In advance of the start of training camp on Oct. 3, AllUCanHeat is analyzing the Miami Heat player-by-player. This installment focuses on Thomas Bryant, whose status as Bam Adebayo’s backup is not guaranteed.
Over the last several seasons, backup center has been the squeaky wheel of the Miami Heat’s rotation.
As the Heat sorted through the options behind Bam Adebayo — from Omer Yurtseven, Dewayne Dedmon, Cody Zeller and others — they failed to find a long-term solution. The Heat hope that, by signing Thomas Bryant this summer, they have.
Bryant, 26, comes to Miami having played for three teams over the last two seasons. He was part of the Denver Nuggets’ championship team last season, but hardly played in the playoffs. Though Bryant provides a tantalizing offensive skillset, coaches have concluded he is too much of a liability on defense.
Playing for both the Lakers and Nuggets last regular season, Bryant averaged 9.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He’s capable of explosive offensive nights, such as his 31-point, 14-rebound game in January. But when he’s not producing near that level, he gives up too many points on defense.
Bryant is slow to download plays as they unfold, leading to late contests and open lanes to the rim. If he’s not scoring, a few miscues can glue him to the bench. In February, he was traded by the Lakers to Denver, where he played 18 games before coach Michael Malone yanked him from the playoff rotation.
The Heat are betting they can harness Bryant’s talent and turn him into an adequate defender. Other teams have made that bet and failed, but Miami’s track record of development should inspire more confidence.
Pushing Bryant will be competition from second-year center Orlando Robinson and veteran Kevin Love. Robinson is coming off a promising Summer League performance that earned him a promotion from a two-way to a standard contract. Love may very well be Miami’s starting power forward, but is capable of playing stretches at the 5.
Bryant’s contract is for two seasons, worth $5.4 million with a player option in the second year. The Heat can try to keep him if he emerges as a reliable option behind Adebayo. If not, it’s a low-risk move they can easily move on from in a few month’s time. Will Bryant avoid playing for his fifth team in three years? That’s up to him.
Years pro: 6
2022-23: 9.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 0.5 blocks in 18.3 minutes per game
Contract status: In first year of two-year, $5.4 million deal ($2.5 million this season)