difficult for either player to come by. With Lewis and Ray Allen on the team, the coaches will be looking for minutes to give to the likes of Norris Cole, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem well before they even think of giving minutes to Gladness or Varnado.
However, Gladness is 6’11”. If he can prove to be a strong presence inside that can consistently deter shots, he will earn minutes in the rotation as the team’s resident center.