Miami Heat: Breaking Down The Lower-End Roster Spot Battle

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Pat Riley’s had himself a very busy off-season. As the GM of the defending NBA Champions, he’s been working to reinforce the squad with new talent, making a big splash in July by signing noted 3-point specialists Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. With the big names all gone from free agency, Riley has orchestrated a few low-end deals, inking Terrel Harris, Jarvis Varnado, Mickell Gladness, Garrett Temple and Josh Harrellson. They will undoubtedly be battling for the last few spots of the roster, as the Miami Heat now have 18 players under contract. With even more players granted tryouts, like Chamberlain Oguchi and Hassan Whiteside, it will be interesting to see who will earn a spot in South Beach this season.

A player who’s already on the roster could also be at risk of losing their spot to one of the new guys. I’ve pegged Dexter Pittman as the player most likely – he hasn’t improved much over his two seasons with Miami, and did not perform up to expectations in Summer League, averaging only 4.3 rebounds throughout. In addition, he was very foul-prone, and lacking the basketball IQ or post skills necessary for an NBA player. However, he is a big body, and that is one of the few areas Miami are in need of at the moment, so Pittman may very well make the cut.

Terrel Harris is a serviceable, blue-collar player who plays his heart out every night. It was his solid performances in last year’s preseason that earned him a spot on the Miami Heat, and he justified his selection by turning in good shifts whenever called upon. In Vegas this year, he proved to be an effective performer on both sides of the ball – highlighted by one particular game where he made San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph look helpless. The result? Another contract from the Heat, and what should be a guaranteed roster spot.

Mickell Gladness has been here before. He started the season with the Heat, but ended up being released midway through the season and settled in Golden State for the remainder of the year. He is a decent post defender, but lacks bulk on his 6’11 frame, and his offense could be called just that – offensive. The thing is, Miami already has a more experienced version Mickell Gladness on the roster. His name is Joel Anthony. And there’s only a need for one player like that on any squad, much less the Miami Heat. As a result, I see Gladness on the outside looking in.

Jarvis Varnado is an extremely intriguing prospect for the Miami Heat. A second-round draft pick in 2010, he made his name in college as the NCAA’s all-time leader with 564 blocks. This guy can jump all across the gym, and his 7’4’’ wingspan makes him even more intimidating for opponents to shoot over. His basketball instincts are all very good, and rarely gets beat on shot fakes. His offensive game could use some work though, as it’s almost as bad as Joel Anthony’s – but he makes up for it with his quickness, length and ferocity. Varnado’s got a great shot of making the grade for the Heat this season, as his abilities will be useful if needed.

Garrett Temple is an interesting case. Since being undrafted out of LSU in 2009, the 6’6’’ shooting guard has been a total journeyman during his brief career, with stops in San Antonio, Houston, Sacramento, Milwaukee, Charlotte, the D-League, and Italy before joining Miami. He offers a decent amount of scoring, and compared to other shooting guards on the roster (Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Mike Miller) he’s still fairly young, and is less-injury prone. That’s all he’s got going for him however, as the Heat really like Terrel Harris, and shooting guard isn’t exactly a position of need at the moment. Expect him to be cast aside as the season draws closer.

Lastly, we have Josh Harrellson. Jorts, as he’s sometimes known, was a member of the New York Knicks this past season, playing in 37 games and starting 4. He’s earned a reputation for playing to his strengths, garnering a decent rebound rate and offering a physical presence down low, something Miami could always use. His shooting ability is decent for a man of his size, and can even knock down a 3 if needed (which won’t be often – Miami already has a long list of shooters who can do the job). There are a few knocks on him, the most obvious being his lack of athleticism. Also, he’s guilty of being too physical on defense, although this is probably to compensate for his below-average mobility. He does work hard, though so it’s very conceivable that Harrellson earns a spot with Miami if he puts in the effort needed.

For those keeping score, of the 6 players profiled here, I have Terrel Harris and Jarvis Varnado as two of the players making the Miami Heat opening day roster. Conversely, Mickell Gladness and Garrett Temple will end up being future endeavored after training camp. This brings me to the last spot contested between Dexter Pittman and Josh Harrellson. Both have big frames and are obstacles in the post, and both suffer from a lack of quickness. In the end, I see Josh Harrellson taking the 15th and final spot on the Miami Heat. Dexter Pittman hasn’t made much, if any progression during his tenure in South Beach, and his struggles during Summer League only intensified the questions surrounding his work ethic. Harrellson can at least help to stretch defenses, and is a smart player who can compensate for his athletic faults, so his versatility will be useful for Miami.

With that, here is my proposed opening-day roster for the 2012-13 Miami Heat:

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, Norris Cole, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, Terrel Harris, Jarvis Varnado, Josh Harrellson.

Not a bad-looking lineup, no? Especially compared to the squad at the beginning of the Big 3 in South Beach.

The aforementioned players may not get much, if any time to prove themselves this season, as Miami looks to build on a spectacular year and possibly challenge for 70 wins. But should the time arise, they would be the three players I would have on the roster ready to answer the call when needed. These guys will look to make their mark when the opportunity arises. But first things first – they’ll have to confirm their place on the team. Then they can think about making a case for a rotation spot.

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Tags: Dexter Pittman Garrett Temple Jarvis Varnado Josh Harrellson Miami Heat Mickell Gladness NBA Terrel Harris

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