Will Willie Reed get an opportunity?


The Miami Heat could end up relying on their young backup center to play important minutes.

Mar 31, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Willie Reed (33) blocks a shot by Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan McRae (12) in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Willie Reed (33) blocks a shot by Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan McRae (12) in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

If you didn’t notice that the Miami Heat lacked center depth during the season, you sure as hell noticed when Hassan Whiteside sprained his right MCL against the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Without Whiteside, and with a 33-year-old Amar’e Stoudemire hobbled, Miami was forced to play small. Guys like Josh McRoberts, Luol Deng and even rookie Justise Winslow were forced to play minutes at the 5. As a result, the Heat–at least in part–helped Raptors bigman Bismack Biyombo earn a huge pay day this past summer as the bruising center controlled the paint against the Heat with little opposition.

It was clear, then, that the Heat needed to address its backup center position this off-season. The problem, however, was that Whiteside was an unrestricted free agent. The Heat re-signed him to a four-year, $94 million deal. With all that money tied up in the position, Miami didn’t have the cash to dole out on a proven, quality, backup big.

So the Heat rolled the dice, signing second-year center Willie Reed to a two-year minimum deal.

The Heat staff knew Reed already. He played for the team in summer league last year before getting scooped up by the Brooklyn Nets on a one-year deal.

He played in 39 games for Brooklyn, averaging 4.7 points and 3.1 rebounds. He was adequate if unspectacular. He’s a natural power forward, but played center more than a quarter of the time with the Nets. At 6-foot-10, 220 pounds, he’s lean. Nevertheless, the Heat signed him to play backup center.

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What does he do well?

Reed can score around the rim. He converted on nearly 70 percent of his shots in the restricted area. 91 of his 133 shots last season were from here, according to NBA.com. Reed is a hustle scorer. He dunks, gets tip ins and just tries to get his hands on the rock. He’s not a dude you’re drawing up plays for.

He’s a good rebounder, too, finishing with the second-highest rebound percentage on the Nets last season behind only Thomas Robinson (who has made an NBA living on rebounding).

All of this is to say Reed is a try hard. He’s going to bang bodies, jump and try like hell to get his hands on the ball. He has a knack for sliding into openings in the defense under the rim and getting open for dump-offs.

At 26 years old, it’ll be refreshing for the Heat to have young, willing and able legs to spell Whiteside.

What doesn’t he do well?

Reed is limited from outside of five feet. That 70 percent shooting percentage in the restricted area plummets to 37 percent in the non-restricted paint area. Anything beyond that and forget about it.

Opposing defenses will play off Reed, worrying only about boxing him out once the shot goes up.

If the Heat pair Reed up with any non-shooter, their spacing will collapse. That means very little playing time alongside Justise Winslow, James Johnson and Derrick Williams.

So the question becomes, who plays the 4 when Reed is in? This could be Josh McRoberts’ and/or Luke Babbitt’s time to shine.

Reed was an average defender for the Nets, but under Erik Spoelstra’s coaching should develop in that area.

How much will he play?

Whiteside averaged 29 minutes per game last season. Assuming he plays around the same amount, that leaves 18 to19 minutes to fill at center.

If Chris Bosh is available, he should command at least 10 of those minutes when the Heat go small. McRoberts and Winslow could also take a couple of minutes here and there at center, but I wouldn’t count on it.

So Reed could see about eight minutes per game. If Bosh isn’t available, that could easily double.


If Miami Heat fans are looking for a familiar comparison, Reed most resembles Chris Andersen. He has a knack for being around the ball, and could thrive on baseline dump offs. What made Andersen so effective in Miami was that he was often surrounded by four shooters, and made a living cleaning up their misses.

Reed is athletic, and can help move the ball along the perimeter with dribble handoffs and screen setting. Outside of that, he’ll have his eyes fixed on the backboard for most of the game, ready to clean things up where he can.