The Miami Heat have entered another off-season as the champions of the NBA. As is usual as a team with three superstars at three positions with big contracts, that leaves little secure at the other two spots on the floor. While there have been rumors that the Heat are searching for point guard help, the championship tally with current ball-handlers Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole is at two. Consequently, I think the bigger need for Miami this off-season is in the paint.
Although the Heat were able to create another exciting, incredible run to win an NBA championship, teams like the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs revealed the Kryptonite for the Heat. This weakness is none other than their size inside. The Heat went with a combination of the undersized trio of Chris Bosh, Chris Anderson, and Joel Anthony for most of their season. Udonis Haslem was even called upon to play down low with Lebron James at certain points during the season. James led the team in rebounding during the post-season with 8.4 boards a game, followed by Chris Bosh with 7.3 rebounds per outing.
While James is the league MVP and showed he can handle doing it all on the floor for the Heat, even the great Michael Jordan had Dennis Rodman working his butt off in the paint every game to grab rebounds. Chris Bosh has slowly transitioned from a decent post-player in Toronto to spending most of his time outside looking for jumpers and the occasional three ball. And while Birdman provided a great spark for off the bench, he wasn’t able to even be on the floor during a stretch against San Antonio because of his size on the defensive end. That leaves Joel Anthony, who is a huge hinderance on the offensive end, and another undersized 6’8 player in Haslem.
With free agency upon us, let’s take a look at some of the available options for Pat Riley to pair with the big three + Chalmers on the floor this upcoming season.
Chris Andersen – 6’10, 35 yrs old
The most likely of the options here is simply bringing back the Birdman into the fold and giving it another go with basically the same group as last season. The 13-year veteran averaged 1.1 blocks and 3.8 boards in 15.2 minutes per game during the Heat playoff run and also contributed to many of the “unseen statistics” that are a product of a non-stop motor. While the Heat did win a title with him last season, I don’t think he’s the best option at this point. The league is going to be tougher in 2013-2014. Derrick Rose will be back to a Chicago Bulls squad that gave Miami trouble in Round 2 of the post-season. The Brooklyn Nets have assembled a super team by acquiring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The Indiana Pacers can only improve with their group of young talent. And Melo and the Knicks can’t be counted out. Let me not forget to mention the West: Houston has Howard, Memphis has Gasol, San Antonio has Duncan. The league’s going to be tougher next year, and I’m not sure the Heat can go into it with Chris Andersen as its “biggest man”.
Greg Oden – 7’0, 25 yrs old
There’s always a mystery when looking at a former number one overall pick. Can the Heat resurrect this guy’s career if it takes a chance on him? Oden was looked at as a potentially elite defender when he came out of Ohio State in ’07 and was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers ahead of superstar Kevin Durant. After missing his inaugural season in ’07-’08 with a knee injury, Oden returned and battled injuries throughout the year, but showed flashes of potential when he was on the court, including a 24 point, 15 rebound game against the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s been out of the league for a couple of years now, but the Heat have shown interest in him in the past. He’ll be a big risk, but at a low price if Riley wants to save some money. The Heat likely wouldn’t be able to resign him past this season if he performed well, but he could open up a potential deal to move Chris Bosh after.
Andrew Bynum – 7’0, 25 yrs old
Now this is the biggest enigma of them all. Bynum’s “career” is over with Philadelphia, or so it appears. We’re not really sure what he can do as Sportige reports he won’t workout for teams. So while he’s just as much of a mystery as Oden, there’s definitely a more proven potential in signing a guy like Bynum. He averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds for the Los Angeles Lakers during the ’11-’12 season and was in the conversation with Dwight Howard for the league’s best center. That was just two years ago. Unlike Oden, he has championship and “star” experience and could make Miami even more unstoppable than we are now. There are just two problems with this situation: They would have to find a way to make the money work. Secondly, there is no way the Heat could keep this newfound “big four” together if Bynum becomes his old self again. It’s still an interesting scenario that I hope the Heat look into though.
Samuel Dalembert – 6’11, 32 yrs old
For the final player here, we’re looking at a guy who’s actually said he’s looking into coming here, as Dalembert told FOX Sports Florida before being demolished with his Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of Round 1 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs this past spring. You know what you’re going to get out of Dalembert. Good defense, shot-blocking, and rebounding. That’s exactly what the Heat need. Keeping it short and sweet here, there isn’t a lot of upside to signing Dalembert like Oden and Bynum, but he fits the bill and would give the Heat a better matchup against some of the bigger opponents in the NBA.
Ultimately, I think the Heat stick with Chris Anderson and give it another go before decision time hits next off-season. The team loves him, and it’s hard not to want a guy like this on your team as a fan either.